Suzanne Woods Fisher on Turning the Other Cheek

Suzanne Woods Fisher shares a guest post today in promotion of her new book The Letters.  As Suzanne explains below, for this book she drew on the story of Monroe Beachy, an Ohio Amish investment manager who pleaded guilty to mail fraud and is currently serving six and a half years in federal prison.

This reminded me of another recent, related news item.  It’s kind of hard to believe looking back now, but the past few years have seen two huge Plain financial scandals essentially happening at the same time.

The other involved a man named John Sensenig, a horse-and-buggy Mennonite living in Lancaster County.  Sensenig ran an investment scheme whose investors were drawn largely from the Plain community.  At around $90 million, contributions to Sensenig’s business nearly tripled the size of Beachy’s, and so do its estimated losses, ranging from $45 million to $65 million.

The past month brought resolution of sorts of the Sensenig case, when he settled with the SEC for $131,500, “about all he has left”, and agreed to take no part in future financial offerings.

Interestingly, as this article notes, Sensenig does not seem to have ever been the subject of a criminal case.  The writer suggests this: “Sensenig might have benefited from long-standing traits unique to the tight-knit, turn-the-other-cheek world of the Amish and Old Order Mennonites:  Trust your brethren. Resist outside influences. Be forgiving.”

Speaking of turning the other cheek, I’ve wondered how men in this situation–who have brought financial ruin to many of their kin–are able to integrate back into their societies.  Beachy is still in prison, while Sensenig remains in his community, working as a welder and attending church regularly.  In such a case, would it be harder to be the offender, or one of those tasked with forgiving?  I’m just glad I’ve never had to find out.


The Start of a Story

Suzanne Woods Fisher

The Letters, Book 1 of ‘The Inn at Eagle Hill’ series, was inspired by a national news story that made headlines in 2011. The manager of a Sugarcreek, Ohio investment company was charged with defrauding thousands of his fellow Amish farmers, carpenters and neighbors of tens of millions of dollars in an alleged Ponzi scheme.

The investment company, started in 1990, included widows and retirees, children, a Mennonite church, and even a school cookbook fund. By 1998, the investment company had lost nearly all the investors’ money through mismanagement: speculative investments such as risky stocks, mutual funds and junk bonds. And yet the fund manager continued to solicit investments from new investors, investigators said, to use the money to repay earlier investors. The charges earned the investor a nickname: The Amish Bernie Madoff.

Here’s the part that caught my attention: Although entitled, the Plain investors chose not to make claims to the Securities Exchange Commission to receive funds from liquidated assets of the investment company. Instead, Amish and Mennonite communities took up donations to help reimburse those church members who had lost money in the fund.

Startling, isn’t it? For biblical reasons, the Amish won’t sue anyone in a court of law. If they are wronged, so be it. They live by the proverbs, “It is better to suffer wrong than to commit wrong” and “A man is happier to be sometimes cheated than to never trust.”

Writers of Amish fiction are often accused of romanticizing the Amish and while I don’t deny truth in that criticism, there are aspects of the Plain life that can be inspiring to the greater mainstream society. We don’t have to “go Amish” to be reminded that there might be a better way of handling our problems. Let’s take the example of the Plain church’s response to the Amish Bernie Madoff disaster: avoid litigation at all costs, care for your neighbor in practical ways, and trust God to balance the scales of justice.

fisher-lettersSuzanne Woods Fisher is a bestselling author of fiction and non-fiction about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. Her newest novel is The Letters, Book 1 from ‘The Inn at Eagle Hill’ series, a fictional twist on the Amish Bernie Madoff story. You’re invited to get your daily dose of a Penn Dutch proverb by downloading Amish Wisdom, a free app for iPhones and Androids. You can find Suzanne on-line at

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    1. Andrea green

      And we over in the united kingdom thought it was just some bank investors that invested are money badley, or worse liquidated it by there pockets. Yet here i read even the Amish/ mennonite are inbesling other peoples hard-earned money, but where there is money i guess temptation will always play a part . My husband was a chaplain at a prison and when i went in for sunday servives we would chat to the in- mates after, one business guy there told me, in fact he was a banker, he had got in to a life style of fine things as he called it and well the money was there, it started with little amounts and before he new what he was doing it was well just lets say a fortune, and as he said the fun came to end, but he said the only regret was he didn’t get court sooner. He was very repentive of what he did, and yes thats why he was in the chapel, he himself lost so much, his wife, his children and friends also his job and home, even those that steal loose as well as those they have stolen from. Yes we must find it in are selfs to forgive these people that sadly are tempted to take a little and before they know it they have taken so much. Even Judas had his hand in the money bag and then went on to sell out Jesus for money. But what is great from this artical is that the community kept sensing there with them, what a show of forgiveness, this must have been so humbling for him.

      1. Andrea Green

        Andrea–Your comment about how where there is money, there will always be temptation is spot-on! There’s an Amish proverb that you might like: “Even a saint is tempted by an open door.”

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


        1. Andrea green

          For Suzanne,
          Thank you for the Amish wisdom i do enjoy getting them on my phone app each day,
          There are some great wise words there. Also just got your new book the letters, actually i got the audio version as a treat. Blessings to you.
          Andrea 🙂

          1. Andrea

            Andrea…thanks for letting me know you get the app…plus the audio version of “Letters!” Both! I appreciate your support!

    2. Katie Troyer

      If there is a real Lebanon Levi, why doesn’t he take on the John Sensenig case?

      1. Mary Miller


        Now there’s a thought, Katie! 🙂

    3. forsythia

      Wise as Serpents, Harmless as Doves

      I would like to know what kind of returns these men promised their investors. People should be skeptical when promised returns that are way better than average.

      1. Forsythia

        When the economy was going well, Forsythia, the returns were good. But when the economy crashed, the investment manager tried to keep returns as high as they’d been. Hence…that was when he started to scramble to find new investors to fill that gap of missing money.

        Thanks for chiming in!

    4. Carol

      Comment on Suzanne Woods Fisher on Turning the Other Cheek

      We need to all remember- “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is”, and “When in doubt, don’t!”. I know- “easier said than done” many may be thinking. But God admonishes us in His word to seek His wisdom and get understanding with discernment.

      1. Carol

        I’m right there with you, Carol!

    5. Bob Rosier (Bob the Quaker)

      “Turning the other cheek” is the Christian way. We should never seek revenge or “try to get even”. The Amish culture closely follows the teachings of Jesus, who taught his followers to forgive one another, to place the needs of others before themselves, and to rest in the knowledge that God is still in control and can bring good out of any situation.

      Your last paragraph summed it up; “trust God to balance the scale”. Or said another way;

      Love and compassion toward others is to be life’s theme. Vengeance and revenge is to be left to God.

      1. Bob the Quaker

        Thanks, Bob! I like the way you summarized it. Btw…are you really a Quaker?

    6. Don Curtis

      My son Mark's view

      I asked my son, Mark, who is Amish about the Monroe Beachy case. He said that it caused a great deal of pain in the Amish community. Pain from those who lost money. Pain and disgrace for Monroe Beachy and his family. Pain and shame for the entire Amish community over a brother who could go so far off the track and deceive so many people.
      Mark says that Monroe was disciplined by his Amish church. He at first wanted to just file bankruptcy to solve his problems. That was forbidden by the church. He was admonished to cooperate with authorities and to release all of his assets to help repay those who lost money.
      At this point, Monroe is in prison. Mark isn’t sure about his position with the church. He knows that Amish have been to visit him.
      If he confesses his sin and repents the Amish church will accept him back after a time of proving. The church will place restriction on him about ever handling other people’s money, again, Mark imagines.

      1. Don Curtis

        Thanks, Don, for sharing that info from your son. It was interesting to hear about the pain this situation caused among the Amish. I had read the same thing–and even read some of the letters pleading for their money to be returned. That’s why the book is called what it’s called. Hoping I captured it.

        Grateful for your comment!


    7. Looking forward to the new Suzanne Woods Fisher book!! You’re/She’s definitely one of my favorite Amish fiction writers!!

      Although many people do tend to romanticize the Amish, I think most realize as well that they have feet of clay like the rest of us.. They may live a little bit differently than some of us, but we’re all still only human.

      1. I want to add too.. Im much like the Amish in this Turning the Other Cheek belief.. I may not be happy with someone for a while.. but forgiveness is about me.. not the other guy. You cant live a life with joy when you still hold anger at others.. There comes a time when you must just let it go and change the way it affects you.. The Amish have this beautifully in line.. Its not always easy.. and it may take some time.. but just claiming it is enough to start the process and enough to set you free..

      2. Kim H

        Kim! Thanks so much for your encouraging words! You made my day. Suzanne

    8. Annette E


      The greatest lesson that all humanity can learn is that forgiveness is mandated. Jesus stated that we were forgiven and thus must forgive. At times, it seems to take forever because you’ll think you’re past the ‘wronging’, only to be reminded and pulled back in time. However, every day is precious and should be treated that way, as no one is promised a tomorrow.

      1. Annette

        So true, Annette, about forgiveness. So hard to do, yet so fundamental to understanding the nature of God. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Suzanne

    9. Paula Osborne

      I had not heard about these frauds within amish-mennonite folks. I know we all make mistakes but this sure hurts their communities I am sure. what a shame they would prey on their own people that way.
      I look forward to reading this book by Suzanne, enjoy her stories.
      thanks for sharing
      Paula O

      1. Paula O

        Hi Paula–

        Thanks for your kind words about my stories. You’re absolutely right about how the communities were harmed by this situation. But they’re remarkably resilient, too.

        Warmly, Suzanne

    10. Bob Rosier (Bob the Quaker)

      Yes Suzanne, a long time Quaker. My wife and I went to a Quaker college (Guilford College), were married saying our own vows in the Quaker tradition, and try to live up to the “SPICES” of Quakers.


      Thanks so much for joining and sharing with us.

      1. Quaker

        Bob…Would you mind if I asked you some questions about Quakers? No hurry–just whenever you have a minute or two to spare.

        Thanks! Suzanne

    11. Ed

      I wish that somehow, our “criminal justice system” could learn from the Plain peoples and focus on restorative justice rather than retribution and punishment. We have far too many non violent people locked up in this country.

      I understand that the Quakers have had quite a bit of influence in prison reform, especially in the 19th century. We certainly could use more of this influence now.

      1. Ed

        Ed, I’ve shared your thoughts about prison reform. Such a complicated issue! Your comment about the Quakers was interesting–they’ve had so many impacts on American society. Quiet heroes.

        Thanks for taking a moment to comment. Suzanne

    12. Veronica

      I would not of thought the Amish or Mennonites would actually invest money to gain more money. I thought that they would just be content with what God had given them and not wanted for more. As for this happening by someone in their own community I am not surprised bu this. Sin is everywhere no matter what community you belong to. It is how we deal with that sin and temptation that really shows how true we our to our faith. As for the forgiveness aspect I am sure it is very difficult but we are told to forgive and not only for specific sins but all sins just as Christ has forgiven us. Looking forward to reading your book Suzanne. How many are in this series and over shat time frame. I like to get them all then read a full series all at once. Thanks for your post today!!

      1. Veronica

        Hi Veronica–
        Erik might want to chime in on this topic of Amish and investments. It might seem surprising, but it’s not uncommon. And as for your questions about my new series–“The Letters” has just released, “The Calling” will be out in January, and “The Revealing” will be out next summer. All published by Revell Books. Thank you for asking!
        Warmly, Suzanne

      2. Do Amish invest their money?

        Yes, many Amish invest, though it’s often in conservative or conservative-seeming financial instruments which pay a steady return, rather than placing bets on risky stocks.

        The perceived security provided by investing with one from your own cultural group is what drew a lot of people to these two men. They’re examples of what’s called affinity fraud.

        Some Amish may be more aggressive with their investments however, and invest in mutual funds and stocks. But Amish try to be smart with their money which is a necessity if they want to support large families.

        1. Don Curtis


          I asked my son, Mark, about this. He said that in the Belle Center Amish community it is forbidden in the Ordnung to invest in stocks and bonds. The brethren who have money saved up are encouraged to loan it to other brethren in the church at little or no interest in order to help them out. There were a few in the community that invested with Monroe Beachy but that was because he claimed that he wasn’t investing money in the stock market. Later, it was found out that he had.

        2. Ed

          I think the Amish do a lot of “investing”, just not of the Wall Street variety.

          Taking the time and money to buy seed and sow crops, with the hope of an eventual harvest and financial reward from marketing the crops is certainly an example of “investing”.

          The Biblical prohibition on usury, now just about forgotten by almost all denominations, might be useful on discerning wise investments. Of course, most of us probably use mortgages to finance a house; there’s no easy answer to what we should or should not invest our time and money in.

    13. Alice Mary

      Nice to "see" you here, Suzanne!

      I read & enjoyed your book (The Letters) and when I realized it was based on an actual case, it just reminded me of what I’ve known to be true since I was a kid—truth IS stranger than fiction! In this case, especially, this kind of fraud perpetrated upon the Amish by an Amishman seems like something out of Ripley’s Believe it or Not. It sure made for interesting “fiction”, though, and I look forward to the next book in the series.

      Alice Mary
      p.s. I sent you an email this week (Cary Library). 🙂

      1. Alice

        Hi Alice!
        Thanks for reading my book! I did get your e-mail…hope you received my reply. Looking forward to meeting you face-to-face soon!
        And you’re right…truth IS stranger than fiction!
        Warmly, Suzanne

    14. Dali Castillo

      Pleasantly surprised

      I was pleasantly surprised to find Suzanne Woods Fisher here. Love your writing, Suzanne. Definitely got some insight into a topic I never knew existed. (I really need to get out more.) Loved the ending comments. They are so true: …care for your neighbor in practical ways, and trust God to balance the scales of justice.

    15. Dali Castillo

      Pleasantly surprised

      I was pleasantly surprised to find Suzanne Woods Fisher here. Love your writing, Suzanne! Definitely got some insight into a topic I never knew existed. (I really need to get out more.) Loved the ending comments. They are so true: …care for your neighbor in practical ways, and trust God to balance the scales of justice.

      1. Dali

        Hi Dali!
        Thanks for your kind words and encouraging comment. I smiled when I saw your comment! Why, I know that name! Grateful for your support, Dali. Warmly, Suzanne

    16. Ola Norman

      a great lesson

      We can all learn about how easy it is to get sucked into such schemes. We just want to make more money and take things easier but it doesn’t always turn out the way we plan. It would be hard to admit to our own gullibility and then forgive the ones that caused our loss. Keep writing these great books!