“Lessons From An Amish Youth Meeting”
June 8, 2010
The level of volleyball proficiency I witnessed at an Amish youth meeting (boys and girls) is equal to any I have ever seen!
Note: This photo was not taken at the Amish youth service described below.
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Note: Today’s message describes a visit to an Amish youth service which many find interesting. However the exposition and challenge begins at the paragraph marked with a *
Note to international readers: The Amish are a religious group that holds to an older way of life.“Lessons From An Amish Youth Meeting”
“The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old” (Proverbs 20:29).
Sunday evening I (Stephen) attended an Amish youth hymn sing. Now we have been to an Amish church service, a wedding, and a viewing of a deceased loved one, but had never a “youth service” that we’ve often heard about. Although the Amish are friendly, you just don’t show up without an invitation, but some friends assured me I was welcome to go with them. I drove into the property in my white van so I suppose my arrival was hard to miss amongst all the biggies and carriages! (Brooksyne has a bad case of poison ivy and was feeling too miserable to attend).
It was a beautiful evening and the service was held in a barn on a large dairy farm. There were scores of people in attendance of all ages (I guessed between 150-200, perhaps even more). But it was clearly a youth event. Although I arrived about 7:00PM the youth had been there all afternoon. The morning church service had been held on the same property earlier in the day. I did not take photographs since the Amish are reticent about having their photos taken in such a setting.
Two volleyball nets were set up and the youth were playing, still dressed in their Sunday best, although the girls were all barefoot. The level of play was amazingly good and was actually quite interesting to watch from a sporting viewpoint alone. All throughout the property youth were clustered together talking with one another and there was clearly some teasing and flirting go on as well such with boys chasing girls and so forth. But something prevalent among most youth was absent and delightfully so I might add. Can you imagine what that would be? (See final note below footers.)
I visited with several of the Amish men for about an hour till we were ushered down a long lane to the barn for the hymn sing. We were seated with the men as is the Amish custom, although they seated my friend’s wife very close by, as we have noted they do in consideration for non-Amish at their functions. After awhile the youth came in. Amish activities are not dictated by the clock nearly so much as the English (the Amish call non-Amish English regardless of ethnicity).
Groups of boys and then groups of girls from various church districts came in. They walked around the room greeting and shaking hands with everybody. (My friends and I were the only non-Amish in attendance). We noted that the boys sure had been taught to give a firm handshake, not the yucky wet fish kind. The youth sat in the center of the room on long benches with the girls facing the boys. It appeared that the youth leaders were in the very center and they selected the songs.
Gallon jugs of water were passed around along with a single drinking cup to share, although I didn’t find myself particularly thirsty at that point! After everyone was in the barn the singing began without any fanfare or even an introduction or prayer. There were no instruments, just voices. They sang many verses of song after song for some 2 hours in German, although we recognized many of the tunes such as “Sweet Hour of Prayer”, Just As I Am, “Amazing Grace” and also several of what we would call choruses such as “Father I Adore You” which were harmonically sung in rounds.
The singing was beautiful and many seemed earnest in their expressions, although I observed that the Amish youth like all youth (and adults) are capable of being inattentive and horsing around, but even that was at a minimum with the watchful eye of the elderly leaders around the room. I realized half way through the service that I had left my cell phone on and managed to discreetly turned it off. Now that sure would have been rather embarrassing if it would have gone off!
The service ended as inspecifically as it began and as if on cue large trays of cookies, bowls of pretzels and popcorn were passed around and the young people began talking to one another which I believe lasted quite awhile longer, although I left the meeting at that point, walking down a very dark lane to my van. When I turned the lights on with my key fob it looked like a lit up Christmas tree due to the contrast!
* One point among many that we really admire among the Amish is the esteem they have maintained for their elderly. The formal greeting and handshake I received was an expression of this, making it quite intentional that the youth make direct contact with the older adults and elderly.
This brings to mind Menno, an elderly man who attended our church when we first moved to Lancaster County and who lived to be 102. As I recall he attended church right up to the time of his homegoing. He was a rather short man with a long, straight, white beard and no mustache, so his big smile was especially prominent. He got around really good using a cane. I often greeted him in church and he looked up at me and said, “We’ve sure got a lot to be thankful for don’t we?” Now I’ve heard that rhetorical question quite a lot through the years, but when he would say it, it made me pause and really consider the depth of such a statement.
We believe one of the great underlying causes of social dysfunction in our land is the intergenerational breakdown and the segregation of age groups. God has ordained the progression of life from young to old and places His blessing upon each. And I believe each are needed for a healthy society. What a blessing when the older show love and interest in the younger and when the younger show love and esteem to the elderly.
“The glory of young men is their strength.” The truth of this phrase is very evident. My, how youth is extolled, particularly in American culture. The Amish boys are especially strong, many of them accustomed to hard physical labor on the farm. No membership in health clubs needed; muscle is built just keeping up with the daily chores. Considering the obesity problem in our country with children and youth, it’s interesting to observe that it’s practically nonexistent among the Amish youth. As they were playing volleyball I recalled when I had the energy and strength to play hour after hour. But in time the youthful strength has waned.
“Gray hair the splendor of the old.” I wonder how many of the elderly consider their gray or white hair a source of “splendor”? How many of the rest of us in our culture do so? (I wonder how many millions of dollars are spent annually to cover it?) Last nogh Brooksyne cut my hair as Ester watched and teased me about my graying hair. The splendor is a recognition of the experience, perspective, and wisdom the aged have.
Today I encourage you. If you’re a youth, young adult, or middle age recognize the “splendor of the old” and honor them, gain wisdom from their life’s experience. If you are old and gray realize that God has a planned purpose in your remaining years on this earth as you share your splendor with those around you.
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, we’re grateful for the teaching and example of those who are older. So much wise advice can be gleaned from the elderly who have experienced the ups and downs of life, the putting into practice of your Scriptural truths, the overcomings and even the failings that teach us what we should avoid and what we need to put into practice. We need each other; the young need to observe the senior’s life’s experiences and endurance and the older need the help of the youth’s strength and vitality. It’s all a part of life’s cycle here on earth. Help us to appreciate, respect and observe each season of life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
A word about the Amish and photos: The Amish vary in how strict they take the prohibition of facial photos. However based on my conversation with Amish friends they consider the inevitability of having their photos taken when they are out in public, especially in touristy eastern Lancaster County. But like most of us would they resent the paparazzi type gawking photographer. When going onto their turf I purposefully leave my camera unless I am invited to bring it. We also often take photos when we are driving about (Brooksyne does from the passenger side) such as this site Sunday morning on the way to church.
Apparently the father (right in the photo with the straw hat) was allowing his boys to drive to church in the open carriage while he rode in the closed buggy with the rest of his family. However when we rounded a corner the carriage was in a farm field with the horse misbehaving and rearing up. Dad jumped out of the buggy, ran to the carriage and quickly got the horse under control. He then took over for the boys and followed the buggy to church as the younger children looked on.
I want to share one more photo and story from the wedding we attended in Philadelphia this last weekend. I shared about the marvelous redemptive work that God has done in Yvette and her son Joey. We also saw Nicole, Yvette’s daughter, who has also had a tremendous spiritual transformation. She is now married to a minister and is presently attending Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts.
Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)
“God’s Been Good” Video This morning as I listened to WDAC, our local Christian radio station, I was touched by this song. What a great perspective by a group known as the Legacy Five.
Lately I’ve been looking back, along this winding road
To the old familiar markers of the mercies I have known
I know it may sound simple but it’s more than a cliche
There’s no better way to tell you, than to say
God’s been good in my life
I feel blessed beyond my wildest dreams
when I go to sleep each night
And though I’ve had my share of hard times,
I wouldn’t change them if I could
‘Cause through it all, God’s been good
Times replay and I can see that I’ve cried some bitter tears
But I felt His arms around me, as I faced my greatest fears
You see I’ve had my gains than losses
and I’ve known more joy than hurt
As His grace rolled down upon me undeserved
For God has been my Father, my Savior and my Friend
His love was my beginning, and His love will be my end
I could spend forever trying to tell you everything He is
But the best that I can say it is this
We shared a message similar to this last year in a daily encouragement message titled,“The Wisdom Of The Aged”
What I did not see any of the Amish youth doing: Playing with handheld electronic devices such as their cell phones, texting, etc. (However in other contexts I have seen some Amish youth playing around with these devices.)
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