This is such a hard post to write. And yet, at the same time, it’s so freeing. This announcement is the result of a seven year journey – a journey that has taken me from a hoe-down in the backwoods of Alabama to a candle making family in Lancaster County. A journey that has taught me a lot about myself and what life is really all about.
But perhaps I should start at the beginning.
My grandfather, Julian Jeremiah Altrogge, was originally Amish. He grew up in a strict Amish family in a small town near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. At the age of 23, after much internal wrestling, he left the Amish community and moved to Oklahoma, where he worked in the oil business. It was there that he met my grandmother, Jonalee, and started a family of his own. He didn’t like to talk much about his Amish roots. Every time I would ask him about it, he would pretend he didn’t know what I was talking about.
But I knew.
My dad, being the rock ‘n roller that he is, never had much use for his Amish heritage. He was into the Beatles, The Who, and Yes – bands that weren’t exactly kosher inside the Amish community. Even after he became a Christian, the Amish church always felt too stiff and stuffy for him. My dad can barely stand to wear a suit and tie, let alone hand sewn pants with no buttons or zippers. Plus, my dad isn’t exactly the “handy” type, and so a life full of feeding horses and harvesting wheat probably wouldn’t be a good fit for him.
But I’ve always had a fascination with the Amish faith and the Amish community. The way they live has always struck me as so peaceful and idyllic, cut off from the insanity of modern life and all the stress it brings. The families do everything together, from castrating cattle to riding in carriages to arranging marriages. The Amish don’t mess around with stupid things like Facebook and email and electricity. They focus on what matters most: faith and family.
In recent years I’ve also become convinced that the church as a whole has lost its way. The church has moved away from the simple services that characterized the New Testament. Every Sunday is now a full blown carnival, complete with lights, a rock band, and a pastor who looks like he just got back from the tanning salon. Joel Osteen is blinding people with his smile, Creflo Dollar is asking his congregation for $65 million dollars, and Ed Young is releasing a book called Fifty Shades of They. We’ve lost the beautiful simplicity that the church once had and have replaced it with gaudy substitutes.
And so I have come to a decision. After many sleepless night, many prayer fasts, and many fleeces laid upon the ground (both literal and figurative), I have decided to fully embrace the Amish faith and life. In exactly one month, I will move my family to Pinecraft, Florida, to join a small Amish community. There we will learn the ways of the Amish.
I don’t anticipate things being easy. They operate on a different schedule than I am used to. At 4:30 in the morning I will milk the cows, while my neighbor, Zebediah, feeds his chickens, and my other neighbor, Jacob, plows his field. I’ll be a man of the land, into discipline. I’ll diligently read my Bible, and I’ll grow out my beard. In some ways it will be a lot like Robinson Crusoe – very primitive. But that’s okay. This is the journey we call life.
I want to thank you all for your support and understanding. Perhaps someday our paths will cross, either in this life or in that great pasture in the sky.