Writing Amish fiction has introduced me to a new world, and I don't mean the world of Plain people. My grandfather grew up in Albion, PA, and I had watched Harrison Ford's Witness before I ever sat down in front of a computer to begin my first Amish story. No, the world I'm talking about is a different one. It's the world of readers, longing for a simple life.
At first, I thought that life they wanted was a reflection of the physical one I was describing in the pages of my books. Clean living. Quality family time. Less technology — much less.
And on the surface, that might be true. There is a desire among my readership to embrace those things, but how? After all, we don't live in a community that has forbidden iPads or cell phones. Many of our social and business obligations tie us to such contraptions. Walking away from them — even for a minute — becomes complicated. If I turn my electronic devices off, I might hear, "Why didn't you return my call?" or "When are you going to answer my email?" It's not so simple to make these quality-of-life decisions, even for a short period of time.
Was that it though? Were my readers just wanting to unplug, drop off the grid? Or were they seeking more from the Plain life? I began to receive letters commenting on the spiritual life found among the Amish. Someone hurts you? Forgive them. Someone has a need? Provide. Make a mistake? Go to the person and seek forgiveness. These were the aspects that were drawing readers in, and they wanted to implement them in their own lives and in their own communities. But how? It's not that... simple.
Amish communities are tied to their rural lifestyle and large families, even their traditions, but in truth those things do and are changing. The one thing they are tied to intricately, what hasn't changed at all, is their connection to the Word. Someone hurts you? "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32). Someone has a need? "Look after orphans and widows in their distress" (James 1:27). Make a mistake? "If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:23-24). Simple. Maybe not easy, but simple.
Amish communities, and therefore Amish novels, are not made up of perfect individuals. But they are made up of people who daily seek a closer walk with the Lord. That's something my readers are fascinated by, something most of us desire, and something that we're having a hard time figuring out in our day and age.
So we read, and we try to learn. Perhaps Amish communities and Amish novels offer a giant arrow which points right back to God's Word. All in all, a pretty good thing.
- Vannetta Chapman
Learn more about Vannetta Chapman's new novel, A Perfect Square: A Shipshewana Amish Mystery.
About Vannetta Chapman
Vannetta Chapman (Facebook.com/VannettaChapmanBooks) is the author of inspirational Amish fiction novels including A Perfect Square and Falling to Pieces, both published with Zondervan, and A Simple Amish Christmas. She has published over one hundred articles in Christian family magazines and has received over two dozen awards from Romance Writers of America chapter groups. Chapman lives in the Texas hill country with her husband. Learn more at her website www.vannettachapman.com.
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