Hi, Kim. Thank you so much for this interview. I’m thrilled to bring the conclusion of Hannah’s journey to readers. Before I answer your questions, I’d like to clarify a bit of terminology. An Englischer is anyone who’s not part of the religious groups whose women wear the caped dress and prayer Kapp. The men have a standard of dress, also, but it’s the women’s outfits that set them apart. The clothing is an easy outward way to identify the Amish or Plain Mennonites. It’s not, by any means, the only difference.
The Amish have enriched your life a great deal. Can you share with us what you find most inspiring about their lifestyle and how it influenced your dream to write?
The Old Order Amish way of life has much that is inspiring. Their faith, humility, and tenacity are truly amazing. The complexity of a people choosing to live similar to those in the early 1900s is worthy of a second look. It makes me long to understand what things in that lifestyle work for them and what don’t. Understanding that may help us make some of our choices of what to allow and not allow in our Englischer lives. Theirs is a multifaceted, multilayered society that pursues God, but they are still just people who deal with the same struggles we do.
I’m inspired by the strength it takes to live as they do. Regardless of how man chooses to live, we will never be without the need for God to redeem us. Wherever man is, sin, mistakes, and heartaches still happen.
How receptive are the Amish people to the gospel?
Although their perspective is coming from a different world view than ours, my encounters among the Amish indicate that they are as receptive to the gospel as any Christian group. The church leaders teach from the Old and New Testament. They use a Bible written in High German and they speak High German during the services. The church leaders teach the Protestant Christian message and believe each person must confess who God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are and that each person joining their faith must make the decision to believe and must be baptized as adults. That is their foundational beliefs in a nutshell.
Sometimes it seems as if their “rules” bind them in a way that keeps them from fully understanding God’s grace and forgiveness. Is this true or is this a misunderstanding of their unique culture?
Our goal as Christians is to balance His gift to us, which is redemption through Christ, with our gift to Him, which is being a living sacrifice (Galatians 3:16; Romans 12:1).
The Amish strive to keep the Ordnung, which is the written and unwritten rules of their forefathers. The Ordnung has been passed down for hundreds of years. When people join the faith, they are agreeing to keep the Ordnung and raise their children by those standards. Because the book is a “rule book,” it may make its followers very rule/sin conscious. At the same time, they are very aware that no one can make himself or herself worthy, and their hope is that when they die, they are deemed worthy and true by God.
Some feel that their unwillingness to say, “I’m saved. I know I’m going to heaven,” is a lack of faith on their part, but they feel that many Scriptures point out that not everyone who thinks he or she is saved is truly saved and that those who think they stand need to take heed lest they fall (Matthew 7:22-23; 1 Corinthians 10:12).
Understanding that their faith is based on the Word of God, I feel we need to always remember Philippians 2:12, which tells us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
Working in a drug rehab center has helped me a great deal along this road. Can you share your own journey to “nevertheless” love for others and how that is lived out in your own life? Through your writing? Church activities? Family?
I love the nevertheless principle! People deal with heavy and painful disappointments—whether it’s illness, death in the family, or financial, marital, job, or school issues. Perhaps they live in regret over things that cannot be altered. No matter where we find ourselves, we can say, “Nevertheless . . . God.” He is the answer. He has the answer.
I’d like to share a quote from When the Heart Cries. (Warning: if you haven’t read When the Heart Cries, the following is a plot spoiler.)
As she stared through the window, a soft whisper crossed her soul.
It was an odd word coming to her at an odd time, but it kept circling through her mind, whispering hope. Life hurt. Nevertheless, it was a gift worthy of honoring.
The word came stronger this time, immediately lifting her spirits and causing sprigs of new faith to grow.
Her infant had died. Nevertheless, Rachel was now with God.
Hannah’s relationship with Paul was over. Nevertheless, God’s strength would pull her through.
If everything ended with God, then those who were in Him had a good ending—eventually.
A deep warmth comforted her.
I believe this is a truth for every believer. Nevertheless, God.
Do you plan to continue to write about the Amish or do you have plans to write about other things? Can you share a bit about your next project?
I’ve just finished writing the novel The Hope of Refuge. I’ve turned it in to my publisher and it will come out in 2009—probably in the fall.
Raised in foster care and now twenty-six years old, Cara struggles against poverty, loss, and a stalker. When vague memories reveal snippets of life inside an Amish community, she follows every lead to discover the truth about her childhood. What she finds is more harsh than all her years of having no family.
The story is one of losses sustained due to poor choices made by her parents, and even as an adult, Cara continues to pay. But one Amish man dares to fulfill the command he thinks he’s received from God: “Be Me to her.”
What exciting things is God doing in your life? Any words of encouragement you’d like to share with your readers?
God is doing the same exciting things He’s been doing in my life since I came to believe in Him three decades ago: He’s faithful to encourage, correct, and provide. And He continually does above all I can ask or think, even in the midst of trials that I wish weren’t a part of life (Ephesians 3:20).