Olson shares tales, trials from Amish upbringing
November 15, 2010
by Jennifer Johnson • Daily News
Published/Last Modified on Monday, November 15, 2010 9:16 AM CST
"I truly believed I was going to hell in eight years, but I left anyway," she said.Olson, who will speak at North Dakota State College of Science about her experiences on Nov. 15, fell into the arms of a non-Amish couple she knew through babysitting. Although she firmly believes God led her to this new family, she said leaving her own didn't entirely solve the problem. Her parents, whose ancestors date back to the original Amish group in the 1600s, told her they would never visit her.
"Visiting me would be saying, 'It's OK what you did,'" said Olson, who currently lives in New York Mills, Minn. "You can't ever do that - can't ever agree that it's OK what I did."
The Amish community, which formed after Swiss bishop Jacob Ammann broke from the Mennonite congregation and started his own, is known for shunning offending members. Olson was excommunicated because she was a baptized member.
"It's materialist-based and fear-based," she said. "You don't stand in front of a church and speak about how good God is... I thought God was a monster when I left."
Olson, 42, is now a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. For the past four years, she's talked to various groups in Wisconsin, North Dakota and Minnesota about living inside the relatively secret sect.
A mother of two, Olson still keeps in contact with her family, though on a limited basis.
"Leaving didn't stop the pain, but it got me in the right direction," she said. "The healing had to start somewhere."
Olson will be speaking at NDSCS at 4 p.m. The event, sponsored by the college's diversity council, will be held at the Harry Stern and Ella Stern Cultural Center.