When A Son Joins The Amish: A Visit Back Home

Last summer, Anne, mother of an Amish convert, wrote about a visit to her son Ed’s community in Minnesota. Today she shares the story of Ed’s recent visit back to his boyhood home in Virginia.

What did Ed’s Amish-born wife Ruth think of her visit to “English” America? How did they make the 1400-mile journey? And what one important thing did they not think to warn Ruth about? Read on to find out.

And if you missed previous installments of this series, here are all of Anne’s articles:

When A Son Joins The Amish (Introduction)
What About Photos?
How Do Others React?
Hard Times In Minnesota
Dollars, Degrees & Dentists
A Visit To Our Son’s Community
The Only Treasure You Can Take To Heaven

We were thrilled to get a call from Ed in mid May, saying they could come for a visit later that month. The timing was not great for us, because I was on crutches due to a knee injury, and looking ahead to surgery which was scheduled for the day they left. The whole time together was characterized by these sorts of complications. You’ll see that as I go along.

Getting from Minnesota to Virginia

To get them here, we’d agreed that my husband would drive to Wisconsin to pick them up. None of us could afford the travel costs, so they were going a day’s drive by bus, and would return in like fashion to catch a bus in Chicago.

Travel is so hard for them, but imagine trying to travel inexpensively with two small children. The boys are 2 ½, and 15 months, with the older one being only recently potty trained.


The bus trip began around 1am with a hired driver taking them to Detroit Lakes to catch the bus. There’s an all day bus ride (think of all those stops) and they finally got to Hillsboro, Wis, where they stayed a few days with some friends they wanted to see.

To continue the travel theme, when it was time to go home, my husband drove them to Chicago. This was the same day I had my surgery (my daughter was here to take care of me; couldn’t have done it without her!). They arrived in Chicago to catch a bus that left around 11pm. They got back to Detroit Lakes late afternoon of the next day, and then had the hired driver take them home, an hour away.

This kind of schedule is not for the faint of heart! As it was, we fronted them the cash for the bus fare, as I don’t think they could have come at all without it.

The time together turned out to be rather stressful, but only because of circumstances.  You know how it is; things often don’t go as you planned.

Ed’s Illness & Other Challenges

When they first got here Ed was pretty sick. He thought he had flu, just like the rest of the family had had before the trip. He had no energy and was sad for it because he wanted to help us with things around here.  He improved the last couple of days, but was frustrated that he didn’t feel like getting out.

He also seemed troubled by his overall health issues, which thankfully, he got some help with while here. It may be another 6 months to a year before we can figure out what’s wrong with him, but a kind doctor friend has taken his case on, and is working on a plan of action to try to weed out what could be causing his digestive upsets. I’ll share more on that later if there’s news to share.

During their visit, our lawnmower broke, the heat pump went down, and then at the end, our washing machine filled with water and wouldn’t drain (just as Ruth was trying to do laundry before going home). Add to that, that every meal was complicated by trying to find things Ed could eat with his gluten sensitivity – plus he thinks lots of other things upset his system too – and you get a pretty crazy time together.

One Thing We Missed

Then there are things you don’t think about, and the worst was our failure to remember that Ruth was still not used to a modern home. So the first night here, I was concerned to hear loud crying upstairs (our extra bedrooms are up there), but I knew Ruth was up there with the little ones, so didn’t worry too much. Then it happened again, and again I decided not to worry, especially when the crying stopped pretty soon.

When they came downstairs I asked Ruth about it and she said, “I don’t know… Jonathan was sitting on the floor near the wall and kept poking around this white thing on the wall; then he suddenly started screaming!” Yes, you guessed it; he’d put his fingers in the outlets and shocked himself twice.  Ruth didn’t know about them and didn’t tell him to stay away.  So glad he was not hurt worse!  I think we’ll all laugh about it someday but it be will be awhile.

“Vacation” Means What Exactly?

I’ve come to realize that we have very different conceptions of what a “vacation” should be. I see Ruth so busy with the kids, and know that everything back home is hard; laundry, cleaning house, even cooking a simple meal. So I want her to have a break from all that.

But she feels like “vacation” means doing all the same work, but at a different house, where you can at least visit and share meaningful relationships together, and where you can get even more done because there are extra hands to do it. These different expectations can create difficult situations. For example, Ruth, in her recent letter, apologized to me that she did not help more. HELP MORE??? That was the last thing on my mind.

She said that before coming, she’d had visions of waiting on me, doing all the cooking and washing up, helping me get ready for surgery, etc. She was looking forward to all this! But what was I thinking? I was on my feet (much more than I should have been), trying to keep her from “working” as I saw it.

I couldn’t climb the stairs to help with the boys, and I couldn’t work outside in the garden or even entertain the little ones by myself if it involved holding them or playing with them. So I did all the cooking and cleaning, just what she thought she should be doing! And of course, I felt guilty that she had to “work” so much. It’s actually rather humorous that our expectations were such polar opposites.

Enjoying The English World

When we did go places, Ruth’s eyes were always wide. She loves to see sights and seems surprised and blessed by the big world out there. The only real outing we had was when Fiona (Ed’s sister) and Ruth and I went to the fabric store and then to Walmart. She loved seeing all the beautiful cotton fabrics at the local quilt shop. I grieved that she would not be able to use any of the prints with patterns or designs in them.

Then we went to Walmart to get her vision checked. We were shocked that she could not even make out the large “E” at the top of the chart! Glasses were ordered and we’ve heard since that she can now see to help pick the boatloads of peas coming off the vines in Minnesota.


The last evening they were here another awkward thing came up. A sweet friend came over with her camera and before I knew it, she was “spraying it around like a garden hose,” as my husband likes to say The camera was clicking all the time, with lots of, “now Jonathan, look this way!, etc. etc.” I know Ed is used to this, but for Ruth, it’s one of those things that’s “just not done”.

I didn’t want to offend my good-hearted friend, and thought Ed would be the one to put a stop to it. But he never said anything, so I left it alone. I later complimented Ruth on her gracious attitude during that “ordeal” and she seemed pleased that I thought she handled it well. I was so worried about it, I thought it might be the event that would prevent future trips here.

That would be a terrible outcome. I’m not going to complain now though, as they are the only pictures we actually have of my sweet daughter-in-law. And they are the best pics of the boys too.

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    1. Alice M Aber


      Off topic Erik but a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you!!!! Hope you have an awesome day and it turns out exactly as you want. 🙂

      Interesting article. Thanks for sharing!

    2. Terry from Wisc


      A BIG THANKYOU for all that do on AA, and I’m with Alice on her with birthday wishes!!

    3. Jerry

      A Delightful Story

      Hi Anne,
      Thanks for sharing. I think all too often we all try to over think events in our lives. Sometimes it’s best to just enjoy the moment. It does appear that everyone had a great visit. Good looking children as well.

      I’m wishing you a speedy recovery as well as your son.
      Best wishes.

      Oh, where in Va? That’s my home state as well. Tazewell County.

      Happy Birthday Eric.

    4. Anne, the mom

      We live just south of Charlottesville, in North Garden. But Ed joined the Amish community at Whitegate, not far from you. When they modernized, many who did not want that, started this new community in Minnesota. Sure wish they’d found some place closer!

      And thanks for your prayers for our health concerns. Greatly appreciated!

    5. Carol

      A son joins the Amish

      Hi Erik, a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY! STO LAT!!!!!!
      Hi Anne, thanks for your continued sharing of your family. Hope your knee has recovered well. Also hoping Ed’s condition will be properly diagnosed soon. Good thing Ruth now has the glasses she apparently desperately needed. My Mom didn’t realize I wasn’t able to see well until my 2nd grade teacher sent a note home with me. Mom thought she’d find my glasses everywhere except on my face, but I sure surprised her! First thing I put on in the morning and last thing I took off at night! I was so thrilled that I could see!
      Take care and blessings to all, Carol

    6. Mark - Holmes Co.

      Happy Birthday, Erik! Wishing you God’s blessings & guidance in your new year.

    7. Colleen

      Good Article!

      I enjoyed this story. I do not remember reading the other articles, so I intend to do that now. Thanks for keeping us updated!
      Happy Birthday, Eric! You share a birthday with my oldest son. I hope you both have a wonderful day!

    8. Happy Birthday Eric!!!!!

      Happy Birthday Eric. I hope you have a great day!!!!!

    9. Trish in Indiana

      different expectations!

      I was especially intrigued by the uncommunicated (until too late, as often happens!) difference in expectations of the journey, concerning who would be working and who would be getting a break.

      I imagine an Amish woman, brought up all her young life to realize that “honor your father and your mother” would someday include her husband’s father and mother, too, on her first visit to her in-laws’ house, knowing that her mother-in-law is preparing for surgery, and when I think about it, it doesn’t surprise that for her, the whole point of the trip would be to cook and clean for you, and she would be happy to do it. I can also understand that this was not at all your idea of how your daughter-in-law’s first visit should be spent!

      Hopefully, you will both remember this miscommunication of differing expectations, and the next visit either direction, you will be more comfortable “negotiating” the right balance.

      Sorry to hear your son is ill. I pray the doctors may help him.


    10. Thanks everyone for all the kind wishes! I didn’t expect it but very nice to hear 🙂

      1. Tom Geist

        If it wasn't for bad luck....

        Seems like there was a lot of bad things happening before and during the visit. The next one should be much smoother. I use to hear, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, you would have no luck at all.”

        Speaking of bad luck….Happy Birthday Erik! LOL Just kidding. Thanks for this site and your pleasant attitude. Much is learned on here.

        Tom in Lincoln

    11. Carolyn B

      Happy B-day, Erik!

      Anne the mom, thank you so much for an informative update on Ed’s family. The grandsons are downright adorable. How did you get the power to let them get back in the car to leave you? Hope they all are able to come again sooner rather than later. So sorry that Ed is sick. So very glad that Ruth’s vision problem has been discovered and that she has eyeglasses now.

      Very enlightening about yours and Ruth’s differing expectations. So happy that you both wanted to spare the other extra work.
      Re: the crazy shutter-bug, I’d suggest a conversation with her just before the kids’ next visit and outline what you plus Ed and Ruth are comfortable with.

      Thank you for sharing your family with the Amish America community.

    12. Kevin L.

      Anne the mom,
      Thanks for your articles. I always enjoy them. It is the same for us, that things dont always go as we planned when the kids visit, but we always look forward to their visits. I hope that things improve for both you and your husbands health.

      Happy birthday to you!

    13. Juanita Cook

      Happy birthday Erik. Have a very blessed day. Thanks for sharing this with us. It was very interesting.

    14. Harriet

      Happy Birthday, Eric

      Happy Birthday, Eric!!! I hope your day has been filled with much happiness. This website is so special to so many of us. I feel like I have friends all over the country because of it.

      Thank-you, Anne, for your beautiful contribution. I have always enjoyed your stories.

    15. Jonathan Edwards


      Happy birthday, Eric! I hope you have a blessed day!

    16. Jonathan Edwards

      Whoops, sorry...

      Sorry for the misspell. I guess I inadvertently took it off the last post. Happy birthday ‘Erik’!

    17. Jeff Baker

      Happy Birthday

      Happy Birthday, Erik.

      Thank you for creating and running this site along with all the volunteer helper’s and great commenters too.

      Love the stories Anne and hope the knee is healing.

    18. Stefano Bacc.

      A troubled visit

      Dear Anne, this article is interesting like your others you wrote in the past. I hope your Knee is going to well and also the digestive problems about Ed. . You said that Ed. has gluten sensitivity, but for an Amish who lives all around “flour” (I think) to make bread, how Ed. can eat things without gluten? Can Amish produce gluten free bread? I am sad for the hard life is spend your son in Minnesota, but with “hard life” I mean find problems on problems and not having a wife and 2 children and I hope a good relationship with their neighbours. Problems like the bad sight of Ed.’s wife (fortunately it is ok with the glasses), the digestive problems of Ed. , problems with the house, the pipe for house water, …things that here in my country are so simple to manage with the money but, if I don’t mistake, for your son are more things to do, to make and to fix by his own hands.

      Thanks very much for your spent time on Internet to write us. Good bless you.

      ps: a thank you also for Erik and is job on tis web site, and a Happy Birthday to you.

    19. Anne, the mom

      thanks everyone!

      It’s great to hear that so many of you still think of Ed and his family and pray for them. I know they are grateful. And we were encouraged by his last letter, which said he had just had the best two months of the last 8 years (June and July of this summer). So it seems he’s truly doing better, though until we know what the root cause of his trouble has been, we don’t feel completely satisfied. Your prayers for healing of my knee are deeply appreciated as well.

      There is a good question about Ed being able to eat “non” gluten bread. The answer is that he simply avoids everything that has gluten in it, which is alot. Sweet Ruth doesn’t make bread anymore, and they eat other things for energy, like rice, potatoes, and corn. So Ed makes corn bread and corn tortillas, and grows lots of potatoes. Then they have to buy groceries during the winter supplies when the home grown things run out. We honestly do not think he’s actually gluten intolerant, but the need to rule out all culprits has lead him to follow this diet, which he does to a T!

      Thanks again to ALL of you! God bless and keep you… Will write more when there is news.

      1. OldKat

        I can relate

        Anne, the mom, when I was reading your post about Ed’s lack of energy & general malaise I was thinking: “That sounds exactly how I feel when I eat products with wheat in them”, so I wasn’t surprised when you said that he is trying to avoid gluten products. I, also, avoid them. I, also, do not consider myself to be gluten intolerant, but began avoiding wheat because it gives me that “muffin top” roll of belly fat around the waist line that I find troublesome … especially when it happens to me!

        I started phasing wheat products out about 3 or 4 years ago and was doing really well with it. This time last year we went on vacation and our diet changed because the wheat free options for meals were not as available on the road. By the time we got home I had gotten in the habit of eating bread, pastries etc. so I continued on eating them.

        Only after I had gained about 12 to 15 pounds did my wife “encourage” (order is too harsh of a word, but barely!)me to lay off of these items. That was during this past Spring. Only after I refocused on avoiding these products did I realize that my energy level was increasing, my frequent digestive upsets were diminished and my overall health was dramatically improved over what it had been for the past 8 or 9 months. I dropped almost all of the weight I had gained as well. Not sure why Ed should be experiencing some similar symptoms, since he is already avoiding wheat products. Nevertheless, I suspect that there is a dietary link to his issues.

        Thanks for sharing the stories about Ed, Ruth and the boys. I always enjoy catching up on what all is going on in their lives.

        All the Best, DOK

        BTW: We are leaving this coming Tuesday for a couple of weeks in the mountains of northern New Mexico & we are taking our travel trailer so we can more closely control our food options. My wife insisted on that part. God really blessed me when he brought her into my life: even if it did take me about 35 years to realize it!

    20. Alice Mary

      So interesting, from both sides

      Anne, once again, thank you for sharing your stories regarding your family’s Amish/Englisch connections & interactions. You have beautiful little grandsons, a brave son, and such a caring daughter-in-law! Despite all the “problems”, I’m sure you all are happy to have spent time together.

      It’s good to hear Ed’s been feeling somewhat better. (There are so many gluten-free items on store shelves these days that I can only hope Ed can use them—a friend’s daughter has had the same problem & feels so much better since going gluten-free—she’s an occupational therapist, and working in a hospital has also helped her learn what to do to relieve her digestive issues.) I hope things go easier on him, health-wise, which I’m sure will help lighten the load for Ruth. (I’m SO glad she got glasses! I was/am very near-sighted and was in 4th grade when I got my first glasses and was finally able to really SEE the world!)Obviously, their visit brought some positive outcomes!

      I hope you are on the mend from your knee surgery. (I had a knee replaced 5 years ago, and although the physical therapy seemed brutal at first, it helped quicken my recovery.) I hope you heal well and quickly, too!

      I am always glad to read your posts & articles—you really do a good job of reporting, which helps me understand more about REAL Amish life, and your unique situation.

      Erik, happy belated birthday! I’ll try to remember in the future that YOUR birthday is just 3 days after my son’s birthday. May the next year be better than the last.

      Alice Mary

    21. Al in Ky

      Thanks for sharing your and Ed and family’s continued journey. Good to hear he’s doing better. I appreciate your sharing for several reasons. I was raised in Minnesota and when I left in the early 70’s the Amish were just beginning to settle in Minn. and now there are several settlements and it seems like a new one develops every year or so. My dad lived his last 20 years not far from Fertile and I visited him many times in the winter, so I know what challenges just the winter weather must provide to Ed and family, as well as trying to make a living on a small farm.

    22. Adair

      I always love these stories from Anne the Mom, and all the delicate cross-cultural understandings and accommodations. Please keep them coming!I do hope that Ruth has had, or will have, some good dental attention. How wonderful it must be for her to have her eyesight corrected; has it been bad all her life without her realizing it? Think how different her trip home will be for her – she will actually be able to see the scenery they’re traveling through, and then see her own home clearly. I hope you will be able to see that those cute little boys get their eyes tested before they’re adults!

    23. OldKat

      Happy belated birthday Erik

      So what does that make you now: 28, 29 years old? Hahaha! Hope you had a good one …

    24. Terry from Wisc

      Anne the mom

      Anne, I never gave it a thought until now about whether or not your grandsons understand English? Most Amish kids learn English when they start school at age 6. We have found with our Amish friends that often times the kids on the end of the birth order already understand and talk English.

      Years ago an Amish friend was baby sitting a little English boy, and the boys mother who was a teacher was getting concerned that he wasn’t talking a whole lot at age 3. So, off to to a speech therapist for an evaluation. Her findings were that he was bi-lingual! Our friend Phoebe told us that they spoke English to the boy, but talked PA Dutch to her own kids which makes sense. That little boy was hearing two languages and didn’t talk because he didn’t know which one to speak! Little kids are like little sponges and he soaked all that PA Dutch right up! Phoebe said that after all this came about they talked only English when the boy was in their house. For the Amish English is their second language, but for that little boy it was his first.

      Erik, hope you had a great birthday!

    25. This child!

      Oy vey, look at how adorable these children are! Very squeezable cheeks. Thanks for your wonderful updates, as always!

    26. Jess

      In my neighborhood?

      Great story, thank you, Anne the mom 🙂 I especially thought it was funny how you and Ruth had such different expectations. I could say the same about me with grandparents, both wanting to “spoil” each other 😉

      I’m curious where Ed and Ruth live, because I’m not too far from Detroit Lakes myself, only about 30-40 minutes. We have the Becker County settlement in my area.

      And I used to be close to the Wadena area settlemt but moved away about 13 years ago…

      1. Anne

        Thanks for your thoughts. And they are in Fertile so you can’t be too far away, depending on what direction you are from Detroit Lakes.

        1. Terry from Wisc

          Fertile settlement

          Good Sunday morning Anne,
          We have Amish friends in Hillsboro, WI and often in the Budget there will be news of a bus load going up there for a work frolic. In a recent Budget letter I read of company stopping in from Fertile. I’d call them sister settlements of sorts. When Fertile settlement was starting up, there was many a trip made from Hillsboro to help with the building projects.

          The Hillsboro Amish are conservative so I understand what you are talking about when you comment on the way Ed and Ruth live. When we visit the Kingston/Dalton we get to go to the bathroom inside! And they have running cold and hot water…and they don’t have to run and get it! 🙂

          The Amish outside my hometown in western WI are conservative, so that’s all the locals knew, and we assumed they all lived that way. When I was in an Amish home for the first with inside plumbing it wowed me! I I’d move there!

          I’m curious how Ed and Ruth met.

          Safe in Christ,

        2. Jess


          Thanks for your reply, Anne. I didn’t know there was a community up in that area. I’m in a different direction, about an hour and a half away from Fertile.

    27. Jess

      In my neighborhood?

      Great story, thank you, Anne the mom 🙂 I especially thought it was funny how you and Ruth had such different expectations. I could say the same about me with grandparents, both wanting to “spoil” each other 😉

      I’m curious where Ed and Ruth live, because I’m not too far from Detroit Lakes myself, only about 30-40 minutes. We have the Becker County settlement in my area.

      And I used to be close to the Wadena area settlemt but moved away about 13 years ago…

      Hmmm, I’m having trouble with getting my comment to post I forgot my email first but now it says duplicate?

      1. Jess

        Duplicate comment

        Guess it did post, sorry for the duplicate!!