Joe and Esther Keim
Joe and Esther Keim - Savannah, OH
Who We Were
We were both born and raised in the Old Order Amish Community. From childhood, we were taught at home and at church, that in order to go to heaven, we had to follow the Amish ordinances all of our lives. These ordinances were put together over the past 300 years by our forefathers. The bishop from our church kept the 22 page ordinance letter, which explained how the hats, bonnets, clothing, buggies, etc. were to be made, what was or was not permissible behavior, as well as which conveniences were or were not allowed. Neither of us really understood the ordinances; only that we were required to follow them.
Joe... as a young boy growing up, one thing was clear in my mind: if I didn't keep the ordinances, I would never get to heaven.
In 1983, at the age of 16, one of my close Amish friends secretly shared with me that he had accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. He realized that it was not the Amish ordinances that took a person to heaven, but it was faith in the redemptive blood of Jesus that gave the gift of eternal Life. For the next two years, my friend, Paul, continued to urge me to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior. It was hard for me to grasp how anyone could go to heaven through Jesus Christ, without also keeping the Amish ordinances.
In 1984, I followed tradition and became a member of the Amish Church. I had to go through a 6 month period of training, where we were taught the ordinances, and then I was baptized by a pouring of water on my head.
Soon after this, Paul, and his wife, were excommunicated for their "new belief." They left the Amish, but Paul could not get me out of his mind, and drove back from Kentucky on several occasions to try to lead me to Jesus. In July of 1985, Paul was once again sharing with me how Jesus came and died for me, and that He'd taken all of my sin away at Calvary. I listened and then the tears came as I felt a wonderful outpouring of love from God. I asked Jesus to come into my life and to save this poor sinner from hell.
I had been living a very rebellious life and was, at that time, living with my girlfriend. Esther was that girlfriend and she became my first convert, and later my wife. Little did we realize how soon we would also be outcasts of the Amish for our "new beliefs".
Esther... as a child, I wanted to know the whys of the things we did. Why could we use the neighbor's phone, but we couldn't have one of our own?
I went to a one room school, and once a year, the Gideon's came and gave little red New Testaments to the fifth graders. I was so exited when I finally got mine. My first Bible, and in English, too. I could actually read it. But I soon lost interest with no interpretation or guidance. However, it did create a real hunger in me for understanding. I'd beg God to help me understand His Word. He didn't seem to answer right away, though He provided me with other books to read which gave me insight into some of the things I had never known or understood. I felt somewhat like David must have felt in Psalms 142:4-6, No man cared for my soul. I cried unto Thee, O Lord... Attend unto my cry.
After struggling so long, I reached my teenage years full of rebellion. I chose the wrong friends, drank, and smoked, but never enjoyed myself. During that time, I actually did get baptized in the Amish church. Later, I left home and moved in with my boyfriend, Joe. When I was at my lowest, God could and did, talk to me. Joe got saved... then he talked me into going with him to Bethel Baptist Church. There I also got saved and heard the true gospel.