On the way to the Wana RV - the birthplace of our camper - we drove through Elkhart and Middlebury on the way to Shipshewana (so named for an Indian chief of the Pottawatamie tribe). This area is home to the third largest Amish community in the United States. All along the country roads we saw horse drawn carriages with the orange triangle on it. We had to be very careful as we went over hills or around curves as you could easily come up on an Amish wagon.
After dropping off Maggie and the RV at Wana RV so they could fix our water leak (yay! We will finally be able to use water again) we headed over to the Menno-Hof Visitors Center to learn more about the Amish and Mennonite way of life.
We learned that the Amish way of life began with the Anabaptists in 1525 in Zurich, Switzerland. This group believed that the church had been corrupted by state control and they did not agree with baptizing all children as infants. The Anabaptists believed that in order to be baptized a person must have free will and that one should be baptized as an adult when one can exercise free will. The Anabaptists also believed in the separation of church and state (it was interesting to us to realize that church and state were together in the beginning rather than the other way around. Sadly, it seems like church and state is melding back together under Bush).
The Hutterites are the oldest Anabaptists groups and practice communal living, including the common ownership of property (they are even taxed as a corporation). Hutterites live in Canada, the US and Japan. They are the only communal society in modern history to achieve permanence and stability.
The Mennonites is the name that gradually became attached to the largest body of Anabaptists. Members of the Mennonite groups drive cars, work in a variety of occupations and professions and choose to live and dress like the neighbors around them. There are almost 1.3 million Mennonites worldwide (and our tour guide was Mennonite from British Columbia).
The Amish, led by Jacob Ammann, begain in 1693 with a group that split from the Mennonites (it is interesting to note that very little is known about Jacob Ammann. No one knows his birth place, where he is buried, and he left no writings). As you know, the Amish have resisted many modern conveniences, declining to own cars, radios, or televisions, and rejecting the use of phones and electricity inside their homes. There are about 200,000 Amish in the Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana areas.
The Amish believe in strictly following Christ in their daily life and obeying the Sermon on the Mount and the whole New Testament, they do not believe in human conflicts or warfare, they do not pay taxes, they are committed to the community, the men wear unshaven beards (once they are married) but no moustaches (because the moustache was a symbol of war as many generals during the Civil War had moustaches as a symbol of status), they use the horse and carriage or bicycle as a means of transportation (most Amish will own about 3 carriages in their lifetime with a cost of about $2 - 3,000 each plus the cost of the horse), and they do not have churches they have meetinghouses (generally at one of their houses) where they gather to worship (they do not believe in overdone, ornate buildings of worship). Each horse and carriage must have a license, an orange triangle and two flashing red lights on the back to be street legal. The Amish get their news from a weekly paper called The Budget (which they referred to as the USA Today of the Amish community).
They have a very simple, pure and sustainable lifestyle that really makes one think about the way most of America lives. I think we could learn a lot by studying the Amish lifestyle - I think they have it right in everything they do!
After picking up our camper and Maggie, we headed out along the county and state roads of Indiana and Ohio. We tried to avoid interstates as much as we could, but finally succumb to the need to get to Columbus, Ohio before dark.