Bloom where you’re planted?
The Amish Workshops website has an interesting feature called Ask Viola. Viola is a young Amish woman who answers reader questions on many topics. Below you’ll find Viola’s answer to a question from a seeker.
Joining the Amish has been covered here multiple times before. On this topic especially, the words of an Amish person or former seeker are going to be the most powerful. Viola’s last line in particular caught my attention:
I am curious to know how to go about becoming Amish. Some have told me that I would not do well in an Amish community because I have grown up in the modern world. Honestly I believe this world is not a place I want to continue the rest of my life in and when I consider how the Amish are living and doing things; I feel I should have had a choice in the matter. I did not willingly choose the life I was given. What are your thoughts on all this?
If you sincerely wish to become Amish, because you think God is pointing you in that direction, I would suggest talking to an Amish bishop or minister to find out what is expected of you as a church member. Then spend a few years living in the community as the Amish do. Learn the language and the customs for at least three to four years. After this time you will have a fuller understanding of the choice you will be making.
If you still wish to be Amish, you can join the church to become a member. It is an extremely sad hardship for the Amish community when people join in haste and later leave. Once you commit to being a member (committing to serve Christ with all your heart, soul, mind and strength), you are bound to that promise for life. You promise God and the church to be an upstanding member, doing all you can for the good of the church with the help of God.
P.S. – None of us choose where we are born, or to whom. God puts us where he wants us and He makes no mistakes. Perhaps that is why the Apostle Paul wrote: “…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (Phillipians 4:11) Of course that doesn’t mean we should go on living a sinful life, but to bloom where we are planted.
As it happens, yesterday I corresponded with someone who would like to join the Swartzentruber Amish. I referred him to this response.
I admit I’m partial to Viola’s answer because I’ve always liked the idea behind “bloom where you are planted”. To me it means being the best you can be in the circumstances you are in. It speaks against being restless and always searching for greener grass.
However, can it also be a rationalization for complacency in a poor situation? When is transplanting in fact a better option?
In the context of religion, we have seen multiple stories of people who have successfully become Amish. But this is a question for any area of life, applying not just to faith matters but also to things like relationships or employment.
What do you think? How do you interpret “bloom where you’re planted”? Have you ever decided to bloom where you’re planted, or done the opposite instead?
Blooming flower: James P. Mann/flickr
what kind of lamp oil do Amish use
I understand that Amish do not use electricity, and I was wondering how they have light in their homes? I think a lamp or candles but not sure what kind. Is it paraffin wax, or a oil.
I am very interested in learning much about the Amish and love to hear from you.
At least in Arthur, Illinois the Amish use piped in (copper gas lines are run throughout the house inside the walls and gas light fixtures are placed at various intervals throughout the home) LP lights. Sam Schrock who owns MidState lamp makes a gas lamps and recently purchased the Humphery Gas light that’s used in off grid cabin settings. In the Elkhart-lagrange Indiana church districts (3rd largest Amish settlement) either use piped in lights or a pressurized naphtha powered lamp that they hang on a ceiling hook in their homes. In the more conservative community in Adams County Indiana (5th largest Amish settlement) they use only the older wick style oil lamps, and I usually see aluminum foil place on the wall behind the light as a reflector.
Well, Bruce, this is rather off topic for this post, but I’ll give a go at your question. The Amish as a whole are not monolithic but actually rather diverse, so there is more than one answer. The most progressive Amish have electric lights, some from the power company, but mostly from generator, wind turbine or solar power. Moving lower, Amish use mantle lamps, like Coleman gas camping lanterns, but adapted to house and shop use. Some are permanent, others are portable, even with pretty wood cabinets for the gas tank. Lower yet, there is the Aladdin lamp, a kerosene burning mantle lamp. Those things are expensive but everyone should have one for when the power goes out as they are very bright and cheap to operate. Finally, there are the wick oil lanterns and lamps. Amish almost always use kerosene instead of oil and almost all Amish houses have some of these somewhere. The most conservative Amish only have wick lighting and often a lot of it just make the house bright enough to read, etc. All of these methods of mantle and wick lighting can make a house unbearably hot in the summer, so the use is very limited then.
Long response, but there was not simply answer.
I see the three of us were typing the same answer at the same time.:)
I just didn’t know enough to hit reply to your post to put it where it belongs. My post is below;
Viola’s advice may sound overly cautious in counseling a seeker to take three or four years in getting to know the Amish community and people he or she wishes to join, but my observations over the years cause me to think that she is right. Certainly, many people have successfully made the transition into the Amish faith and culture–over 100, according to a survey done by Amish converts, but more than twice that many have joined and left–most of whom, I am guessing, came with high hopes and pure motives. My Pennsylvania Deitsch teacher was one of the 100, I thought, and seemed to be more Amish than the Amish. Sadly, he left after several years, leaving his wife and taking his oldest son with him. From what I hear, he is now isolated and embittered from virtually everybody. I am not trying to discourage people from joining the Amish: there are some wonderful lifetime successes to encourage me. What I think is that Viola’s advice to thoroughly get to know the people and the community one wishes to join/ My two cents, for what it’s worth. Happy, blessed New Years to all. Rich
Seeking and Finding
I lived Plain outside Amish life; there were a number of reasons I would not be appropriate in an Amish church. None of those reasons had to do with modern life, as I have lived well off the grid, and didn’t miss television or shopping malls. I became the head of a cross-denominational, international religious order. I live my Plain principles in a city ministry right now, and direct others living out their call to a dedicated Christian life. Amish communities are appealing to those who desire a close relationship that supports their faith, but there are alternatives for those who do not belong there.
So many questions
Hello Ms Sandra,
Thank You for sharing your story. Was wondering if you have a large family? Yes that sounds very personal,please forgive me.
Seriously praying for answers here. In the meantime was also wondering about the difficulty in staying clear of worldliness with living right in the middle of it all. Am of course human, not all my aquaitences are Christian and I do try to set an example yet sometimes it is useless.
Deep in my heart can feel Christ pulling me toward The Amish. Do not expect anyone to understand. Still have much work on my own soul to accomplish before being suitable. The main thing is I can never sustain a Godly life in the worldly ways without strict discipline. Am a 60 yr single disabled female. Surely no worth to the Amish for that matter. Only wish to live among the most Godly and be the best Godly woman possible. Do you have any advice? God Bless you.
Well I think “bloom where you are planted” is a little more than Viola’s simplistic answer. Yes, Paul was content in all circumstances but he also went where God sent him. He knew where God wanted him to be because he had a personal relationship with God and knew what God expected of him. This is why I agree with Viola’s suggestion that a person spend time living as Amish and learning what is expected of church members. Even in English churches people come and go because they do not “count the cost” thus hurting the church and watering down the faith.
Yes, we are to bloom where we are planted, but many times God transplants us to grow us closer to Him. My husband and I have changed careers, locations, and denominations — through our obedience to God — and every move and decision has had its blessings and challenges, but all of these changes have brought us closer to God and each other, regardless of the “details.” For us, going through with any change, we do it with the facts and not an idealistic view of the outcome.
Life is change…I mean, even if you keep the same plant forever, you have to add water, sun, nutrients, and you even have to change pots or locations to accommodate new growth, or the plant will wither and die.
I do like Viola’s response and agree with her “bloom” statement. In our lives we try to apply “Amish” principals where we can, while remaining true to our Catholic faith. Donald Kraybill’s book “The Amish Way” actually deals with this in an excellent way. I have read other Amish responses to people wanting to convert, and usually the first response is about truly trying to live your own faith first. Of course, if someone really feels called to join the Amish, they should pursue that (slowly as Viola says). I have never felt that call
Well said, Margaret. We need to avoid discontentment but we need to be open to necessary changes as well. Joseph S. Miller writes “The God of both the Old and the New Testaments is continually at work guiding and leading people in this dialectic of a Land of Promise and the need for exodus…. But it seems axiomatic that every Promised Land in time becomes a land of bondage.” The Measure of my Days 124.
On another note, if we take Viola’s approach unreservedly, we will never be doing any active mission work. There may be times when someone is in a situation where they need to be encouraged to make a change, even if it does not lead to membership in an Amish church. Most plain people respect others enough that we might be ready to help them find a good fit in another church.
I agree with this advice. When Ed joined after one year of living with the Amish, we felt this was too soon. I think there was some pressure on him to “decide now, one way or the other”. He has not regretted his choice, but then, if he has regretted it, would he tell us? This is the sort of thing I lose sleep over.
Propane lights can be plumbed through walls with black iron, or sometimes made portable. A box on wheels with cylinder in it with a tall standing lamp and shade just like a floor lamp is moved from room to room where light is needed. It is technically against the law to take ANY D.O.T. propane cylinder inside a building. They are as bright as a 100 or 150 watt light bulb,(or more) and add heat. It takes a bit of getting used to the constant hiss from a pressure type lamp. (similar to Coleman with double mantels) Aladdin lamps are plenty bright enough to read by, and quiet. (non pressure) Kerosene lamps and lanterns “can” burn kero (#1 Clear is better than the dyed red kero that is sold now to prevent use in over the road vehicles without paying road use tax. Kerosene used to be called coal oil. The red dye leaves a red residue on wick, burner and glass. Clear is still available as a Sunoco product.) The best lamp oil for indoor use is “Ultra Pure” paraffin lamp oil. It is smokeless and odorless. If you must burn kero, a little vanilla extract eliminates most of the odor. Oil table lamps or lanterns are enough to read by that use over 3/4 inch wicks, usually 1 inch wide wick. Many can be hung or fit into a mount on the wall with a mirror behind them to amplify the light. Oil and gas lamps are also available in hanging styles. It’s nice to get cooking and outside chores done before dark. There are many tips and tricks lamp users retain that has become lost knowledge with the advent of electric.
I tend to hear that “bloom where you are planted” argument from the Amish when they are talking about someone who left the church. He should have just bloomed where he was planted, he wasn’t satisfied always wandering. The Amish would hold that wandering (away from the Amish) is sin, listening to the voice of satan basically, pulling them away from the covenant they made to the Amish church. The Amish view their covenant to the Amish church as being a covenant to Christ and having an effect on their eternal destiny. I have also heard “God sent me to earth as an Amishman, won’t he expect to see me as an Amishman when I get to heaven.” Yet, if I were born Into a non-Christian or even a non-plain church background the Amish would support my move into a more Christian and more plainer background. So, bloom where you are planted doesn’t apply to all situations. My opinion is this, that the Amish are a culture first and a religious sect second. In certain settlements the Amish tend to blend the religion and culture together to the point where one leaving the culture is also seen as leaving Christ. It creates some difficult situations where those not leaving their faith in Christ are banned (and would be believed to be eternally condemned), and even among the Amish there are some who don’t believe such a person should be banned. But most OO Amish I know strongly hold to the need to keep their covenant to the Amish church (ie. what they understand to be a covenant made to God) or face eternal punishment.
Ship: I think you are spot on regarding the Amish being a culture, and not just a religion.
Also worth noting, that while the Amish may consider their culture to be inseperable from their religion, they are also highly tolerant of other beliefs. The Amish will never try to convert someone else nor will they condemn anyone for not being Amish.
Other denominations and religions would do well to emulate this tolerance.
Religeous beliefs affect their culture
Ed, from what I’ve learned and observed, the Amish beliefs DICTATE their culture-they’re trying to allow total surrender to the Lord to be what it means ‘practically’ in day to day living. Their culture evolves from that (although obviously they have brought their German culture with them, and have kept that as well).
They don’t believe in pushing their beliefs that is true, they believe in a type of evangelism that is salt and light in their life speaking and as seekers ask questions it gives them opportunity. However not all really know how to share Christ at that point.
As far as other denominations being tolerant and not evangelizing, I can think of several scriptures that would say otherwise, but thought of this one:
King James Bible
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
We are surrounded by people who need salvation and someone needs to be a vessel that the Lord, the Holy Spirit, would speak through.
If we don’t care what happens to souls, here, and in eternity, then I guess we remain silent.
I think it is understood that the Amish don’t proselytize, but have accepted outsiders who seriously seek to live their ways. They also recognize there are many other ways to worship Christ, as well as other religions entirely, and let those groups worship as they will.
One might say, the Amish proselytize with their deeds, not their words. People see how the Amish live and behave and are inspired, perhaps, to adjust their own lives accordingly. Personally I believe THIS type evangelism to be ten times more effective than the loudest preaching, broadcasting, and religious showboating we so often see and hear.
This post reminds me of a quote I read somewhere: Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others,” but He didn’t say to blind them!
I have put this quote in other places on Erik’s website, but I think it fits in here quite well too, so I’ll restate it now.
I was talking to a Amish Bishop about returning to the Amish 3 or 4 years ago. The discussion was about many things and towards the end, the Bishop said some thing has turned out to be very applicable to a very wide range of things. He said about going Amish: “If it is not of faith, it will not work”. I think what he was saying was that if you do not share the faith that Amish have in a rather complete way, you are not going to remain with them. I have found this to be very true, even for people born Amish. If you went Amish to get away from the evil world, I do not believe you will stay because their basis for being what they are and yours will be too different. Someday, they will do something that you just cannot take and then the struggle is on and it is a very hard row to hoe when you don’t agree with them.
I said elsewhere on Amish America that the ease or difficulty in being Amish is in how much you trust in the ‘way’. Trusting the Amish way or lack thereof, makes being Amish easy or hard. If that trust is broken, ease becomes very hard instantly.
I seem to neither be able to turn away from being Amish nor to completely commit to it, and that is often pure torture. I am not completely comfortable in either place. Jesus Christ and His Word are my only comfort and peace, but it’s lonely being between worlds.
Response to Lance
God bless you, Lance, for sharing both your wise insights and your on-going struggles. I’m sure that you know that the Lord will continue to be with you, no matter what comes. Thanks again for your helpful posting. Rich
Well said Lance. If AmishAmerica had a “like” button I’d click it.
Very well put Lance, and I see your struggle and can relate to it often. My only peace as well is found in following Jesus and at the same time, that means death to self and that can be, as you put, ‘torture’ at times. Consider Jesus-sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, struggling with His Father’s will vs His own.
We will face battles too-that almost make us sweat blood it seems.
Bloom where you are planted, I appreciate and believe this too. The question can be, did God plant me in a particular place, or did I plant myself? We can be self deceived. I do not believe in hasty decisions with the assumption God ‘told’ me to be here or there. God CAN work this way and will usually bring confirmation in one way or another-as the world becomes more perilous, more may be ‘seekers’ and aren’t we seeing this? Of course I understand the Amish are seeing this interest in them, as they continue to believe they are being salt & light, and perhaps God is doing a new thing. I still struggle with some things which would keep me from joining-
Viola says you must follow Christ with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (as the scriptures say) yet some of my former Amish friends think you have to LEAVE the Amish to do so- it can be confusing to outsiders
To me, the most important thing is just to bloom. Otherwise, there are countless variables and perspectives affecting whether or not to go join the Amish.
When the Amish embrace “seekers,” and then they choose to leave the church, it is very painful and discouraging. And as I understand it, that’s what happens most of the time. It’s no wonder that many Amish communities are skeptical about completely accepting outsiders.
I believe that, by far, the most difficult thing for outsiders to accept in the Amish church is allowing others to make decisions for you. Not just regarding church/religious affairs, but day to day life. It’s okay initially, but eventually, the notion that someone often tells you what to do about seemingly trivial things, like who all is allowed to go to the out of town funeral, or how often you may make trips to WalMart, becomes intolerable. The freedom to make decisions which adults from the outside take for granted is, to some degree or another (depending on the community), given up. Even in more liberal communities, a trip or vacation may require an explanation and an obtaining of a “green light.” It might initially seem like a comfort to have others so concerned about you and the seemingly unimportant aspects of your day to day life, but many find that it becomes a sore spot rather quickly. It’s just something to think about. I do not desire to sound negative about others’ hopes to become Amish, but seekers might want to consider if they can stand asking for permission about freedoms they presently enjoy. This is a very common reason why outsiders become disenchanted with the Amish community and desire to regain their individual freedoms. Amish life is about the giving up of self, a tall order for most.
Lattice’s comment said better the point I wanted to make — except to add the original asker’s own line, “I did not willingly choose the life I was given.”
I’m thinking “I,” “will,” and “choose” would all be obstacles she would face trying to convert to being Amish; she’s not “giving up” and saying she was called to this; instead she sees it as an exercise of individual free will and that I suspect is going to be a culture shock.
The older I get, the more I embrace “bloom where you are planted”. I also have found that, the older (and hopefully wiser) I get, the more I also believe that things happen for a reason, good or bad. We have to look for the reason, and (the hardest part), ACCEPT it. This has truly (I know, and have proof!) helped me become more “mellow”, bring my blood pressure down, and enjoy life more (the simple things in life are most precious to me, these days).
“God puts us where he wants us and He makes no mistakes.” You cannot argue with that.
I think many people are drawn to the Amish lifestyle. It is just a lifestyle. You can live their lifestyle without joining their Church. I believe “to become Amish” is a religious transformation, not just a lifestyle change. Viola begins with advice in that regard when she states, “If you sincerely wish to become Amish, because you think God is pointing you in that direction, I would suggest talking to an Amish bishop or minister to find out what is expected of you as a church member.” Otherwise, just move to the country, buy a horse and buggy, and state that you are returning to a pioneer lifestyle.
I have a little plaque with that exact saying on up here in my home! Very sound advice. Thanks for sharing
I read this post to my son, Mark, and asked him for his thoughts. Mark has been Amish now about 11 1/2 years. I think he will stay Amish. Here’s what he thinks:
– If the Amish way of life seems attractive to you then do your homework. Read every book that you can about the Amish. Have a very good understanding of their basic history, beliefs, and culture.
– Visit a number of different communities. There is no one Amish church. They vary widely from Amish that have electricity, air-conditioning, and microwaves to Amish that have outhouses, coal-oil lamps, and cut and store ice for refrigeration. Find the church that has the beliefs, lifestyle, and rules that you can fully support.
– Take your time. Mark visited the Amish community where he now lives for almost 18 years before he actually joined. He already had a support base of good friends to help him when he made the move.
– Consider what you will do to make a living. The Church can perhaps help with this. But it is a consideration. The Amish are not open to Women’s Lib. There are definite gender roles. Mark had a woman contact him who wanted to be Amish and thought she could work on a carpenter crew. “No way, Jose.” What skills do you have that would help to support you that would blend in with the Amish way of life.
– Have you saved up a nest-egg to help you make the transition. Being Amish has costs just like any other lifestyle. Buying or renting a home, acquiring a horse and buggy, changing to Amish clothes. The Church might be willing to help. But many Amish churches are weary of seekers showing up and expecting the Amish to just provide everything for them. Mark is not saying you cannot join the Amish without a bunch of money but being able to financially support your transition is a consideration.
– Realize you are going to have to learn a new language. You will never really feel a part of an Amish community until you can learn to speak Deitsch. That’s just how it is.
– Don’t have a romantic view of the Amish. The Amish are people and have problems just like everybody else. Some seekers become disenchanted when they experience a close hand look at Amish life and find out there is dirty laundry in the Amish basket. There are many wonderful and friendly Amish people. As Marks’ dad I have experienced that, myself. But, there are Amish with mental illness, dysfunctional Amish families, and a host of other problems.
– Mark has found that probably the main reason that so many “seekers” who have become Amish and then dropped out is not because of the horse and buggy; not because of the Deitsch; not because of the clothes or hairstyles. Mark has found that the number one complain he has heard from those who have dropped out is that they never felt really accepted by their Amish community. Mark says when a “seeker” becomes a baptized member of the Amish Church, positionally, they are Amish. They are a member in good standing with the church, may participate in counsel, communion, etc. However, Monday through Saturday, Amish socializing, to a large extent is based on “freundschaft” (family.) It can be lonely and discouraging to a “seeker” if they feel left out of most of the invitations to get together. That’s just how it is. You’ll need to learn to cope. Mark copes by kind of being adopted to several familities that he had close ties with before he ever became Amish. They’ve kind of adopted him. He invites folks frequently over to his house for meals. He sort of has formed a niche for himself as a “substitute uncle” for a lot of the Youth boys. They often ask to come over to Mark’s house. Pizza, pop, and games can build up a rapport with the boys and some will come over to Mark when they need somebody to talk with, as well. You’ll have to find your own support group and niche. Mark has found his.
– Please remember that being Amish isn’t for everybody. Not ever for all of the Amish. If you feel called, make if a matter of sincere prayer for God’s will. If it is God’s will, then He will open and close the doors necessary.
– Finally, Mark says that don’t try to become Amish over the internet. It doesn’t work. You’re going to have to put down your computer and do some leg-work. Write to Amish communities. Visit Amish communities. Learn to know some Amish, personally. You can’t do that on-line.
– Mark said to tell you all that if you sincerely want to become Amish it can happen. It happened for him. He will pray for you.
Mark’s input should be essential reading for anybody who is considering joining the Amish. As it is, Mark’s life demonstrates that such a change is possible and that it can be a joy-filled, God-honoring life choice. I thought all his comments were spot on but found his words on feeling left out and on the importance of making connections and friendships to be very helpful. Thanks for talking to Mark and for posting this on AA. Rich S P.S. I enjoyed meeting and talking with Mark at the Amish conference at E-town in June. R
Don, very wise thoughts. Your life application is priceless.
Great letter with understanding & wisdom. We need to bloom where we are. There is much about the prosperity, simplicity, and priorities of Amish culture that appeals to me. I can learn from them and apply as is. Your post reminds me God has a reason for us to be where we are… The former, God, and the Spirit should be the crux, not my wishful desires.
A handful do join
Well put Dave. Most people who are interested in the religion/culture of the Amish are not meant to join it, but I don’t think Amish people mind if their way of living causes non-Amish to stop and reflect on their own.
While I liked Viola’s answer I feel like the responses here have fleshed out the picture even more. And though I usually discourage “online seekers” because it’s evident by the tone and manner of a lot of the online inquiries I see that the inquirers are probably not really serious, it’s good to keep in mind that some people do in fact join the Amish.
Thanks for this posting. I learned so much from the various responses. And thanks to Don for your continued sharing of your and Mark’s thoughts. It is a blessing and of much value in helping
us further understand Amish faith and life.
How can you bloom where you are planted when you see that the Amish system does not allow a person to fully burst into bloom,thus allowing him or her to use all of his or her talents to be used for the furthering of the kingdom of God?
Is he or she then simply supposed to bury several talents??
Reply to Pilgrim
I suppose and I’m just wondering-from my observations there are many ways an Amish person can be used by God. But better than that-there are many examples in the Bible of people used by God in worse situations than living in an Amish community. Just look at Joseph-he was even used while being in prison, and in bondage to the Egyptians-perhaps WE can be limiting God when we say such things as He cannot use us where we were planted. I know of one Amish (now former) who was very much using his talents while Amish-I believe all things are possible with God.
But if a person is born into an Amish community, if they have not taken their vow then they are free to explore where their talents can best be used. If they have taken the baptismal vow-I’m not sure since breaking a vow is a sin.
I like to think that blooming where you are planted means to research, learn and evolve into the person God wants you to be “where you are planted.” Then if your evolved person fits the Amish lifestyle, go and see if that is where you belong so that you are closer to others that think and live the same as you do. Let God change you, not the Amish lifestyle. I’ve been the only plain person in my town for a little over two years now and I’m just now making plans to move closer to others. I think it’s important to know who you are before you make the jump.
Have a great day!
If you want to live Amish...
I found this quote in an advertisement or a catalog or some other “publication” so I don’t know the author. It speaks so eloquently of what most of us who are intrigued with Amish living are seeking:
If you admire our faith
If you admire our sense of commitment
If you admire our community spirit
Build your own;
If you admire the simple life
If you admire deep character and enduring values
Live them yourself.
It really speaks an important message to me. Being Amish is as much a culture as it is a faith — one that is largely lived from infancy on.
For some Amish who decide to leave the Amish community within which they were raised, it’s to adhere to a deeper faith than that found within their community.
What I am gradually trying to live is a much more straightforward, simpler lifestyle, where I monitor my consumption of goods, services, and “necessities” (home, transportation, food). What I need to learn is how to find or create community spirit.