Jonas and Mary Yoder
Jonas and Mary Yoder - Princeton, KY
Mary and I were both born and raised in an Old Order Amish community. During childhood, we were taught that in order to go to heaven, we were required to be obedient to our parents. We obeyed our parents by remaining in the Amish faith, following the ordinances of the church, and believing on Jesus to save us from our sins.
The ordinances of the church were compiled by the bishop and other church leaders. They were arranged in an approximately five-page long letter, which explained how various aspects of the Amish life were to be regulated. It covered the behaviors and conveniences that were or were not permissible. Growing up, we were taught to obey these ordinances without questioning them. Explanations as to why we did things the way we did were usually vague. Questions typically received responses such as, “You’ll understand when you get older.”
Jonas... As a young boy, one thing was clear in my mind: if I did not keep the ordinances and stay within the Amish faith, I would never go to heaven. I was always very conscientious about doing what was right in the sight of God.
When I was 16 years old, I went to my church’s instructional classes, which taught new converts about Amish beliefs and practices. I and several others were then ready to be baptized. Before the services, I remember thinking, “After tonight, I will feel like a brand new person with all my sins washed away, and I’ll be ready to begin a brand new life!” However, nothing had changed. The great joy and peace I had expected weren’t there. I was disappointed, but I remained committed to being a good Amish man by pleasing my parents, which in turn would please God; or so I thought!
In 1999, I got married to my beautiful wife, and we began raising a family. In 2004, the Lord brought the following question to my mind: “If I were to die today, where would I go?” I pondered this question and eventually decided I would go to heaven since I had always tried to live righteously, obeying my parents and keeping the ordinances of the church. There were times I had broken the rules of the church, but I always confessed my faults to God.
As the days continued, I lost peace with God. He began to make it clear to me that I was not good enough on my own terms. At that same time, I came across a commentary on Romans, which caught my attention. As I began reading the commentary and comparing it with the Scriptures, the Lord showed me that salvation is not obtained by works, but by faith and belief in Jesus Christ. When I saw this truth in Scripture, I accepted Christ and received salvation. I was very excited and began telling my wife about it.
Mary... When I was young, I ran with the wrong crowd against my parents’ wishes. I would justify myself with thoughts like, “I’m not as bad as others.” Then one of my best friends moved and soon joined a church in her new community. I attended her baptismal service, and afterward, she pleaded with me to change my ways. I was convicted and decided I wanted to follow Jesus. I thought that if I joined the church and followed the rules, I would be saved. I was sincere and remember feeling so relieved not to have to hide anything anymore.
Before being baptized, I heard my preacher say, “Life is like a pair of scales with our good deeds on one side and our bad deeds on the other side. Praise God if our good deeds outweigh the bad ones.” That analogy settled things in my heart, and I did not doubt that I was saved.
After I was married, my husband came across a commentary on Romans. Together, we learned that salvation is through Jesus Christ alone, and that our works are as filthy rags.
Once we were saved, God began gradually drawing us out of the Amish community. First we moved from our Old Order church to a New Order church. We soon learned that the New Order church was very similar to our previous church, holding to tradition more than the Bible. Jonas and I decided to stand upon the Word of God. We quickly learned that the Amish were not willing to compromise their traditional beliefs for true doctrine. We were expelled from the council of the church. We stayed with the Amish for approximately six more months before realizing that the only way we could rejoin was to compromise God’s Word. We decided it was time to move on. In late 2009, we began visiting other churches. Eventually we formed a fellowship with several other families that had left the Amish.
Meet Our Children!!