I’m so excited to share my web space with a special guest today. Brenda Nixon is here to tell us of her experiences with the Swartzentruber Amish. Hope you enjoy! I know I did!
Amish Teens Today
by Brenda Nixon
Often admired. Misunderstood. Mysterious. I’m learning volumes deep inside the Amish from the many formers I know. Most left the Swartzentruber Order – the strictest and most punitive. Predominantly guys but a few gals have come through our home.
One thing that isn’t too different from us is that the Amish creatively push the envelope on the rules. Many see what they can get away with before the line is crossed – a rule broken – and the Bishop or Preacher comes a calling.
Sometimes the stories are funny. Sometimes they are sad.
Our “son” from the Amish – Mosie – chuckled as he told me of homes where the no electricity rule didn’t apply to the barn. Out there some Amish enjoyed lights and power tools.
Our son-in-law Harvey – also from the Swartzentruber Order – explained that buggy windshields were verboten. He grinned in glee when related the time he invented a windshield by wrapping his black buggy with clear plastic wrap.
“It was winter and I was cold going to work and back,” Harvey reasoned. “So I made a windshield. I left early in the morning while it was still dark and came home at night, so my dad couldn’t see my buggy. Then a guy saw my windshield and told Dad.”
Harvey’s dad is a bishop. He made Harvey remove the invention.
Before he left the Amish, Harvey spotted an old, broken bicycle – verboten. In the Swartzentruber Order, bicycles or any item with rubber wheels are against the rules.
“I was walking home one day and found a bike in a farmer’s trash pile.” Harvey claimed the worldly prize, walked it over two miles home, and while his parents were away, hid the thing in his father’s workshop. He explained how he tinkered with it. Made repairs. Then he took his new “worldly” device over a hill and down in a deep culvert to keep in seclusion. “I told some of my friends,” he said. So they could all share in the community “sin.” Harvey added, “But, we rode at night so we wouldn’t get caught.”
Now, I think Harvey is clever to repair something he’s never owned. Like many Amish, he demonstrates a visual learning style. He looks at, watches, and pays attention to detail to educate himself.
I’ve met Swartzentruber Amish who’ve purchased homes from English – with indoor plumbing – but kept promising the Bishop they’d remove that “worldly” convenience. And those who promise to build a room addition without electric and plumbing. Somehow that room addition is never built.
Mosie likes to tease. I can imagine he was ornery growing up.
Others have boasted of their ingenuity in getting around the rigid rules. I recently saw a picture of . . . well, I can hardly describe it. Not a car. Truck. Motorcycle. Nor a four-wheeler. It was a mismatched combination of those parts. Therefore the Amish driver wasn’t breaking a rule or committing a “sin” by driving the combined contraction. He wasn’t driving a car, truck, motorcycle or a four-wheeler. I guess his settlement hadn’t made a rule against using a collective vehicle.
The teens hide radios and cell phones in the woods, inside the barn, or up in the attic. Some girls buy underwear at Victoria’s Secret because, after all, nobody will SEE their “worldly” undergarment. The Swartzentruber Ordnung – rule book – prohibits English underwear; rather, they are to make their own.
Not unlike teens of any culture, most Amish youth push the envelope. I know some who keep a “worldly” automobile tucked away in the woods. They ride their buggies into the protection of the trees where they tie up the horse, change into English clothes, hop in the car, and cruise around town. Without a driver’s license! In the wee early-morning hours, they sneak the vehicle back to the designated hide out, change into their strict, plain Amish clothing, climb into the buggy, and trot home before morning. Hoping to avoid detection.
Our second “son” from the Amish – Monroe – hid his cell phone in his loose Amish pants pocket. When he was at home, he would watch movies on his DVD player. Where’d he get that? He bought a DVD player at Walmart, and then hooked it up to a battery. Monroe and his sister, Sarah, would tiptoe up the steps of their home at night carrying the DVD player to their bedroom. There, they’d watch movies into the night. I can visualize a soft blue glow emanating from the upstairs of a darkened Amish home.
Monroe told me of his friends who’d take pictures with their cell phones – during prayer in church!
We read books and see TV programs about the Amish. But I’m learning of a very human dimension. Most have a God-given inquisitiveness. Apprentices in life. Unfortunately, it’s that freelancing curiosity and resourcefulness that can get their teens in trouble. And it’s often those with imagination, goals, and aspirations that don’t fit the conformity – the solidarity – of the Amish who leave for the “outside” life.
If you’d like to learn more about Swartzentruber Amish and Brenda’s “kids” from that culture, check out her blog:
Beyond Buggies and Bonnets
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Thank you for sharing your stories, Brenda! You’re welcome to comeback anytime.