While in Pennsylvania, I asked an Amish farmer about Rumspringa. My question brought a bit of annoyance from my host, but the charming gentleman hid it well. Many Amish fiction novels are written with the theme from the Pennsylvania Dutch term, Rumspringa—the period given to adolescence where young people, usually at about age fourteen receive freedom to explore the world of the English. The Amish refer to Americans outside the community as English.
Young men and women during this period may investigate a lifestyle outside their gentle environments. Many drive cars, experiment with alcohol, choose contemporary clothes or hairstyles and hang with English friends.
Once the young person accepts the Amish faith, he or she is baptized into the church. If they decide to leave the community after this rite, they forfeit their place with family and community. They are ostracized or shunned—never to be forgiven.
As the Amish farmer escorted us to his farm in Lancaster County via horse and wagon, he replied, “Rumspringa isn’t as big a deal as novelists make it.”
I detected he preferred his people to be known for other reasons than wayward youth. A few of his children were of Rumspringa age. This stage is often a headache for any parent—Amish or English.
I smiled inwardly. I have yet to write an Amish romance but I enjoy these novels immensely. The beliefs of this community, their daily routines and history generate fascinating ideas.
I write Christian fantasy about a petite angel who comes to earth to help humans and goofs a lot in the process. But my stories, although they possess bits of theological truth, contain fantasy.
The Amish lifestyle is real—no fantasy.
The farmer escorted a rather large group of us to his farm. Along the way, one of the Americans spoke quietly and reverently to us about a tragic Amish school shooting that had occurred about seven years ago. The Amish community extended a spirit of mercy, kindness and forgiveness toward the perpetrator and his family.
Another lady softly marveled. “How could they forgive someone who killed their children, but will not forgive a child who denounces his faith?”
Respect for our host did not allow us to ask such things, and the farmer did not hear the discussions in the back of his wagon. For that fact, I’m grateful.
By the way, we later learned that the lady who marveled at the Amish’s ability to shun a child is a Buddhist. A statue of Buddha resides in her garden.
My brief time with the Amish is history, but I came away thinking about allegiance. Who or what we commit our lives to should be real, accurate, and truthful. For me that is Jesus Christ, not Buddha.
Rather than the simple existence of the Amish, I choose to live in the modern world and enjoy the conveniences of it.
Sometimes I’m able to show mercy, kindness and forgiveness, other times I fall short.
Like the Buddhist lady, or the Amish farmer, it’s my goal.