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Click HERE to read Part 2 of this series.
We left the sustainable energy festival Sunday afternoon and drove south an hour or so to Bird in Hand, Pennsylvania, which is in Lancaster County. The second largest settlement of Old Order Amish in the US lives in Lancaster County.
As we drove along rural side roads, running through picturesque Amish farm countryside, we encountered a great many horse drawn buggies. The day was beautiful and we noticed that most of the carriages were being driven by younger men, many with a young Amish woman beside them. They were, we supposed, out for an afternoon joyride. I felt bad that so many cars (like ours), and a few semi trucks, were on the narrow roads with them. And, as much as I wanted to take a picture of one of the buggies, I did not.
There was a vacancy at the Bird-in-Hand Family Inn and we checked in. As always, I looked to see if there was a Gideon Bible was in our room’s bedside table. It was not there. The Bible was, instead, prominently displayed in a book holder, upright, and intentionally opened to John 3:16. That was a first and a welcome sight if there ever was one.
Unlike our hotel of the previous two nights, this one had an indoor pool. But the boys did not bring their swim suits, so we got directions to the nearest department store. We found our way to a Target store along a heavily traveled and well developed road leading into the city of Lancaster. There were no Amish carriages on this road.
Not far from the Target we saw a store named, Amish Stuff Etc.. I pointed it out to the kids and made it clear that was the kind of place we would not be stopping at. Robert wondered if there were stores named, Baptist Stuff, Etc. or Methodist Stuff, Etc.. We had some fun discussing that and the absurdity of a store in the midst of a busy urban retail environment selling Amish “stuff” to tourists.
We ate cheap at an Arbys but stopped at a Cracker Barrel restaurant so James could buy a couple packs of Black Jack and Beemans chewing gum at the store. He and Robert couldn’t resist adding more Billy-Bob teeth to their growing collection.
Monday morning we enjoyed a breakfast smorgasbord at the Bird in Hand Family Restaurant. I decided to try the scrapple. Another first. It was pretty good.
Then we moseyed over to some gift shops, an antique store, and a bakery. We found some Amish “stuff” there, but these stores were not so crass. They were pleasant places to visit. I must admit, however, the boys and I had our fill of shopping long before Marlene.
James asked me if he could buy an Amish straw hat. He likes to wear odd hats and I thought it was a practical purchase. It was also reasonably priced. Here is a paradoxical picture of James in a tie-dyed t-shirt with his new Amish hat:
That horse was hitched to an Amish buggy outside the antique store. But we did not bother a true Amish horse in the taking of the picture. It was giving buggy rides to tourists. The lady on the cell phone paid for a ride. We did not.
Fed up with our shopping experience, Robert and I sat ourselves down on a picnic table in a central location and watched the world go by. A short while later, James walked up. He said he was ready to go and wondered where his mother was. I informed him that she just went into the candle shop over yonder, He said, “What! Why didn’t you stop her?!” That’s when I took the follwing picture. James was a little exasperated and ran off to fetch his mom.
Our main objective that day was to visit the Mennonite Information Center before heading home. If you ever visit Lancaster, make it a point to go to this place. They have a Biblical Tabernacle Reproduction (with lecture) that every Bible believing Christian will appreciate.
The Mennonite Information Center also hosts a movie presentation titled, Who Are The Amish, followed by an 18 minute movie about the Mennonites. Again, this is well worth seeing.
We learned that the Mennonite sect arose out of the Reformation in Germany and Switzerland. The Amish began later, when a group of Mennonites felt their church was becoming too worldly.
There are many different groups of believers within the Amish and Mennonite sects and it is not easy to explain the differences in general terms. But after seeing the two movies, I think it is safe to say that the fundamental difference is, as it was from the beginning, the degree of worldly involvement. Mennonites have embraced much of the modern world’s technology and ways, while the Amish have not. Nevertheless, according to the movie, the numbers of Amish have doubled in the past 20 years.
Our stay in Amish country was not long, but it was long enough for my boys to see and, hopefully, understand the contrast between cultures. Beyond that, I hoped they were able to see the wisdom of the one over the other.
I pointed out to my sons that we had just spent two days at a sustainable energy festival, where we learned a lot abut how to run a car on used cooking oil, but that wasn’t nearly as economical, ecologically responsible, and sustainable as horse and buggy transportation. No, we sure couldn’t sustain our modern lifestyle with such a simple conveyance, but maybe our fast-paced modern lifestyle isn’t worth sustaining. It’s food for thought.
And here’s something more to think about: I’ll bet that if Baptists (or any other Christian group of believers) lived an exemplary agrarian lifestyle, a lifestyle focused on hard work, simplicity, family, community, and piety, as the Amish do, the surrounding culture would find that curious and interesting and compelling. Why, masses would probably flock to see these peculiar separatists in their communities. Before long, there would even be stores for tourists called, Baptist Stuff, Etc.
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