Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Amish in Shipshewana

RV's and buggies--that sums up much of Elkhart County.

We have been in the Shipshewana, Indiana area before.  We love Amish communities.  The people are SO friendly—everyone offers a smile and warm greeting.  

The farmland is beautiful; there were wheat fields in various stages of harvest, corn fields with corn up to 8’ tall (because of all the rain) and pastures of grazing horses. 

The Amish population has doubled over the last 20 years—primarily due to having large families and very few people leaving the church.  In 2012 there were about 270,000 Amish living in North America—over half are under 18 years old.  There are settlements in 28 states and in Canada (there are no communities outside North America). 

Each group will have its own set of unwritten guidelines, “Ordnung” about lifestyle—color and style of dress, hats, modes of transportation, furniture and more.  Some rules are consistent with every Amish community:  All married men wear beards, members are required to dress plainly (although can be very colorful), all groups use horse and buggy for their primary form of transportation.  Church is conduct in homes and they ordain lay leaders—no need for seminary.  Most Amish children stop formal education at eighth grade.  Amish people do not hold political office and are conscientious objectors to war.

Primarily Amish communities are in rural areas.  Rural areas are certainly more conducive to horses and buggies.  Most have farms and/or large gardens.  Rural areas also promote community interaction.

Amish people/families selectively use modern technologies.  Most Amish properties have a phone booth/building—never inside the house.   

We were out in the community we saw Amish people using technology in their jobs—electric cash registers and calculators, golf carts and power tools.   No Amish community accepts the use of television, computers in the home or allows for a person to own a car.  All communities are permitted to use 12-volt electricity (from batteries).  Gas power is acceptable in some cases—we saw a gas powered generator powering an electric fence.   Some (very few) communities allow solar power, tractors and even a few cell phones. 
An Amish home often has a clothesline of full of colorful clothes that I can only imagine were hand stitched, washed with care and put up to dry so they would be ready for another day.

It is easy to tell an Amish home from an “English” home.  Most of the houses are perfectly white, as if they were newly painted.  Generally there are multiple houses together on a farm, as generations live on a farm together.  There are beautiful flower gardens and large vegetable gardens.  Many houses have chickens in the yard.  And, of course, there are the proverbial buggies and bicycles.

We did some shopping while we were in Elkhart County (Shipshewana).  E&S Sales is a bulk purchase grocery store; it was amazing the things that could be purchased in bulk—everything from noodles to hot chocolate mix. 

Davis Mercantile  had a carousel on the 3rd floor.

The Amish are Christian; they follow a Biblical belief system with an emphasis on adult baptism, simplicity, community and, of course, a separation from modern culture.   An Amish man we were visiting with told us they choose this lifestyle because of their faith and their Love of God.  

Amish people do not believe in having their picture taken.  They will not pose for a “face-on” photo for a couple of reason.  The 2nd of the Ten Commandments:  “Thou shalt not make… any graven image, or any likeness of thing…”  Exodus 20:14.  Also, the Amish as a culture believe in humility—posing for a photo is a sign pride; it calls attention to an individual. 

We are familiar with the Amish “Church Wagon”.  Church Wagons are parked at the home that will host the Sunday church service for the next week.  The wagon contains pews or chairs, tables for the dinner after church, sometimes a tent and anything else needed to conduct church. Throughout the week we had seen several church wagons, so we were excited to for our “Sunday afternoon drive”. 

As we left the campground, we quickly realized there were NO buggies out.  We set out to revisit the places we had earlier seen the church wagons.

An Amish church "Parking Lot".
One congregation met in a barn/out-building; while another met in a tent on the front lawn.   We were very careful to take pictures without invading their space.  It is critical to us that we are respectful of the Amish community in whatever we do.

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