This week on the Lancast, our correspondent Becky Svendsen joined David to talk with Ephraim Allgyer, who spent the first 21 years of his life in the Amish tradition. He told us stories about following his dad around on the farm at age 3, and attending a one room school with one teacher for all eight grades. From his perspective, the Amish don’t really value education. All the children are taught in a school where the teacher herself has only completed the 8th grade. Community members are not encouraged to think for themselves or interpret the scriptures for themselves, but rather, are expected to conform to what the Bishop sets in place. While education may not be high on their priority list, the Amish do, value hard work. After graduating the 8th grade, Ephraim was tired of school, and couldn’t wait to find a job. He took one at a neighboring farm. He remembers how strange it was to have spending money, because he really didn’t have anything to spend it on.
As Amish adolescents near the age of adulthood, they are almost expected to go through “Rumschpringe”, a phase of life where a young person can “sow their wild oats” before they settle down. The life plan is pretty much laid out for all Amish young people: get through the rebellious stage, come to terms with yourself and your faith, commit yourself to the church and the community, and get married by your early 20’s. Anyone who doesn’t follow that course is a bit of a misfit, Ephraim says.
Ephraim started considering the belief system he had been raised with and found he had a lot of questions, but not too many answers. When he started to study the Biblical texts for himself, he found a very different message than that of only subservient good works. He started to realize that his ideals weren’t a good match for the community of which he was a part. Eventually, he connected with someone who had left the Amish church before him and found comradery in that relationship. It gave him the confidence to do what he knew he had to: leave the church.
Now, things are very different. To look at Ephraim, you probably wouldn’t guess where he’s come from. He has short hair and wears a t-shirt and shorts, just like any other “Englishman”. He says what he misses most is the relationships he had with his family. While he always feels welcome in his parents’ home, some of his siblings have not been so understanding. They talk to him differently, less seriously, and sometimes things are just awkward. But he has found people he can relate to and a place of worship that he can call home. He is grateful for all those who have welcomed him with open arms and he hopes he can offer hope to others by talking about his experiences openly. If you’d like to contact Ephraim, you can email him at email@example.com.
Commenters: What things did you learn from this dialogue that surprised you?
Support for this episode provided by Pennsylvania College of Art & Design.
Theme Music: Invisible Walls by Revolution Void
Un-becoming Amish with Ephraim Allgyer appeared on http://www.thelancast.com/