Galatians 4: 1-7
"Now I say, that the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be Lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore are ye no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ."
We have often been asked, can an "outsider" join the Amish?
There is a mystical aura surrounding any minority culture. Can a person become a member of the Amish without being born Amish?
We are not born Amish! We are born into the human race. To be truly Amish, or a member of any close knit cultural group, we need to personally accept that faith or lifestyle, depending on the situation, for ourselves. Until then, we are the same as the child in the above verses.
Let's use an example from American history. Let's suppose that a Southern family would have adopted a child from the slave row as their own. This child had the opportunity to grow up in a privileged home. They might have lived in luxury and ease. By the adolescent time in their life, they had a decision to make. Will I accept that I have been adopted into an affluent home or will I say that I was born a slave and therefore I will forgo all the love that my parents showered on me and return to the slave row cabins and be bought under bondage again? This is a decision that rests on the individual alone!
I know this sounds like a preposterous setting. You might say this is not reality. In a sense you are right. Lets turn that around. Recently, a salesman that visits my office, recounted the beginning of a movie from years ago. He said that the movie was made about a dense witted young Caucasian that grew up in an African American home. I personally did not see it, but was challenged with the thought that it portrayed. The opening line supposedly was this, this white kid wakes up in bed and says, "I was born into a poor black family." According to my friend's report, this kid lived his life as if change were not possible. What a mistake. Anybody has the power to redirect their life. I did not use this above example for racial discrimination, but as an example of human thinking.
God does not care about our race, genetics, language, cultural background, or social status. We are all in the same condition. Unless we accept His mercy and forgiveness. Unless we allow God to adopt us, despite our past record. Unless we accept the responsibilities and renewed mind of our heavenly Father, we are as that young slave child above. We need to accept the fact that I was a slave and now I am free! We need to live above the fact that we were born in slave row. We need to look beyond the view that this white kid had. God intends every one of us to reach out toward a better life. God intends for us all to bloom into a "rose that He delights in."
Can an "outsider" join the Amish? Yes they can. However it can be difficult to integrate into our culture. There are some that have done so successfully in the past. I am personal friends with one person that has done it. He was adopted into a Catholic home as a child. As an elementary child he was fascinated with the Amish. He started asking questions and eventually joined the Amish, married an Amish girl and currently is a solid respected member in the Amish church.
Another man joined the Amish as a teenager and is now an ordained minister in his church. There are many situations where it did not work out. After a few years, the use of cars and loss of conveniences draws some of these people into the Mennonite church. My answer when asked can a person go Amish is, it might be better to look at the Mennonite church. They adhere to the same doctrines with a less stringent lifestyle. Loss of electricity, mobility, communication and technology is a hard obstacle to overcome if you grew up with it.
Yet all this taken into consideration, adoption in to an Amish family is a major part of our heritage. Many Amish and Mennonites are not aware of where their genetics trace back to. Probably close to half of our community traces back to an adoption from the "outside." I will give a few examples.
About seven generations ago, an Irishman by the name of Thomas Dunn and his family left the banks of Ireland. They set sail for America, the Land of Opportunity. At sea Thomas' wife became sick and died. They buried her at sea. Upon landing, the Dunn's ended up in Holmes County, Ohio. Following custom of the day, because Thomas couldn't take care of the family himself, the children were placed into homes and grew up unofficially adopted. A daughter, Catherine, ended up marrying a fine young man who later became a bishop and leader in the Amish church. Through this marriage descends a large portion of our local families.
Ironically, we Amish do not take part in wars. This forefather of ours, Thomas, was a Revolutionary War veteran. He was given a land grant in payment for his services and that land is now in the ownership of his descendants.
Another family surname that descends from adoption is the Kline family. A family set sail from Switzerland. When they arrived in American times were hard. They were a poor family and the children ended up in other homes. One child, Edward, ended up in an Amish home. Here is where the situation left an impression on me. Edward was traded for a pig! In an exchange to help out the biological family, the adoptive family gave the Klines a pig for food. This Kline family also became a prominent family Holmes County, Ohio.
If you are a reader, go to Gospel Book Store in Berlin and buy the book, "Amish by Adoption." It is the story of an Amish man that was adopted as a child and became a solid member of the community. It is an amazing story of how he grew up and later found his biological family. He looks back with a thankful heart for the privilege of growing up in the home he was given.
A relative of mine was adopted. He has regular contact with his biological family and often expressed his thankfulness for having grown up in the family that he did.
I know of nave people that have asked Amish adoptive parents, "Can your children talk Dutch?"
If a child is adopted, he or she will become a part of the life that his parents offer them. As they grow older, they are given the heritage of their adoptive family. The adoptee then has to make a choice whether or not to accept it. If they accept it, they are a full member of our church and community.
This is the same with any person that desires to join our church. If they can integrate into our culture and church, they are fully accepted. It is the cultural shock that makes most people lose heart.
However, we believe that being a member of the Amish church does not grant salvation. We need to accept the fact that we are sinners and need forgiveness from God. We need to ask God to cleanse us from sin and then adhere to a renewed life that is consecrated for God. When we do this, we are claiming the adoption of God and become full heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven with Christ. We can truly claim God as our Father!
God is waiting on us. He wants to make us joint heirs with Christ. Like that slave child, we need to accept the gift of life or we will return to the slavery of sin.
Ephesians 1: 3-6, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved."