Words of an Educated Amishman


I’ve been spending a LOT of time at school recently, since Ben and I ended up with widely different schedules, yet only bought one parking pass to share between us. Some days it’s dark when I get up and dark when I leave school.

As a way to productively fill some of the extra hours, I’ve been typing up my Grandpa’s handwritten memoirs. My Grandpa, who is almost 99, has the extremely unique distinction of having gotten his bachelor’s and master’s degrees while still old order Amish. Since I am also interested in education, this is an area where I like to pick his brain.

Yesterday I began typing the education section of his memoir, which began like this:

“On the subject of education I hardly know where to begin or where to end. Some of it was gained in a small creek, where there were minnows and tadpoles and crawdads, and some of it in university halls. It began at the cradle and it continues until now.”

What a nice sentiment. I quite like the idea of still continuing my education at the age of 99.

When I reached the section where Grandpa described his motivation for going to college, I was surprised.

Context: Grandpa was in a CPS camp, as a conscientious objector during WWII. As the war was ending, he was trying to figure out what to do next. He wrote this about what led him toward thinking about college:

“I still had the desire to return to farming sometime, but I also saw some needs in our Amish church. I felt that our people were too uneducated. They were too poorly acquainted with our faith and practices. I was backed into a corner time and again trying to explain my faith. Should I try going to college? Could I help the situation if I went to college?”

It fascinated me that college came (at least partially) out of a desire to be able to explain his faith. Now, in conservative Anabaptist circles, the fear is that college will destroy your faith.

For me, though, college has vastly strengthened my faith. If nothing else, I saw just how many people did not actually have peace in their hearts. It astounded me, and I saw that the Holy Spirit had indeed given me peace that passed all understanding. (Philippians 4:7, Galatians 5:22)

Furthermore I’ve noticed, like my Grandpa before me, that many Christians/Mennonites have a hard time adequately explaining their faith to people who don’t speak Christianese.

I haven’t finished transcribing Grandpa’s memoirs, but already I’m completely fascinated by what he has to say. It’s hard to have a conversation with him, as he is nearly deaf, but the stories give me a glimpse of what goes on in his still-sharp mind.

5 responses to “Words of an Educated Amishman

  1. RE: “in conservative Anabaptist circles, the fear is that college will destroy your faith”.

    This concern is not unique to conservative Anabaptist – it is shared by people of Faith in many places. One does not have to look long before you run into this concern expressed by evangelical writers. Surveys have been done that confirm this trend.


  2. I love your comments about your grandpa, it is true that we need to look at the over all perspective the Amish have of of life, wixsh I had the opportunity to meet him. What part of the world is he from, I’m formerly from Holmes Co.
    Meeting new people is like looking through windows every window has a different view. We must teach ourselves to think outside of the box, culture, tradition and look at life from God’s perspective. The world,universe is much greater than we can imagine. I would love to have a further dialogue since I can’t with your grandpa. Have a meaningful, blest day! Roy Weav3


  3. Fascinating! The photo brought back some great memories! When visiting my Amish Grandpa in Holmes County, he would ask Alice to read him the comic strip, Nancy! Maybe some others as well. His eyesight was bad and he would stand by the window where there was lots of light to read the newspaper! Love your posts! Please stop in, if you get out this way!


  4. I like, like, like this. A lot.


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