Amish (3)


§ STORY SUBJECT:  Forgiveness. 




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Barn-raising.  c1800s.   Public domain

THE Amish came to America from Switzerland in the early 1700s looking for religious freedom. Today there are communities of Amish in five states: Pennsylvania, Delaware, Ohio, Indiana and New York.  They speak both English and a type of German called “Pennsylvania Dutch”.  The Amish believe that a person must be old enough to think for himself or herself before making such a personal decision as joining the church and so an Amish person cannot join the church until they are at least 16.  

     The Amish do not worship in a special church but in their homes. They pray and read the Bible every day, but they come together to pray only once every other week. They do not have a church building because they believe that it is too easy for people to focus more on a building than on God.  They believe in a living, daily faith expressed in a simple life, hard work and humility. The Amish think of humility as  “letting-be,” trusting God to care rightly for all things.  

     The Amish value working together and being dependent on [needing] community.  This is why they all dress the same way.  Girls and women wear simple one-color dresses. Their head is always covered and they wear no jewelry. Boys and men wear dark pants and coats, and one-color shirts.    

     The Amish have their own schools and keep childen in school through the 8th grade. They believe that no more education is needed to be a good farmer. The Amish are some of the best farmers in America. They still use horses to plow [dig up the ground] and not tractors.  The Amish take the Word of the Bible very seriously and its demand to be separate from the things of the world.  They believe that it is not possible to love the things of the world and love God.  As a rule, the Amish do not have cars, television, radio, computers, internet, or any modern machinery or inventions.  

     Family time together and community time together are also very important to them. They say that love requires time, hard work, and working together. One community activity is barn-raising.  A barn is where farmers store grain, hay, and keep animals. But a large barn is expensive and hard for one family to build. And so a community works together to build barns for all the families.  No one is paid.  They all help each other.  Because the Amish place much importance on being able to take care of themselves, they do not take part in government support programs that give food, money or shelter to poor people.  They believe it is important to take care of their family members and community members themselves.

     When a teenager reaches the age of 16 or 18, he or she is free to choose to continue to live in the Amish community or leave.  Over 90% stay.




OFTEN people wonder how the Amish can stay separate from the ways of the world.  But more and more people are beginning to wonder if it would be good to learn from their peaceful lives.  People ask, “What kind of faith do the Amish have, what kind of spiritual strength do they have, to be so free from the modern world? They ask, “Do we have things to learn from the Amish: how to live more simply; how to live with more humility—and with a focus on family and faith?” 

     Thousands and thousands of tourists go to visit Amish areas each year to “see them”.  The Amish don’t understand why people want to come and look at them. Maybe tourists come, they say, because they are not happy and are looking for something more in life.  The Amish tell this true story:

      A group of tourists asked an Amish man, “What is the difference between you and us?”  

     The Amish man answered, “Who among you owns a television?” Everyone raised their hands. Then he said, “Who among you thinks that television is not good for your children or for your family?” Everyone raised their hands.  Then the Amish man said, “Who among you will go home today and get rid of your television?” No one raised their hand. The Amish man said, “That is the difference between you and us.” 

     The Amish say that their way is slower, but that it gives life more joy and strength by working together. Anything in the modern world that pulls us apart they do not accept.  They believe telephones keep you from going and sitting with a person to talk with them.  They believe paved roads and cars also let people move farther away from each other where it is harder to really help each other.

     Another important part of the Amish way of life is called “pacifism” or refusing to fight or kill others.  Their boys do not join the army or fight in wars.  Some people say this is wrong. They say that all Americans have a duty to defend America.  But the Amish believe that love, patience, and reasoning, not force, can also defend a country.  This is a hard question to find the right answer to in a world where terrorism seems so strong.   

    They also say that not seeking revenge [taking action to hurt someone who has hurt you] is true freedom.  To let God take care of wrongs, they say, frees their souls and their lives from having to live with hurt and hatred.  With this background on the Amish, we are now ready to ask some questions and then explore the story of Amish forgiveness.



1)  What things about the Amish way of life have made you think differently about life? 

2)  If you were Amish, what things in your life would be better than they are now?  What things would be worse.

3)  Are the Amish right in believing that cooperation, and not individual success, is the key to mankind’s survival?



IN October 2006, a man walked into an Amish school and told everyone to leave except ten girls.  Amish schools have only one room.  Girls and boys of all grades study together.  When everyone left except the ten girls, the man took out a gun and killed them all.  Then he killed himself.  The tragedy shocked the American people, especially because the Amish are known for their gentle, non-violent ways.  But today, the real story that is remembered is the story of forgiveness. 

     For days, weeks and even years after the event, news stories appeared around the world telling the story of the Amish people’s genuine [honest, true] forgiveness.  They read how people from the Amish community went to comfort the family of the killer and went to his funeral.  They raised money for the killer’s wife and children.  They told them not to move away, but to stay in the community.   

     Still, people reading the story asked, “How could they forgive something so terrible?” Part of the answer is found in their faith in the Bible and its promise that forgiveness does not hurt, but helps us.  Part of the answer is found in the experience of the Amish.  By forgiving in countless, small day-to-day problems they have learned that you only hurt yourself when you do not forgive.  That is, you only make your own pain worse.  And, finally, part of the answer lies in the fact that hatred cannot bring back their loved ones, but results in revenge [hurting someone who has hurt you] and more killing.

soft sky


1)  What have you learned about forgiveness from this story? 

2)  How do you learn to practice forgiveness? What answers can you find from this story?

3)  What happens to a family, a school, a community or a country where there is a culture of revenge?  List at least 5 things that happen when there is forgiveness.

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