The last time I spent an evening with my Amish friends, one of the men present that evening was Kenneth. He is the brother of my friend Ruth, and he farms his parent’s farm. (Usually the youngest son gets the family farm, yet he is the oldest son—but that’s another story.)
Kenneth had been in an accident—not a farming accident, but a highway accident. He and eight other Amishmen were traveling in a hired van, as the Amish often do, to a dairy convention in Michigan, when the van apparently hit some ice, spun off the road, rolled three times, and ended up in a field on its roof. Three men were thrown from the van, and one man’s arm was trapped under it after it came to rest. Kenneth, who was riding up front next to the driver, said the last thing he remembers before the accident was the van beginning to slide, and the driver saying, “Oh, no…”
When I came home and looked up the accident online, I found that the story had been carried in papers all over the country, including USA Today. The story pointed out something I’d never thought of: “Identifying the men was slowed because the Amish men didn't have driver's licenses or state-issued identification cards.” (2020 update: Many now have a state ID card.)
Kenneth was wearing his seatbelt (not all of them were), but nevertheless, he ended up being one of the two who were critically injured. He had broken and cracked ribs, a punctured lung, and other injuries. At first doctors though he might have a broken neck as well, but that turned out not to be the case. He did rupture a disc in his back, though, and is still facing possible fusion surgery. When I saw him, two or three weeks after the accident, he was in a plastic body cast from his waist up, but in good spirits. He can’t do any farming for the next six months. But in typical Amish fashion, friends, relatives, and neighbors have already begun to step up to help, plowing his fields or whatever else needs to be done.
Do the Amish own cars? No. But they will hire a car or van when they are traveling very far, since a buggy horse typically has a range of only 10 or 15 miles from home. Why will the Amish travel in cars, but not own them? It’s not my job to explain their theology or defend it. I’m sure there are many things about my way of life that puzzle them exceedingly also—but the essence of a cross-cultural friendship is acceptance... I just hope Kenneth feels better soon.