If you want to study biblical principles for “welcoming the stranger” first-hand, there are few better places to do it than among the Amish.
When Mike and I were in northern Indiana last June for the afternoon wedding of friends, we stumbled across the “Rentown Garden Walk” – an annual event where Amish families open up their property to guests as a modest fundraiser for their one-room country school. We so enjoyed it last year that we returned this year with Mom Wallem.
My post of a year ago describes what we learned about Amish hospitality, but this year’s walk brought a few surprises as well:
- The Amish have a wonderful sense of humor. Underneath those bonnets and beards are normal folks who love to laugh, enjoy life, and poke fun a bit at our English conceptions of their community.
- The Amish demonstrate the significance of taking time to sit and be still, to read and reflect, to regard dialogue with others to be of more value than entertainment. Every yard we visited had carefully created areas for conversation.
- The Amish understand the biblical injunction to welcome the stranger into their midst. Rose shared gardening tips, Wanda gave us lettuce fresh-picked from her plot, and the Yoders prepared a hearty meal for us at the end of our day. We discussed faith and politics, cabinetry and RVs, raising children and lowering expectations of what true “productivity” looks like.
It’s tempting to idealize these gentle, unassuming people, but to do so would be to exalt them in a way totally antithetical to their faith. Ira Wagler’s best-selling memoir Growing Up Amish is quick to dispel any such notions.
Yet we felt completely at home among the people of Rentown this past Saturday. They gave us their welcome. We gave them a piece of our hearts.