If you walk onto certain farms in Pennsylvania, you get transported back in time. The picture above comes from here. As you walk through the wooden gates, the air around you shimmers and you find yourself momentarily in a time warp, only to emerge into a world where there are no cars... no light bulbs... no tractors... no electricity. Wood is burnt in the kitchen stove and children milk cows by hand after school. There are no IPods, no computers (though I did see handphones), no mini-skirts and probably no condoms because almost every family has at least 8 children each spaced a year apart.
Our friends came from Pennsylvania. Though their work took them all over the USA, they would go home every December for X'mas. One December, we went with them. The Amish neighbours were just next door. Next door actually means about 3 km down the road and across a little stream spanned by a little bridge. We asked and obtained permission to visit.
It was a real working Amish farm... not a tourist Amish farm.
We were hosted by a group of 8 children. Two of the older girls each had a little brother or sister on their hip. They showed us around the farm and pointed out which animal was looked after by which sibling... and there really weren't any light bulbs anywhere. There was no electricity on the farm.
This is a God-fearing community that has lived in much the same way ever since their forefathers arrived from Germany to settle in the USA in the 1700s. Dotted all over the farmlands of Pennsylvania are one-room school houses that look like they popped out of Little House on the Prairie. And if you drive around on washing day... the particular day of the week where every Amish household hangs out the laundry, you will see blues, dark blues, light blues, blacks blowing in the wind. See picture below taken from here. This is a people who believes in plain dressing and plain living. And that is why another name for this community is The Plain People.
The strangest thing though is that the Amish community keeps growing in numbers. One would have thought that without all the modern tools of farming, their farms would not be viable. One would have thought that as the world advanced and left the Amish stuck in their time warp, the Amish would become increasingly irrelevant and sink into poverty.
But not at all.
This is a thriving community and their numbers increase with every year. Their children have smudged cheeks from having to chase the hens back into the hen house but they look strong, have rosy cheeks and go to school everyday. Their clothes are plain but the cloth is new and well-woven. Their horse carriages are gleaming black and their horses have shiny coats and rippling muscles. If you know how to look, you can see that the Amish are wealthy indeed.
They are wealthy because materially, they have enough to eat and clothes to wear. Emotionally, they have each other because families are large and close-knit. In fact, the entire community is so close-knit that if one family needs to build a house, every man in the community pitches in. See picture below, taken from here. Spiritually, they have God and strive to live godly lives where good old hard work with their hands and their hearts take center stage.
I find something alluring about the way they live. Truly. I have a sense that God must bless their faithfulness and God must surely be pleased with such a people who sees Him in everything they do... and help each other see Him. It is an ascetic lifestyle and with it comes the joys of simple pleasures and needs that are abundantly met. There is something so very fascinating about their seemingly backward lifestyle.
I am somehow reminded of Clark Kent whose grey suit hides the muscular strength of Superman. If one looks carefully at Clark Kent, one sees Superman. Look carefully past the grey and drab colours of the Amish farms and the Amish people and you will see a people richly blessed with health, wealth, family and friends.