Leaving the Amish: A Texas ex-Amish story

Lately we’ve seen many articles, books, and even TV programs about Amish leaving their communities.

Below, a video interview of brothers John and Joe Yoder, who recently left their Texas Amish community.  The Yoders’ former home is the only Amish presence in Texas, in the southern part of the Lone Star State.

Why so much interest in former Amish?

On the one hand, there is something compelling about an individual who bucks the system.  Especially when it’s such a strong group as the Amish.

The rebellion story is a classic.  It’s inherently a dramatic, conflict-filled thing, requiring a level of courage (or, some might say arrogance and pride) to reject authority and strike off on one’s own.  Spiritual conversion stories are doubly compelling.

I’d imagine it also has something to do with the limits of reporting on Amish.

If you’re looking to write about Amish spirituality, it’s much harder to get an Amish person to talk to media, especially about church issues.  For someone who has left, speaking out can be cathartic.  It might also be seen as part of a newfound evangelical mission.

In the video, the brothers talk much about being guided by experience, and finding the Truth, with a Southern Colonial home renovation project (true to the Amish craftsmanship tradition, the brothers are builders) as a backdrop.

John, who has an almost preacher-like manner, points again and again to the Bible;  “modern stuff,” he stresses, “has nothing to do with it”.  At the end, John leaves the door open to being led by the Lord “back to an Amish community”.

What struck me was their conviction that what they did was right, and, sadly, how they seem to speak of their family at points in the past tense.

The weakness of most such stories is, of course, that they are told from just the one standpoint.

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    1. Richard


      I like to read and listen to someone who was Amish at one time, and I’ve dropped by a few web sites that feature ex-Amish on them. And with a video like this, as long as I’m not getting the feeling that someone is trying to trash and cash-in on the Amish life style I’m ok with it. Most of my own family has gone in different directions, so i can relate to a little of what these former Amish are saying. Not my immediate family of course, but cousins aunts and uncles. I knew An Amish family that all went new order Mennonite, and as far as i know they all kept in contact with their families. So maybe its “how” you leave as apposed to “if” you leave that makes the difference in the consequences. Richard from Lebanon county’s Amish community.

    2. TomK

      Through my 59 years of existence as a Earth creature I have come to find that there is always many stories behind a story…

    3. Amy Jo

      I loved John Yoder’s testimony. His love for the Lord will never fail him. Sad to hear of families separating because of spiritual beliefs but it happens frequently and in many faiths. It is hard to leave traditions for truth. It is hard to accept truth in the comfort of traditions. Pray the best for them.

    4. Tom

      Well said Tom K. I agree. By the way you have a good name.

    5. Mary Brandenburg

      Amy JO – AMEN to what you said, “Sad to hear of families separating because of spiritual belief but it happens frequently and in many faiths”!! How true – when I converted to Lutheran from Catholic, my mother was crushed! I am thankful in this instance that my father was not alive – it would have made him very sad to know that I left the Church… and there is such a small jump from Lutheran to Catholic as compared to leaving the Amish church. We also know some folks that left the Jewish religion to become Christians; they had an even harder time than we did – very similiar to what the Amish sometimes go through. I don’t think that the repercussions of changing religion is any greater, or lesser, for one religion than another, it’s just that we focus on the Amish for so many other reasons that we think it is a greater issue for them…. just an opinion.

    6. Beth

      These two men made it sound as though the Amish group they were with doesn’t beleive in Christ alone, but in works. Maybe I’m wrong because they were not specific. Either way I agree that it was good for them to do what they felt necessary to grow their faith.

    7. Richard


      I think its always better in being happier and comfortable in your own skin. So in their case, to be Amish and miserable wont do anyone any good. I wish these young men much luck, and to be re- united with their families a little down the road after the anger subsides. Richard from Lebanon county’s Amish community.

    8. RUSTY



    9. Al in Ky.

      In thinking about this story and other stories I’ve read about
      “leaving the Amish”,I have a thought and a question.

      It would be interesting to interview the Yoder brothers 20 years
      from now to see where their journey has led them including whether or not communication with their Amish relatives has improved.

      Are there any stories of ex-Amish who left the Amish faith
      primarily because their fellow Amish church members “let them
      down”in times of need? Such as, “My house burned down and only two church members came to help me rebuild, even though I always
      helped other church members when they had fires.” Or, “My child had extensive surgery and had $100,000 of hospital bills and my church only gave me $100 to help pay the bills, even though
      I always did my part in contributing to our district’s hospital

    10. TomK

      From one Tom to another Tom, Thanks

    11. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      I think that the main man in the video ought to help, or minister to the young ex-Amish who may still feel like they themselves need spiritual leadership. It may not be the leading (sorry for a Society of Friends term there) his community follows, but, like he said, if the Lord leads them back, then so be it. Maybe he’ll form his own little Amish group.

    12. Loretta


      Al in Ky, I would be interested in knowing that, also. Maybe Erik has picked up something along the way.

    13. Leaving the Amish because of lack of help?

      Interesting comments from everyone, I’m just trying to catch up on all that’s been written since I’ve been gone (I was out of the country for 4 days starting last Friday).

      Al, that is an interesting question (have Amish left because of not being aided by the community?) but I have not heard of anything like that. It is in the Amish DNA to help a brother and that is what you see. Not helping out would be seen as selfish and un-Christian and antithetical to what Amish and other Plain communal Christians believe.

      That said, there have probably been instances (for instance in the case of extremely high medical bills) when resources have fallen short and this may exacerbate someone’s situation as an Amish person and may even cause him to question the wisdom of not carrying commercial medical insurance, etc. Off the top of my head I can’t say I’ve heard of this causing someone to leave though I imagine it’s possible.

    14. Lindsay

      I know of non-believers who have all but disowned by their very Christian families for their lack of belief, or gay friends or a friend who decided not to become a doctor and totally let his family down! It seems to come down to a familie’s expectations for a person, and when they do not fulfill that role. It’s hard on everyone involved.

    15. Katy Behr

      would like to meet w/ you or talk by phone

      My husband and I were sent out by the Assemblies of God as Christian missionaries in 1999. In 2003 the Holy Ghost spoke to me and told me that the way the Amish live, which is basically a sustainable lifestyle leaving a light footprint on the earth, was a good idea and that someday people would be looking to the Amish to learn from them (practical things about gardening, horse farming, etc.) God said we would call ourselves New Amish. Later we found in Texas a distant cousin of my husband’s who is “independent Amish”. We tried to join the Amish but found that we would not be allowed to do so because we had both been previously married. My husband got married at 18 and it lasted a few weeks. He had picked the wrong person. I got married to an educated man who beat me up so badly for no reason I was nearly permanently crippled. I would not be alive to be writing this if I had stayed married to Jon. The Amish told us that the only way we could be Amish was that we would have to return to our first spouses or our first spouses would have to pass away.

      We so enjoyed Paul’s cousins’ lifestyle ranching with horses and farming with them and the personal purity of their lives that we were devastated to learn we were “unworthy” of being Amish. We decided that we could be “New Amish”, a way of being in harmony with God, man, animals, the earth and plants even if we could not formally be accepted as Amish. It turns out we found there were at least twelve sub-groups of Amish and even the most progressive of these, the Beachy Amish who are evangelizing in Belize to people of all races and to the Sioux Indian tribes in America would not allow us because of our once-divorced history. What is strange is that some Amish divorce and are still allowed to be Amish if they were born into the Amish as a baby. Oh, well!

      We are trying through an intentional community website that listed all types of planned communities to start a New Amish community or series of communities in Texas. Since more and more people are suffering from EI (environmental illness) also called MCS (multiple chemical sensitivity) we plan an outreach to people who have become allergic to our modern world. We do have a truck, but also horses that we train ourselves and plan on taking a horse farming class this fall from the Homestead Heritage group in Elm Mott Texas. These people live in such a similar manner to the rest of the Amish that visiting there felt like “going home”.
      The e-mail for our community is newamish@gmail.com.


      1. Mary

        Amish in TX

        Why do you find it necessary to use the word Amish to live a simple life–or live life simply?

        Some “born” Amish divorce, but did you ask if they were permitted to remarry?

    16. Andy White

      A beautiful testimony

      This is the most beautiful testimony. Considering the history of the Amish, the effort to establish a clear understanding od God’s Word, backed up by obedience, I see God’s hand all over this. This is less about “leaving Amish” and more about following Jesus. Both men spoke of forsaking even family, and finding something better than family. Family is everything to the Amish, and I don’t mean the stereotype of quiet perfect godly families, I mean sticking it out together, working, eating, hurting, failing, rebelling, and forgiving. These men have clearly been Born Again of the Holy Spirit. Regardless of their smiles, the weight they carry for the lost in their families is heavy. I know because I have carried that weight. I pray with them that God does a great work in restoring the Amish Nation to His heart where they first began. Amen.
      Andy White

      1. Katherine Behr

        Andy White's comment

        What a beautiful statement Andy White has made. I became New Amish in 2003, a way of following the Amish way of life while still relating somewhat to the modern world. Also, this is “full gospel” Amishness with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Believing “up to God, down to earth, out to man and the animals”. Restoring faith, man and the planet, all at the same time. Three cheers for Andy White. Christ treated all of us the same. men and women, free and bond, rich and poor, all humans. Can we do less than He if we follow Him?

        Love and blessings,

        Sister Katy

        1. Andy

          Thank you!

          i appreciate your kind words and observations, all glory to Jesus our Savior!
          In Jesus,
          Andy White

    17. miss1ushouldknow

      Just my Opinion...

      I think that the amount of faith that the Amish have for those outside their community is what is contributing to their down fall. Jesus taught to love thy others as you love yourself. They may show a certain level of tolerance for the outside world but look down upon us like a virus. I believe all religions hold some Spiritual Truths to them but do not think there is one religion that does not have a dark side. Anything created by man is corrupt because our flesh is the price of sin. Anyhow…I lost my train of thought seeing as I have detoured away from the subject. I’m just going to conclude this for now.

    18. Bob Charles

      Admiration For The Amish

      I admire someone leaving the Amish for their convictions as much as I admire the kind of life the Amish cling to. I am curious why Andy and his brother did not start a community of like minded other “ex-amish” living their conviction of the scriptures. How much I wish I could give up modern conveniences such as electricity, tv, internet and others. Not so much because I think they are sinful but they distract me from simple living and being in constant touch with God. No religion is perfect, the thing is to find one which keeps me/us living as close to God as possible in this life. To Andy and your brother, may you grow each day in Christ and may you teach us who did not grow up Amish what is good to follow in that lifestyle. Would be a pleasure to meet you both someday.

      1. new possibilities for ex-Amish and ex-Mennonites

        I would like to say that the Amish and Old Order Mennonites basically have a way of living with the land that preserves and restores the land. I have heard research that says an Amish family can buy an eroded, chemically ruined piece of farmland and in five years not only be raising their own food, but producing a profit from that ruined land, restored by organic farming methods and just horses and/or mules.

        If a person/ couple/ family has been kicked out (shunned) by the Amish or Mennonites through no fault of their own, I would like to mention that if they go to ic.org and look under Texas community groups, they will see Healing Earth New Amish as one of the listings. We are a group of people wanting to start a sustainable agrarian organic farming, arts and crafts community (electricity optional) with our own windmills and solar panels for those who want electricity, raising heirloom vegetables and fruits and heritage animals. We have horses for plowing.Recently horse farming equipment was donated to us, but we still need more horse harness.
        We are hoping to be on the land in a couple of months or less.

        We believe in a healthy back-to-the-land lifestyle, no commercial TV, computers if you want or need them, and trying to make all we need for life in the community itself. We believe God made men and women equal kings and queens and that in the Old Testament we are commanded to praise Him with our voices and musical instruments. The Bible even gives lists of instruments that are good to use. We believe that living a pure life is a personal search to see God, and that we humans get to judge angels, not each other.

        If this interests anyone, we are around in Texas and moving forward to this new and happy life.

        Blessings to all who read this,

        Sister Katy

      2. KimH

        X Amish Community

        I know of one X Amish community in Tennessee. There are other different Amish and OOM in the area too.. Many of the children of Amish who did not join the church but still live the lifestyle live there and many who leave their community for one reason or another find their way there too.

    19. mary Maarsen

      leaving the Amish

      I have just found the article that was written in April 2011. It could have been written in 2017 because of how the Amish are changing. I think the Amish are at a critical turning point in their way of life. It will take some groups longer to get closer to the mainstream than others and it is always interesting to see what changes are taking place and where. I was able to listen to the video that the brothers spoke about how and why they left the Amish. I wasn’t raised Amish but both my parents were and both sides of my father and mother were members of the Amish. My generation weren’t. Even tho I wasn’t born in an Amish church doesn’t mean that certain things are different. Lots of the customs, rituals, ways of thinking etc were passed along as “the way it should be”. In fact my daughter who lived with an amish family found that out. She recognized quite a few things that I had passed along without realizing that it had come from the Amish. It isn’t easy leaving a group that is very clear on what it means to be part of that group. It is a threat and it could upset the apple cart big time. You leave one culture and try to accommodate to a new way of life. Some things you leave behind, lose them all together, other things you adapt to and other ideas you can combine and make them your own. This is perfectly normal. What makes it so sad is that part of the religious faith that says you are “lost for eternity” if you don’t do it a certain way. I know there will be lots of surprises when we all get to the “pearly gates” and see who else made it.

    20. Cindy Martin

      Mormon Amish?

      I know it’s been 10 years since this article was written, but I wanted to add a bit of something I hope will help others. Just like the Jews are such by both religion AND birth/blood, so it seems some people view the Amish. But Amish is based on a religious view point (Anabaptist) and is not a matter of birth. Even those born into Amish families must choose to adopt the Amish religion and “join the church” They are not Amish just because they follow certain traditions or live a certain way. This misunderstanding shows itself even in some of the comments here – i.e. people wanting to become New Amish and following only the lifestyle of the Amish. If you want to be Amish you must adopt their religious beliefs (which includes their traditions), and be a member of their church, following the rules set up by the Bishop of that group. If you just want to live that lifestyle then you are NOT Amish. You are “back to the land” people. There are even Amish people who are confused about this. Because they do not teach being born again or evangelize others many of them are truly Amish only in lifestyle practice. They are Pietistic, not evangelical as we understand it. So some have begun to be Mormon and still claim to be Amish! That isn’t really possible, but they are doing it by saying they believe Mormonism but live Amish. Again, living an Amish lifestyle does NOT make you Amish! They are actually Mormons who live back to the land. It’s up to us to define Amish properly and not mix up tradition or lifestyle with true Amish belief and doctrine. BTW, some of the commentators are correct – the Amish are religious but many are lost (not truly having biblical Salvation). They do not understand the Gospel as God gave it and instead substitute their works (i.e. keeping traditions)and a pietistic lifestyle for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They see no urgency to evangelize others because they don’t view others as needing Salvation. Salvation is something they feel they are born with of they are born into an Amish home. That is not how the Amish started out and their religion has been distorted. Many early Anabaptists were martyred for evangelizing, but you could never accuse most modern Amish of that crime. They don’t understand the Gospel themselves and so are bound to a tradition without understanding. It’s sad from the perspective of one who knows their history and their beliefs. We were once Brothers in Christ and both evangelical, but that is not the case now. I pray they will find the truth of the Gospel as God has given it and not rely on traditions for Salvation. These brothers have the right perspective and need to evangelize among the Amish they know.