Monday, April 21, 2014

Plain Faith: A True Story of Tragedy, Loss and Leaving the Amish by Irene and Ora Jay Eash with Tricia Goyer


Back in the late 1970s, Irene and Ora Jay Eash were a young Amish couple, busy raising their family and trying to live a good life as defined by the Ordnung and their community.  That all changed on a late evening ride home when a truck hit their buggy and their two young daughters were killed instantly.  Traditionally, the Amish are quite closed, especially about sharing their feelings and beliefs.  In the book Plain Faith, Irene and Ora Jay, with Tricia Goyer's assistance, have chosen to share how the tragic death of their daughters helped them see that their lives had been focused on rules, complete acceptance by their Amish community, and a life of "good works" when what they really needed the "simple" assurance that through Christ they had received a promise of salvation.  The family leaves their large, long established community in Indiana for a remote area in Montana about ten years after the accident.  Throughout the next decade, they find themselves becoming more involved with "Englisch" and even attend joint prayer meetings.  As they begin to read the Bible in English, they find many of their questions about personal faith answered.  Eventually they make a decision to leave the Amish, despite shunnings and frequent pleas from family in Indiana.

For those who see the simple life of the Amish as a model of faith, this journey may seem confusing.  Perhaps this short passage written by Irene will help readers understand how their thinking changed:
Ora Jay and I soon discovered that it was actually easier to share the good news of Jesus when I stopped wearing a head covering altogether.  When I had worn a head covering, people would see me as somehow different.  Their attention would be turned to my head covering, and they seemed to be thinking, If that's what you have to share, I don't want it.  It divided people from us, as it was still "us" and "them".  Now I'm walking in the freedom from pins, hems, and head coverings.  It's not in my vocabulary anymore.
My Amish family claims, " You've totally lost it."  But I say, " God has given us so much freedom in Him to look at Him and not at things."  Love is so much easier than judging.  It feels better deep inside, too.
The more you focus on side issues, the less you focues on Christ and you're wasting your time.  The more  you judge, the less you love.  The more you love, the less you judge.

Irene and Ora Jay found a "plain faith" that brought them closest to God, not within the group that had been their home and life for years.  They needed to take steps away from all that was safe and known to better know God.  I have long struggled with the many denominations of Christians, their differences, and the way the different groups treat each other and judge each other.  I've never totally reconciled that, but have settled on believing God has provided us with many ways to know and worship Him.  For some, liturgy and formality are necessary, while others can openly pray in their own words.  While some see God's presence in cathedrals, I see the love expressed by the builders of the simple country churches across America, and that is where I am most comfortable. This book really raised some questions about the beliefs of my Amish neighbors, but then we often never know the hearts of those around us.  I choose to believe that many Amish truly know God's love and salvation, but perhaps some, like Irene and Ora Jay, need to put aside the restrictions of the Ordnung and the constant judgment of their neighbors to concentrate on God's way for them.  Similarly, some "Englisch" need to make significant life changes to make a place for God in their lives.

As I type this, the young Amish of our neighborhood are playing volleyball on our neighbor's front yard, a sight both peaceful and carefree. Saturday as my husband left to run an errand, he passed a buggy with two teenage boys with their country music so loud, R. was surprised that the horse didn't spook.  Other times we've heard hymn sings from the same neighbors that could have been angel choirs. But we've also heard stories of families shunned just as Irene and Ora Jay were. While many outsiders view the Amish world as simple and right, we frequently see the complexities and hardships they face daily, especially the choices the young people must make.  In the end, I believe they, like all of us, make personal decisions to place God first, or their world, first.  

I would like to thank Netgalley and Zondervan Publishing for an e-copy of this book for review purposes.

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