My Thoughts About One of My Favorite Places--Northeastern Indiana's Amish Country

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Amish Buggies in Popular Mechanics Magazine!

My husband found an interesting article!  I've spent time in an Amish buggy shop and it's amazing the options that are available these days.  This article from Popular Mechanics magazine addresses that topic:

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Bench Wagons

So… the Amish don’t have church buildings, but rather, they take turns hosting church, which is held once every two weeks.  A family typically will host church twice a year.  One of the things that makes this easier is the bench wagon. 

Last summer I was hanging out with some Amish friends in Goshen, Indiana, and they had a brand-new, state-of-the-art bench wagon sitting in their yard.  They offered to show me how it was arranged, and they said it was fine if I took photos.  They didn’t have to tell  me twice!  I’ve been intrigued by bench wagons for years, and I’ve always wanted to see one up close.

Here’s how it works:  Each church district has their own horse-drawn bench wagon.  The wagon is taken to wherever church (or some other event, like a wedding or funeral) is going to be held.  Everything is organized for easy storage and to make sure nothing goes missing between events.

The essence of the bench wagon is the benches!  They are stored in the back of the wagon.  The number on the end of the bench tells how many feet long it is.  There are two fold-down uprights, one on each end of the bench, so setup is easy.  On this new bench wagon, the shelves are carpeted, and there is a chart on the left back door which shows how to store them properly and how many there should be.

The side and front doors of the wagon hold more goodies—everything needed to host and conduct a church service. 

The Ausbund, or hymnal, is the same one that the Amish have used for hundreds of years.  It is written in old German, much like Shakespearean English—very different from the “Dutch” that the Amish speak as their first and main language.  The hymnals are stored in these tough plastic boxes with handy lifting slots cut into them.  Each box holds 24 books.  

This bench wagon belongs to church district 71-2, so everything in the wagon carries that number.  These hymnbooks look very fresh and new—because this was a recently-formed church district, so the wagon and everything in it was recently purchased and assembled.

After a three-hour church service, there is always a meal!  The menu is fairly well set, including Amish church peanut butter, which I’ve written about before.  The bench wagon contains all the dishes, flatware, etc. needed to serve a congregation of 25-35 families, all organized and labeled.

All in all, the bench wagon is an idea that works well, and I was glad to see this one up close!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

25 Facts? Part Five

This is the final installment of my comments on an article I recently came across online entitled “25 Facts About the Amish That Everyone Should Know”—a well-meaning(?) article filled with the typical misinformation about the Amish which is constantly floating around the internet...



7.  The Population In Amish Communities Is Steadily Growing. 
     Because Amish get married so young and have so many children, their communities actually see a yearly growth rate of 3.6%!

The Amish don’t get married that young, typically early- to mid-twenties around here—but they do have a lot of children—and in Northern Indiana, 90% of them remain in the Amish faith.  Experts agree that the Amish population is doubling about every twenty years.   

6.  Their Modesty Extends To Their Opinions Of Others. 
     The Amish are not arrogant people, as they see that as a sin. This being so, they do not judge or condemn people of the modern world for their lifestyle choices.

I would think that Amish opinions about those of us in the modern world would vary widely from person to person.  I know that my own Amish friends seem to accept my faith and lifestyle as being okay for me, at least—they sometimes close their letters to me with “Love” or “God Bless You.”  It seems that they feel that if a person is born Amish, then God probably wants him or her to be Amish; but if a person is born something else, then they wouldn’t really expect us to convert.

The photo?  These girls in their printed dresses, one with long braids, are not Amish, but perhaps they are German Baptists or another conservative group.

5.  They Wait Until A Person Is Old Enough To Make The Decision To Be Baptized. 
     Unlike some Christian branches, the Amish believe in waiting until a person is old enough, typically around age 16-24, before accepting the religion.

This is true.  “Joining church” is a serious and lifelong commitment, so they want their young people to count the cost, so to speak, and be sure of their decision.  In Amish Indiana, I’ve been told that age 17-20 is typical.

Interesting photo, but certainly not Amish.  The Amish are baptized by “sprinkling,” not immersion.

4.  There Are More Amish People Than You Would Guess To Be Living In America. 
     There are reportedly over 300,000 Amish people living in America! It would be hard for anyone not familiar with Amish communities to know just how many people actually reside in these communities.

The Young Center’s Amish Studies project and other reliable sources agree with the 300,000+ number.  Since so many live in rural areas, it does make them less visible to the outside world.

3.  The Amish Are Pacifists Who Will Never Serve In The Military. 
     Not only are the Amish soft-spoken, but they are also against violence in any form. Because of this, no men are allowed to join the military. If they do join, they are banned from the community.

The Amish are conscientious objectors who will not serve in the military, although, historically, they have accepted forms of peaceful “alternative service” in times of war.  They are against violence in any form, including self-defense; they call this belief “non-resistance.”

2.  Building Barns Is A Form Of Fun And Socialization In Communities. 
     Building barns is one way the men in Amish communities pass the time and socialize in large groups.

Barn-raisings are still an important part of the Amish community.  During one recent visit with some Amish friends, the husband told me he had spent most of the previous week at a barn-raising.  Shortly after I first met him and his wife, the ancient barn on their own farm was torn down and replaced with a newer, better one by a barn-raising group of local Amishmen.  The women come along, and the young kids, and there’s plenty of good food and socializing, that’s for sure.  When a number of families converge on one farm to help accomplish a big task like a new building or a big remodel or a new roof, they call it a “frolic”—I love that name!

The photo accompanying the article looks quite fake, however; no one would build a barn like that.

1.  Contrary To Popular Belief, The Amish Don’t Mind Having Their Photos Taken By Others.
     While the Amish aren’t opposed to allowing people to take their pictures, they do not take photographs themselves or keep them in their homes.

This is not true.  Nearly all Amish very much object to having their faces appear in photos.  As an example: In 2007, six of my Amish friends came to my wedding in suburban Chicago.  One of them walked over to the wedding photographer before the service started and asked him not to take any photos of them. 

I do, however, take lots of photos of “My Amish Indiana” for my Facebook page and blogging website, and my Amish friends are perfectly fine with that.  One time a friend was showing me a brand-new bench wagon, and he actually asked me if I might want to take some photos.  (I did, and used the pictures for a post on bench wagons.)

If I am taking photos for a post on, for example, doughnut-making, then when I move in for a picture of the process, they simply step back out of the way.  It’s the same if I take photos of the farm—if they are nearby, they just step out of the frame.  (My blog posts have been freely passed around among my Amish friends; I print them out and they circulate in big zip-lock bags.)


I would guess that the author of this article meant no harm…  But it is harmful, misleading, and confusing to spread this kind of disinformation.  The Amish are misunderstood enough as it is!  I don’t know everything there is to know about the Amish, not even in my own community (Lagrange and Elkhart Counties in NE Indiana), and customs do differ somewhat from one Amish community to another—but I hope this helps.

For further information on the Amish, try these reliable sources: 

The Young Center’s Amish Studies Project