Shawn Eric Ruth
July 25, 2019
My Do It Yourself Amish Story
By Shawn Eric Ruth
My name is Eric, and I am from Saint Paul, Minnesota. When I was sixteen, I began studying all the different "tribes,” sects, and denominations of Christianity; I had a hunger for God and was searching for Him because I wasn't satisfied with the rigid formalism of the Lutheran church I was in.
In my reading, I became acquainted with the Anabaptists and the Old Order Amish in particular. I felt that because of their seemingly strict commitment to the Bible and apparent wieldiness to Christ, the Old Order Amish must be the truest expression and example of the faith. I was young, naïve, and idealistic, and I was wrong.
I began to write to Amish communities and did a "do-it-yourself" Amish lifestyle as a sixteen-year-old young man in a large metropolitan city. I had my own self-imposed ordnung, and in hindsight, I was quite intolerable to be around; I was so rule-bound and judgmental. I threw out my television, which wasn't the worst thing. I also threw out any colorful shirts and all shorts that I owned and dressed in plain clothes. I attempted to grow a beard, which in my ignorance, I didn't know that beards were only for married men in the Amish.
One blessing that came from that period was that I memorized a lot of Scripture, which was all I had to do with my spare time! I also learned about animal husbandry from reading books about homesteading and self-sufficiency. I planted a corn field and vegetable plot. I also raised rabbits on my family’s large piece of property; our neighbors nicknamed me "farmer".
I came from an abusive and broken home and grew up watching Little House on the Prairie. I thought that Amish life was like the life I saw in that series; it seemed simpler than life in the city. I thought I'd marry a godly Amish woman and fall into acceptance in an Amish community.
When I graduated from high school, I literally had no plans but to escape to an Amish community. I squeaked through high school taking only art classes and woodworking because I knew they would not challenge my faith. I carried a large black Bible with me to every class. Many teens rebel by smoking, drinking, or doing drugs; I rebelled by becoming an insufferable Pharisee!
My parents were quite worried that I was receiving letters from Amish in Ohio and Pennsylvania. They thought I might disappear in the night on a greyhound bus, and it was a distinct possibility that I might do that. I was choking myself with an unbiblical legalism.
The love of a Godly pastor and a youth leader at the church I attended in my final year of high school were probably the only things that ultimately kept me from escaping to the Amish. Another real game-changer for me was the radio ministry of Charles Swindoll and his book The Grace Awakening. The Lord used my continued study of the Bible (especially the freedom espoused in the book of Galatians) to lead me away from my Amish fantasy.
I have come to see how I was trying to make myself acceptable in God's sight through my dead religion, but as the hymn states: "Jesus Paid It All." We could never be righteous on our own; all our attempts at righteousness are as filthy rags. Our mode of dress, our paltry sacrifices, our self-manufactured goodness is worthless trash like a used diaper, and the wages of our sins, and what we earn from them is death.
I learned that Christ didn't come for "good" people, but He died for sinners, and we can be saved and born from above by faith in God's son and His suffering and sacrifice for wretched sinners. The distinguishing factor between dead religion and true Biblical Christianity is grace.
I, of course, now realize how difficult to near impossible it would have been to "join" the Amish. The language barrier of Pennsylvania Dutch alone would have discouraged me. I think that I wouldn't have lasted very long as a "spoiled" young English man, but hindsight is 20/20 as they say!
I still after all these years appreciate some things about the Amish - especially their cookbooks and recipes! But I am glad that I didn't pursue joining the Amish. Though I feel bad for the rules that burden them, crush them, and keep them from salvation in Christ and the real simplicity of the gospel of grace.
Today, I have such a heart for young people who feel compelled to leave the Amish and their families behind as they face such ostracism from the only community that they have known. I hope that they can cling to, trust in, and rely upon Christ alone as they set out on a long journey out of the Amish.
I so appreciate the ministry of Mission to Amish People. I wish that I would have had access to a ministry like it in 1991! There is such freedom in Christ. Thank you for the opportunity to share this testimony.
This letter has been published with permission from the owner.
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