Amish in the Jungle?

A link (no longer online) to some nice photos of Anabaptist-related peoples in South America, by Jordi Busque.

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Jordi says that the family in An Amish family in the jungle moved to Bolivia from Tennessee in the mid-90’s.  Apparently they identify themselves as Amish, and Jordi adds that there is another family like them, about an hour’s walk away.

Is this family in fellowship with any established Amish settlement?  Some aspects of clothing and appearance compare to Amish styles in the US, though some of the women’s coverings are more reminiscent of other Anabaptist-related groups, and is the father wearing a moustache?  Hard to tell.

A very interesting case.  Anyone with further info is invited to comment.

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In Settlements that Failed, David Luthy describes the first Amish attempt at settling south of the border, a short-lived settlement near Nuevo Leon in Mexico in the 1920’s.

The next serious attempts came in the 60’s, with small communities in Honduras and Paraguay.

Over time, these groups disintegrated.

Most of the Hondurans returned to the US in the late 70’s.  The ones that stayed behind eventually joined the car-driving Beachy Amish.

Amishman Joseph Stoll detailed the travails of the Honduras group in his firsthand account, Sunshine and Shadow.

The remnants of the Paraguayan group, most of whom left for the US in the 70’s as well, ‘use no motor vehicles, worship in Spanish and English, and have built a meetinghouse.  They have no formal connection to the Amish’ according to Steven Nolt in A History of the Amish.

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Jordi also suggests checking out his photo-stories of Old Colony Mennonites in Bolivia.  Old Colony Mennonites form one of the largest ‘plain’ Anabaptist groups after the Amish.

With roots reaching back to Mennonite groups in Russia, today they are mostly found in Mexico with related settlements in Canada and South America.  In matters of faith and lifestyle they are in many ways similar to the Amish, though as the photos show, their dress is decidedly different.

Thanks Jordi, for sharing the great work.

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    21 Comments

    1. Hi, I’m the photographer of those stories. In 2006 I met an ex-amish girl in northern Bolivia. I told her I was doing a photographic story about Mennonites. She told me she never saw Mennonites in this part of the country. However, she informed me about some friends of her (still Amish) who were living in the jungle. She explained me how to reach them. In fact she live in a much more isolated place, some ten days boat trip upriver.

      Initially the Amish family didn’t want to be photographed. I explained them what I was doing there and asked to take pictures of them doing their daily activities, not posing. They accepted my idea. The children and the young boy (17) had no problem to be photographed. The father was uncomfortable and after the first few pictures asked me to don’t photograph his face.

      Erik, about your question about the moustache. The father was wearing beard without moustache, but he didn’t shave it every day so you can see an incipient one.

      Jordi.

      1. To Jordi, if you still read this.

        I was at Sarah and Joe’s place, in late 2009. There are a few pics of our time there on my blog (if it’s listed in my post details). The picture second down, of the kitchen, my son has actually tried to blow that horn hanging by the chalkboard. It’s used to call people in for supper. He couldn’t get it to make any noise, though. I’ve stood at that counter and wrapped up little cakes Sarah had made, and her daughter Judith makes the best cheese I’ve ever had. We really miss Bolivia. Saving for a return trip, and hoping to stay there,permanently. thanks for the pictures, I didn’t have any of the inside of the house, just a couple looking out at the scenery. Did you get any pictures of the outside of the main house? If so, I’d love to see them. I’ve never seen a house built like that.

      2. Charlie Lovell

        To my friends the Beilers

        Hello Sarah and Family
        I hope you are all doing well? How is Mervin doing with his cattle,has he had any calves yet. It,s been a few years since i have been to your farm and have settled to the fact . You are astounding people and stedfast. Your friendship as well as Alex has been a landmark in my life. I appreciate your missionary work in the region and your knowledge of building the watermill is a miracle of what God chooses for us to do.
        I send my love and consideration to you and hope to see you again before i,m too old to travel . God,s blessing on you Charlie

    2. Jordi, that sounds right for what some Amish feel is an acceptable approach to photography–some feel that as long as they are not posing, it is not considered taboo. But of course that depends, and maybe the father had second thoughts or something.

      In any case, thanks for the background on these photos.
      Absolutely beautiful shots. Thanks for showing us a different world.

    3. Absolutely fascinating. I enjoyed the photos and links.

    4. Hi!
      I know this family, J. and S. Beiler. They would be of amish background, but would not officially be Amish. They would have come from the Lobelville, TN congregation, which is basically a two-congregation group, that would be considered “Anabaptist”, but not Amish. Mike Atnip

    5. Hi Mike,

      Thanks for commenting. I assume you knew them from Tennessee? I wonder what compelled them to go so far away from home? Brave move.

      Erik

    6. Hi-
      Actually, I met them first in Rexford, MT some 15 years ago. Then, we ourselves lived in Bolivia for about 5 years. They originally bought a large tract of land in the department of Tarija, but have sold that and live near Ixiamos, La Paz department. I am not real sure of their motives for moving to Bolivia, but I think it may have had some to do with suspecting a political or economical bust here in the US.
      Two of their daughters have married Bolivian men, so I suppose that contributes to them still being there. Some other families that went down about the same time have returned to the US.
      The “other Amish” that live way back in the jungle ten days are probably the Kropf girls, living with a Matthew Nichols family. Matthew is a “convert” to anabaptism. They live along the Madidi River. Like the Beilers, they are not officially “Amish”, but would fall under the conservative anabaptist heading. Mike

    7. reuben

      hi i worked with the boy you sauid was 17.he came up from bolivia to lobelville tn this summer and helped us on construcion jobs run dy his uncle .i also know their whole familt well as almost all of them live in tn. the boys name is mervin byler.his dad is joe.his mom is sarah,,and so on

    8. Sherry Gore

      The Beiler family are exceptional people. Mother Sarah and 2 of her children have been here in Pinecraft Florida for several months. They are some of the hardest working people I know. My life has been richly blessed since meeting them. Sarah makes the best pot-pie stew I’ve ever had, Judith is the kind of girl every mother hopes their son marries, and Nelson, well he’s a peach in his own right.
      read more at
      notaflightrisk.blogspot.com and
      http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/jacinda

    9. trent H

      I also know the Beilers and Sara mother Mary Ellen Miller.Joes would keep Sat. and have some advintist ideas.I can t remember the man who lived with them and travils to Loblevill onnce in awhile.

    10. MA

      Here is a link to some interesting Flickr photos of the Lobelville community. Dress is very similar to the style worn by members of the 1990’s Christian Communities (founded by Elmo Stoll). They also apparently practice immersion baptism. Fascinating people. http://www.flickr.com/photos/14839769@N06/tags/tnplainchristiancommunity/

    11. Bob

      Hi MA,
      can you please learn me more about this community ?
      I though Elmo Stoll’s communities were dead…
      Please let me know how to approach this page, that seems related : http://www.jonathanselby.com/pg2a.html

      Thank you and greetings from Belgium,
      Bob.

    12. Pingback: Randall Persing Amish Photos | Amish America
    13. antonio stephens

      Actually there were quite a few people who loosely fellowshipped w/ the Lobelville group that moved to Bolivia but to different areas of the country.

    14. david johansen

      the first 3 photoes are of joseph beiler s

      joes are of amish back ground but are christians who keep sabbath (saterday) as the commandment says l have been there visiting and belive we share a common faith david johansen p.o.box 60 spanish look out belize central america

    15. david johansen

      they the beiler ,also belive in immersion baptisum, no trinity etc

    16. Savason

      My Wish

      Hi,
      My wish is to live with the Amish. I would abide by all the rules that Amish had because I like to live just like the way that Amish lives. I do not like technology, and computers eventhough I ,myself, I am a teacher, but I love simplicity and peace because I learned that from the prince of peace, Our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.
      I am from California. I visited Amish of Lancaster county in Pennsylvania twice. Unfortunately, I was not capable of expressing myself thoroghly eventhough I was ready to work for them, for free, for one month.
      My wish is to be accepted among the Amish because this is the way that I would like to live.
      My wish was to be born an Amish. I do not understand why I was not.

      Blessings,
      Savason

      1. GreyCatz

        Greetings, Savason:

        If that’s how you feel, you should definitely give it a try. You seem to have the right attitude, and you could work as a teacher.

        However, judging from the articles and comments on this excellent site I have to point out that it’s probably going to be very difficult indeed. It seems it’s not just about giving up all kinds of creature comforts or donning old-fashioned dresses. You also need to learn PA German and abide by some fundamental, Christian virtues such as turning the other cheek (and they seem to take this exhortation very literally). And this is probably just the beginning.

        Finally, I’ve read that, often, they will tell people that if you weren’t born Amish, your chances of ‘making it’ are very slim.

        I hope you understand that I’m not trying to discourage you – I would love to be Amish myself – but since I didn’t grow up Amish, I don’t think I would last very long. And especially not in the Bolivian jungle! 🙂

    17. Just a complement : there is an interesting text and some foto’s on this page : http://www.kiwi-panamericana.com/blog/21/38/A-week-with-the-Beilers.html

      As LorriAnne said, the house is very interesting also !

      Many wishes of peace,
      Bob.

    18. Kirsten Braund

      Nichols family

      Hi… I wanted to know if anyone had information about the Nichols family in Bolivia. I recently returned from the jungle and actually stayed at their old house (as they have since moved)… Would love some knowledge about them. Thank you… Love and best wishes kirsten