When you see a need, think of what skills, talents, abilities or resources you have. Then . . . take action. When you do, lives change. Let me illustrate. The following is a faithful and true account:
In her black dress, purple apron, and white bonnet, Sarah cleaned the room while I studied. When she passed by my chair, I asked her a question. “Sarah, I heard that you invited Jesus Christ to be your Lord. Is that true?”
She stopped and straightened her apron. Then in her thick Amish accent she said, “Yes. That’s true. Last year, I prayed to receive Jesus during Dot’s broadcast over my car radio.”
“Well then, you must have quite a story to tell to your friends and neighbors your changed life. You are certainly much more joyful and happy.” I said.
“No . . . I really don’t have a witness to my family or neighbors. They simply see me as stubborn.”
I was shocked. Really surprised. I was sure she had a great story to tell them about the major change in her life. “What? Why wouldn’t they be amazed at the difference in your life since then?”
“Because I have been banned. They have put me under the Bann,” she said. “The elders came to my house. They asked me what happened to me. I told them and they accused me of being unsubmissive. They said that I had to turn from what they called “the new light.” This ‘new teaching,’ they said, is not in keeping with their tradition.”
I was shocked. I said, “They sound like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day.”
“Yes, yes. That’s exactly what they are like. If you read about the Pharisees, you have read about my people. Oh, some know the Lord, but most do not at all. They merely dress the part and are religious, but don’t know Jesus . . . at all.”
“So Sarah, what did they do? Did you explain that you were following Jesus?”
“Yes. I showed them the Scriptures. I told them that I must follow Scripture, not their traditions. So they told me that I am under the Bann and cannot take communion. And that I must sit at a separate table from my husband and children during meals. So I have a little table set off from theirs. The worst part is not being able to hold my grandchildren though. I cannot take them in my arms. My daughter will not let me hold them.”
I asked, “And Eli? What does your husband say to you? Is he OK with this?”
“He is kind to me, but will not go against the elders. It can cause too much trouble with family and friends.”
I was appalled. “I wish there was something I could do to help.”
She looked intently into my eyes. “There is. You can help.”
“What do you have?” she asked.
I looked up, thinking. I wondered what she was asking. Money? Time?
“Use what you have.” she said.
What do I have? I wondered.
She repeated more slowly, “Use . . . what . . . you . . . have. Do what only you can do!”
“I have no money. I have no inroads to the Amish community. All I have is the ability to write.”
“Then write!” she said, “My people can read. At least up to eighth grade. So keep it simple.”
That was how I wrote A Call to My Amish Neighbors: Back to the Old Ways. I wrote that booklet in 1988. It has gone through MANY printings (13 or 14). The booklet has been requested for 30,000 Amish in Lancaster County and 15,000 Amish in Ohio and Indiana. Within a year or two of its publication, the Mennonite Central Committee asked my permission to publish it into Spanish.
“Spanish?” I said to the rep who asked permission. “Why would you want to publish it in Spanish? The Amish speak high German.”
He looked at me over his coffee. Leaned forward a little smiling and said, “Not the 60,000 Amish in Bolivia. They all speak Spanish.”
“WOW. Are you serious? 60,000?” Of course, some Amish elders (who called me) told me in no uncertain terms that they were prompting their people to use my booklet to start their fires on cold winter nights. Banning my booklet had the reverse affect however. More started ordering from those locations. So yes, I’m banned in Ohio and . . .
Amish men continue to sneak off to phones and call our office looking for more copies of A Call. That booklet has continued to have a powerful, widespread ministry.
One man, in anger, put it in his tool drawer. A year later, he saw that booklet there again. He read it and invited Jesus to make Himself real in his own life. Then he contacted us and told us his story.
And it all started with a brave, young woman’s challenge to me as a young man. “Use what you have.” She certainly did!
QUESTION: What has God given you? How are you impacting your world with you have?
©2011, David C Alves
If you know Amish people who you care about, you can order A Call by clicking on the cover art below and reading more . . .
- Study: Amish population growing, migrating into NY (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- New Home of Choice for Amish: New York (newser.com)
- Amish, a Growing Group in New York, Mourn Crash Victims (nytimes.com)