Jim Cates: A Real-Life Amish “Romance”

I hope you enjoy the following story from Serving The Amish author Jim Cates, about an unlikely meeting, and the healing it brought one young Amish woman.

The Power of Love

“Love is a smoke, and is made with the fume of sighs.”
Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene 1

The popularity of Amish romance novels remind us a) a good love story is always in demand, and b) there is something about the thrill of love that overcomes barriers, be they cultural or otherwise. This story lacks the plot devices and twists of a good “romance read,” but it substitutes something they can lack: truth.

Jane’s life (pseudonym, obviously) as a young Amish girl had been difficult. Her father was physically abusive, and singled her out for punishment time and again. She was arrogant, she was slow, she was slothful. The list of her failings would ring in her ears as he took her to the basement for beatings with a leather strap. And yet she was an extremely intelligent child who understood in her head that what he was doing made no sense. Her heart may have been broken by his behavior, but her mind told her she had done no wrong.

Still, emotional scars run deep, and as other girls entered adolescence and began to dream of husbands and families, Jane remained distant from the potential for a male companion. She knew what a strong man in the home could mean, and preferred not to run that risk.

And yet she was torn. Loneliness bartered with the risk of abuse as she weighed the options available to her. The intelligence that allowed her to know she had been abused without cause and raised without mercy also allowed her to know that she deserved the compassion and fulfillment of a loving marriage. And yet each time, fear kept her from risking the search.

I had known her for several years, and both liked her as a person, and respected her insight. Our social circles overlapped, so that I saw her frequently and we were often able to talk.

Amish Woman Missouri

There came a point when a British film producer contacted me, asking for an introduction to the Amish. Such requests are not uncommon, but I usually decline them. Such producers are normally after “a” story, and have neither the budget nor the personality to take the time to understand the Amish well enough to respect them prior to filming.

Still, this bloke was different. He had an empathy in his approach I rarely heard, even as we spoke across the Atlantic. He flew to the States and we met and discussed his project. I found myself liking this tall, good-looking Brit who happened, among other things, to be an empathic listener. As we talked, he also described himself as fatally attracted to “wounded birds,” saying that he tended to fall hopelessly in love and make a mess of the romances in his life.

As chance would have it, Jane was a good contact to answer some of his questions for the documentary he proposed. She was willing to meet, so I drove the two of them to a restaurant in a small town near Jane’s settlement. As dinner progressed she answered his questions about the Amish in a clear, articulate, and forthright manner. It also became apparent that their interest in each other extended beyond academic questions. And so I made an excuse and slipped to the bar next door to watch the baseball game playing at the time. I simply suggested they could get me when they were ready to go.

I should mention that I felt quite noble, sitting there in front of a sport that has all the interest to me of watching paint dry. Thirty minutes went by. Forty-five. An hour. I was still nursing my first beverage, and getting sour looks from the bartender. I paid for my drink, sidled off the barstool and walked back to the restaurant. Jane and the Brit were still on opposite sides of the table, leaned so close that their heads were almost touching, talking intently.

I slipped back to the bar and this time ordered a Coke, to the unrequited joy of the bartender. The baseball game was in extra innings. I now had my untouched Coke in front of me, and the bartender looking as if he could cheerfully throw me out. A total of ninety minutes. Two hours. Baseball was over and the news was on. Which would come first: last call, or would the restaurant close?

Finally, my British friend popped in to say they were ready to go. As we headed back, they continued to speak of their childhoods, their lives, their hopes and dreams. And when I dropped Jane off, the producer admitted to me that he found her charming.

They met several more times during that stay and his follow-up visits. He would drop in at Jane’s place of employ and find various reasons to “chat her up.” Nothing serious however. She was baptized Amish, and it was clear that this was one wounded bird where a romance would never fly.

And yet his time with Jane had a remarkable influence. There was something about a British gent who took an interest that freed her emotionally. She began to see herself as a whole person, someone who deserved to be loved and nurtured. The trauma of her abuse lifted and she found a new meaning and purpose in life, in part because an intelligent, empathic man found her interesting. Undoubtedly he was in the right place at the right time, but he is proof, once again, that the Lord moves in mysterious ways.

We have since talked about her British admirer, and she recalls him fondly. Still, I have never asked whether her husband and children know they owe a documentary film producer a debt of thanks.

Jim Cates is the author of Serving the Amish: A Cultural Guide for Professionals.
Photo by Don Burke

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    1. Terry from Wisc

      Wow! What a testimony and a huge thank you for sharing. Most likely they both now have a lighter step in their walk, and a truly different and now positive look at life in general.
      In the Christian magazine Guideposts there is always a short story re: “His mysterious ways”, and your story qualifies. 🙂

      We remain safe in Christ,

    2. Jim Cates

      Updating "The Power of Love"

      Actually, with any writing there is a “publication lag,” so this story was written some time ago. Recently I received a picture from the British fellow mentioned in the story. The photo was a shot of his beautiful son, and he reports that he is happily settled in to a relationship himself.

    3. Loretta


      Oh, dear. That story left me wanting to know more!

      How did she meet her husband?
      I assume they are still amish?
      Has her father ever asked for forgiveness? What is her relationship to her father now?

      I’m so glad that she got beyond the feelings that such a relationship with her father gave her and found herself worthy of love and a healthy relationship.

    4. Carolyn B

      Great story. Keep these coming. I liked the bartender segment as much as the main story. Something about “unrequited joy” had me giggling.

    5. Jim Cates

      Backchannel contact me, and I’ll give you the name of the bar. If you walked in today, after all these years, I’ll bet if you asked the bartender if he remembers the guy who held onto a bar stool for 3 1/2 hours by ordering $6 worth of drinks he would still turn purple, point to the door and scream “OUT!” Absolutely no sense of romance, that one…

    6. KimH

      Love knows no bounds

      You just never do know what work God would have you do..
      Great job Jim.. great story.

    7. Tom
    8. The Other Erik

      This raises a question.

      What would a real-life Amish “Bromance” be like? 🙂

      But seriously though, I liked this story and want to thank Jim Cates for sharing it. This makes me wish the Amish lady and British gent had appeared in a documentary, so I could learn more.