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‘Trouble in Amish Paradise’ documentary

Here’s a link to the BBC ‘Trouble in Amish Paradise’ documentary, now hosted on an Australian site (since removed).  I don’t know how long it will be up, but if you’d like to view it, I’d go ahead and do it in case it is taken down.  It’s not quite a full hour long.

As to the narrative background, they get some things right, they get some things wrong.  There are some generalizations and some factual errors.

Regardless, the documentary itself–from a human drama perspective if nothing else–is captivating.

It features two Amish couples in various stages of conflict with their congregations.  The main couple featured is Ephraim and Amanda Stoltzfus.  I met Ephraim and Amanda in Lancaster County 2 years ago, when they were already under the Bann.  They were still attending services however, and had not moved off the farm yet as they do in the documentary.

Although I’m not certain I’d agree with the premise of the dissenters’ arguments against the church, they are very likable people, and especially the gregarious Ephraim, as is evident from the film.

There’s a lot more that could be said about this documentary but for lack of time I’m not going to be able to do so at the moment.  If anyone has comments after viewing please feel free.

UPDATE: Trouble in Amish Paradise is now available on Youtube.  You can view part 1 of the film here: (removed)

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    1. Hello:
      I found the documentary interesting, and surprisingly positive about faith in general, coming from the BBC. 🙂
      Anyways, just last evening a friend of mine from Charity Christian Fellowship, where Ephraim now attends, sent me the following in an email.
      There was something I forgot to tell you about that BBC team. They were a man and a lady that were not married but living together that was doing the recording here. I remember that it was at the time of the tent meetings last year, and they recorded actually quite a bit more of it than is shown of course….but they both listened in at the meetings quite a bit even after the recording was done for the evening. They also came to the Charity Church service Sunday morning once and recorded some there, but I don’t think they ever used it. I was wondering whether they perhaps were wanting it for their own benefit…because several of the brothers had spent quite a bit of time sharing with them……the man said it was the first time he had ever really heard the story of Salvation, and was deeply touched by all the testimonies of changed lives etc.
      He ended up getting saved before he left, hallelujah! And went on to make some radical changes after returning to his home country, including moving out from his girlfriend, though it was of course a tremendously hard thing to do for him.
      I, of course, cannot personally vouch for this information, but it is interesting what the impact had on at least one person.

    2. Sorry, I guess tag must not work in the comment section. The quote I made started at “There was something…” and ends at …hard thing for him to do.”

    3. Dave Carrig

      Erik – Thanks for the posting the link to this. I cannot express enough how touched I was to see Ephraim’s story. One of the few times something like this has brought me to tears.

      I know I have mentioned before that I too have had the same experience Ephraim had – just from studying the Bible on my own. Seeing God work in the Amish culture the way He has in so many others – just through honest study of His Word shows me that he truly has his own among all peoples of the world.

      The last 15 minutes of that documentary proved to me that his faith is the real deal…

      Thanks again Erik – this made my day.

    4. Dave, PC, glad to hear it. Yes leaving the Amishology filter to the side it is quite a touching story. I do hope their little girl recovers. Ephraim seemed very resolved to whatever outcome may result. Which was powerful to see, as you could tell he really meant it.

    5. Bill

      Thanks for sharing this Erik. Extremely interesting. Someone, somewhere put the BBC on to this story. Though it might well be the case I’m hard pressed to believe these two young gentlemen one day up and decided to contact the media to say “Boy,do we have a story for you”. At the beginning I sensed a desire on the part of those filming to project how terrible the Amish treat their own who leave the church. In the end it is the Amish church which rises to the need.

      This is only my personal opinion but I find the struggle with faith, and how we deal with this struggle, to be very personal and should remain between those closest to the situation and not laid bare to the public like this unless there is something terribly amiss.

      I hope and pray all goes well for the little girl and for both of these families.

    6. Nate B.

      After growing up in Lancaster County, and now living in Dallas, TX after going to Bible college, this documentary brings so much Joy to my spirit. To see these Amish family’s find the true love of Jesus and be so bold in their faith has touched me and makes me homesick. Thank you so much for posting this.

    7. Helen Parnell-Berry

      As you know, Andrew and I watched this when it was first broadcast by the BBC several months ago. I am pleased that you are now able to access it in the USA.
      Yes there are many generalisations but the target audience is UK residents that generally know little if anything at all about the Amish. They, like a lot of Americans, believe that the Amish are all the same and don’t realise that there are many groups under the Amish umbrella.
      It is for knowledgeable folks like you, Erik, to educate the rest of us about the diversity that exists among this small but significant group of Christians.
      I took Andrew to meet my “Swiss” Amish friends this past Monday. He was moved by their simplicity, honesty, generosity and openness. This was his first encounter with anyone like this and finally understood my complete fascination. He also appreciated the diversity that occurs even within a few miles.
      I could go on but now is not the time and there is a chicken byriani with my name on it being prepared so have to dash.

    8. Rick

      This one also made my day, Erik. Excellent in many respects – the story line of course, but also the less obvious things like seeing the inside of the houses, etc. I would be interested in hearing what ‘facts they got wrong’.

      PC – I’m sure everyone here would be interested in hearing any updates on the health of the little girl, since you seem to have the connection.

    9. Hi Rick just off the top of my head there were some errors or misstatements such as I believe they mentioned ‘300 members at church’, which would imply a church district size of 100 or so families; they were probably referring to total numbers present including non-member children, but even 300 would be high and closer to attendance levels at a wedding or funeral…also if I recall correctly there was a comment that seemed to imply that Amish spoke or had historically spoken limited English and that they were now ‘opening up’ towards it which is of course not how things are as English is spoken by all Amish…there were a few other things that made my ears perk up but would have to go back to re-view it to be able to point them out. But on the other hand it was interesting in showing the interior of Amish life such as haircuts, prepping for church, etc–even though this was a family sort of shifting away from that life, with the phone line going in the house for instance.

    10. On Ephraim and Amanda’s daughter, to be frank I do not have direct contact with them, as we only met on one occasion, though we spoke for a good while. Someone else on here may have closer contact than I do.

    11. Thanks to Bill and Nate for your comments too–I was glad that at the end the filmmakers acknowledged that the church stepped in to the gap–the point of shunning is not pure ‘punishment’–it’s meant to be done in a spirit of Christian love– to encourage the one who strays to return to the flock, but regardless assistance is to be given when needed and such was the case here–and worth noting that Ephraim’s were willing to accept it…also Helen I am glad you reminded me of this, as I was trying to remember who it was that had mentioned the documentary to me a while back…by the way I hope Indiana has been nice!

    12. We had watched the documentary and enjoyed it very much because it so closely reflected our own experience of leaving the Amish.

    13. Rick


      This link was posted on Ira Wagler’s blog a few days ago. Gives info about the couples shown in the documentary, including an update on the little girl.

    14. christa mott

      I was surprised when I asked for apples grown bio-dynamically Mrs Beiler said,that the state gives subsidy only when not following the old amish farming with leaving the land every 5 years unfarmed.This leads to shying away from the good care of the land. Many families have left for Bolivia and Argentine to raise the children and crops too unhampered by state interference. I also met the mennonite Roehrs family, which had given up farming and went into missionary work.
      This year I attended a Templar meeting near reading and found My friends new house on former amish land with many other mega mansions. It was called “Farms”.

    15. Ruth

      As to the comment that it was inaccurate that the Amish don’t speak English….the documentary didn’t say that at all. It rightly said that Penn Dutch is usually the first and primary language and that the Bible is often read in German…and they don’t understand it as well.

    16. Mary Brandenburg

      Okay, so this is going to show a whole lot of naivete on my Englisher part, but, from what I know of the Holmes County Amish, and the Amish religion/culture in general, if Ephraim feels so strongly about his desire to be Amish and yet be more bible-centric, then why not just start his own affiliation?? It’s how the Andy Weavers started and it’s how the Schwartzentrubers got going… heck, it’s how all of the various affiliations got rolling; someone had strong enough beliefs, broke from their standing district and started their own version of the religion/culture…. it seems to me that if there are that many folks who feel like the Ephraims and the Jesses of the world, they could easily form a new “church”. This was the thought that kept rambling through my heart and head while watching this documentary; if the Ephraims want to remain Amish in essence but study the bible more, they can do it – no one has the authority to stop them. They CAN make a new world for themselves and their families!

    17. Katie

      Just watched the new episode “Leaving Amish Paradise”, which showed little of the Amish culture (I am a UK viewer and know little of it). It did however show the Charity Church and Ephraim in particular in very bad light.

      In America he may get away with denying Darwin’s theory of evolution but to British viewers this is VERY offensive. Not only did he say he didn’t believe in it, which would have been ok as we are all entitled to our opinions but he actually said it IS NOT TRUE. How DARE he? He then came to Britain to try and convert our public to his evil ways?

    18. Dominic

      Another UK viewer here. In my view all Ephraim and the rest of them did was to leave one weird cult for another marginally less weird one. America can put a man on the moon, and yet there are Americans whose beliefs are still stuck in the bronze age. OK, people should be free to believe whatever weird and wonderful things they want to, but it’s not fair to brainwash the children with all the hellfire nonsense (still less to deny them medical treatment).

    19. kate

      As a Christian, Katie, the “THEORY” of evolution is not something we believe in. God created the Heavens and the Earth as it says in His Word. That is why He said He doesn’t beileve in it. I do not either.

      Neither the Amish or the Charity churches are considered cults. They are branches of Christianity. The medical treatment was not denied to Marie in the end and they are not the only culture that denies medical treatment. Who decides what is “weird” and what is normal? I’m sure each of us do something someone else may consider to be “weird”. Think of that before judging others.

    20. kate

      I hadn’t watched the video before commenting about the medical treatment (I thought you were talking about the 1st video sorry) so I am sorry about that. I do agree with you that it was not right to deny medical treatment. Amish in general do not do that. I am glad the state stepped in and got Marie the treatment. I believe God has given us the medicines and doctors to use for healing but He is in ultimate control. God helps those who help themselves. Again sorry for the misunderstanding.

    21. Dale

      Where are they today in 2013

      What is the upated on the lives of Ephraim and Amanda Stoltzfus today in 2013/ what are they doing with there livesin regards to church, work and there lives in general