Today we have three winners of Richard Stevick’s Growing Up Amish: The Rumspringa Years, and a pair of excerpts from the book. First, the excerpts.

Growing Up Amish Rumspringa Years StevickExcerpt #1: Rumspringa

This first text is from Chapter One, showing public and media misperceptions of Rumspringa.

What happened to catapult Amish youth and their teenage years squarely in the public eye, both here and abroad? Seeds were undoubtedly planted in 1998, with the shocking news that the FBI had arrested two young men and a minor–all of whom had grown up in Amish homes–for dealing in drugs both with the notorious Pagans motorcycle gang and with members of Amish youth groups in Pennsylvania. Not only did reporters from around the world flock to Lancaster County, but these revelations and attendant publicity also shook the Lancaster Amish adult community to the core, and sent reverberations throughout all the large Amish settlements. The other major fallout was that it sparked curiosity about the period known as Rumspringa, a term most Americans had never heard of before the drug bust.

The word Rumspringa comes from German and literally and simply translates as “running around.” Outsiders whose understanding comes primarily from watching Amish-themed reality shows or from reading popular accounts of this transitional stage cannot be blamed if they have a distorted understanding of the typical rumspringa experience. The UPN website defined Rumspringa as “running wild.” One reviewer wrote, “Rumspringa is an Amish version of spring break and Mardi Gras rolled into one.”i An unidentified writer coined the term “time-out period” to describe Rumspringa as an opportunity the community granted its young people to experience worldly pursuits. Another writer, using the contemporary German spelling, described Rumschpringe as “the Amish equivalent of teenage rebellion.” Still another reviewer concluded, “During Rumspringa, the Amish are . . . encouraged to experience the world of the ‘English’ to expose themselves to temptations before they make an adult commitment.”ii An Amish teenager walking along the sidewalk in Intercourse, Pennsylvania, reported that she was subjected to a drive-by shouting when a passing motorist rolled down his window and yelled “Rumspringa” at her. Although the term simply refers to the transition period that lasts from when the youth turn sixteen or seventeen until they marry another church member or settle down, many Amish do not use the word Rumspringa in regular conversation. Instead, they refer to it as “going with the young folk” or “being with the Youngie.”

i4. Graney (2003).

ii5. “Calgary Film Festival Guide,” www.sharbean.ca.

Excerpt #2: Smartphones and the Internet

From the last chapter, “The Future: Keeping Faith in a Changing World,” here is a passage showing how some parents and church leaders are attempting to deal with the new reality of smartphones and Internet concerns.

In an unsigned article in Family Life, the late Rob Schlabach, a respected New Order Amish minister from Ohio, wrote extensively on the dangers and evils associated with computer use.iii Family Life subsequently featured an article entitled “Celling our Heritage: Cell Phones, Plain People, and the Electronic Age” in its “Insights and Ideals” section. The article cautioned against the addictive nature of smartphones, as well as the perils of accepting this new technology without considering the inherent dangers Internet technology poses to Plain communities.iv

By 2012, more parents, at least in the large settlements, were seriously seeking information on subjects relating to electronic media, such as smartphones, iPods and iPads, Facebook, and other devices or programs. Initially, an occasional sympathetic and knowledgeable outsider was invited to provide informational sessions with some of the supervised Lancaster County youth gangs.v These speakers offered a range of topics, including the basics of the Internet and social networks, their availability and attractiveness, and the intrinsic risks of being connected to the outside world. Depending on the audience, they discussed the potential impact that Internet use could have on both the individual and the Amish community. Eventually, the Amish in Lancaster County turned to some of their own respected leaders to address the issue of smartphones, and of Internet temptations and choices, with some of the supervised youth groups.vi

On their own, some parents became proactive in creative ways. A father from Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, related that one of his friends, whose son had a cell phone, brought along the phone and asked if it should be destroyed. The baffled neighbor did not even know how to turn on the phone. The father showed him how, as well as how to find out whom the friend’s son had been calling. Finally, the two men checked all the existing text messages to determine if the boy was involved in illegal or otherwise dangerous activities. The father relating this incident reported that his neighbor not only found out who his son’s companions were, but also who had been providing alcohol to the teenagers in the local community and where the transactions were taking place. The father concluded by telling me that parents could indeed smash their children’s phones but doing so would destroy useful information. A few fathers in large settlements told me that they had registered their children’s phones in the parents’ names and regularly checked the monthly itemized phone bills to determine if their children were involved with strangers or with pornography sites. Another parent of two teenaged boys related to me that he would occasionally do random checks of the phone bills and phone numbers, despite the fact that savvy teens could hide their tracks by erasing their calls as soon as they hung up. None of the parents I talked to appeared to be troubled by confidentiality or privacy issues.

iii32. “A Fire in the Land” (2010).

iv33. Jonathan Stoll (2012). Several follow-up letters appeared in Family Life (Jan. 2013), 2-3, one of which contained a verse from a reader in Ontario, Canada:

Surfing the web, receiving messages by text,
Audio-recording and viewing videos come next.
Camera all ready and photos to send,
Entertainment, excitement, without any end.
All this and much more in a hand-held device;
Its use is addicting, and it fits so nice
As an extension, or a part of the arm–
The lure of technology, and loaded with charm.

v34. The most requested speaker for Lancaster County gangs was a counselor with Life Ministries, a conservative Anabaptist-related group from Quarryville, Pennsylvania. As of 2013, he had made over two dozen presentations to various Amish youth groups and their parents.

vi35. A concerned businessman from Ohio suggested to me that “outside people like you” should come and do a show-and-tell type presentation with current electronic devices, demonstrating their capabilities and their dangers. He subsequently contacted the Lancaster County presenter, a highly respected, conservative Mennonite man who had spoken to many Lancaster youth and parent groups on the dangers of the Internet, to hear his ideas and suggestions on how to reach the Ohio community’s parents and youth.

Growing Up Amish Winners

Stevick Growing Up Amish Book CoverUsing random.org, I’ve drawn three random winners from your entries:

#56, Sarah Lynch

#119, Margaret (comment #2 on this post)

#12, Tom Geist

Congratulations to our winners. Please send your address to me at ewesner@gmail.com, and I’ll pass it to Johns Hopkins, who will send your books to you.

Where to get Growing Up Amish if you didn’t win

As Rich mentioned in a previous post, Growing Up Amish: The Rumspringa Years is available at local retailers, such as Gospel Book Store in Berlin, Ohio. Rich also has a few copies at the current Amazon price, plus $2 S&H.

You can also order Growing Up Amish from online sources in both dead-tree and electronic form, including AmazonBarnes and Noble, publisher Johns Hopkins University Press, or Amazon Kindle.