Anyone who knows me knows that I love Amish fiction. I live near several Amish communities in Central NY, and have always been intrigued by them. Working in a bank, I have made friends with several of the Amish people in our area. I’ve attended their fundraisers, been to a dear friend’s house, had great discussions, and even traded some books with my dear friend Katie Ann. Unfortunately a lot of people are not very knowledgeable about the Amish culture, and it really differs between communities. I am so excited to have Joe Keim on the blog today to share his experiences and his new book!
About the Book
n My People, the Amish, Joe Keim paints a detailed picture of life behind the bonnets and buggies. More than a biography, this is an honest look at the heart-warming traditions that mingle with the deep-rooted legalism of the Amish community in Ashland, Ohio.
Born, raised, and baptized in an Old Order Amish church, from childhood Joe Keim was taught that if he didn’t follow the twenty-two-page ordinance letter that governed his community, there was no way he could get to heaven. What started as a path of rebellion led Joe and his wife Esther to a caring group of Englisher Christians who would love them like family and show them how to live out their new found faith in Jesus Christ.
Nine months after their traditional Amish wedding, Joe and Esther left family and friends forever to live openly for Christ, and endured shunning and excommunication with bold faith. Since then, the Lord has brought many former Amish people to Joe and Esther for help. Because of their passion for the Amish people and with the support of fellow believers, they have brought biblical truth to thousands of Amish through the ministry they founded in 2000, Mission to Amish People (MAP).
Do not expect this to be like the lovely Amish fiction stories you are used to reading. This is real, and will present some difficult facts. Some may even leave you scratching your head a little bit. Ever single part of this story is important to Joe’s history, and why he chose the path that he did. I’m sure he did not make his decisions lightly. He really made the Old Order Amish Culture real to me here. Part of it made me sad, but part of it left me in awe. Joe sacrificed a lot by leaving, as did his wife. But it’s what Joe does after he leaves that really grabs my attention. And I love the photos provided at the end. Although I cold easily imagine the story in my head as I was reading, the photos confirmed my visions!
For a better look at Amish life (remember that this is current times, it was when Joe was younger), I encourage you to read this and share it with others. It may just clear up some rumors you’ve heard about the Amish community! And it will give you hope seeing what Joe is doing today. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to write a favorable review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Interview with Joe!!
Welcome to A Baker’s Perspective, Joe! Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to talk with us today. Can you start by telling the readers a little bit about yourself?
My name is Joe Keim. I’ve married to my wife Esther for thirty years. Together, we have two children and two grandchildren. I was born and raised in an Old Order Amish community in Ashland, Ohio. Like all the other children in my community, I started attending a one-room schoolhouse at the age of 6 and began to learn my second language – English. At age 14, I graduated from school and began working for my dad full time. I mostly worked in my dad’s machine shop, but also on our 200-acre farm where we milked cows by hand and farmed with draft horses.
As I entered my teenage years, the relationship between my dad and I began to deteriorate quite rapidly. At 16, I ran away and lived with English people in town. At age 18, a friend of mine shared the gospel with me; I accepted God’s forgiveness of my sins on July 28, 1985. After that, I returned to my Amish community, settled down and got married to Esther Yoder. Nine months after our wedding day, Esther and I both left the Amish and moved back into town. We became very involved in a local English church. In 1999, the Lord began to burden us to start a ministry to the Amish. By 2001, we had raised enough financial support to go full time. Today, we serve tens of thousands of Amish and former Amish people.
What was the inspiration behind your book, My People, the Amish?
I was led to write My People, the Amish for two reasons. First, I felt the heart-wrenching struggles and reconciliation that eventually took place between my dad and I needed to be shared with others. Secondly, I felt it would encourage, as well as challenge, the average Christian to get involved in ministry, regardless of their status and education. In my case, I only have an 8th grade education. I don’t have any degrees to hang on the wall; yet, the Lord has drawn people from many parts of the world to come together for one single purpose – evangelize and disciple my people, the Amish.
How can readers support your mission, MAP (Mission to Amish People)?
We provide an easy way for people to support the Bible Club, the Amish Voice publication and various other ministries by simply going to our website. You can also join thousands of prayer warriors by joining our online mailing list. Since 2000, we have never missed sending out a bi-monthly update.Also, 100% of the proceeds from my book, My People, The Amish, go toward our ministry.
I know you touched on this in your book a little bit. What was the hardest adjustment for you and Esther leaving your Amish heritage?
Without a doubt, leaving family and friends was the most difficult part of leaving the Amish culture. Being the oldest of fourteen children in my family, I was well aware that I would never be invited to any of my siblings’ weddings. Esther and I were also forbidden to attend family reunions and funerals for the first twenty years. The church we grew up in, excommunicated and shunned us from the very beginning. Even today, friends who were once very close, hold us at arm’s length.
It amazes me how many missionaries we send across the world, when we have a need for them right here in our backyard! Can you share a story with us about an experience you’ve had in the mission field?
I fully agree with you. The need for evangelism and one-on-one discipleship in United States is overwhelming. Since leaving the Amish in 1987, Esther and I have taken over 150 Amish runaways into our home. Many of those teenagers have come to an understanding of salvation and given their lives to Jesus Christ. In my book, I share the precious story of Samuel Girod who, at age 30, left everything he had and came to live with us. After several days of talking about God’s grace and salvation, Samuel gave up trying to gain access to God by his own works and surrendered all to Jesus Christ. Today, he and his family serve with MAP by traveling to various churches and sharing their testimony and the ministry.
Okay, for fun….what is your favorite Amish meal? And does your wife still make traditional Amish meals at home?
One of my favorites is the hay stack, and peanut butter pie. Not only is the hay stack meal healthy, it is fun to put together. My wife and daughter put a cookbook together called A Taste of Amish Cooking and More. In it, you will find many authentic Amish recipe favorites that Esther still uses today.
What do you and Esther do for fun?
We love the times we have with our grandchildren, Lily and Jack. When time allows, we like to go fishing together. Once in a while, I will go golfing with friends.
What is one thing that readers may not know about you?
Hmm, this is a hard one. I was very candid and shared both good and bad in my book. Sometimes, I worry that I was too open. However, I believe too often we pretend to have it all together when, deep down, we don’t. In my and Esther’s case, the ministry has been very challenging. Most of the young teenagers who come to live with us carry an immense amount of emotional pain, which often leads to rebellion against all authority and sinful lifestyles. Our family has been taken advantage of many times; to the point where our own children have lost much of their respect for the Amish and former Amish people. This has been very difficult for Esther and me, but God’s grace is always sufficient.
Once again Joe, I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with me. May God continue to bless you and Esther and your mission!
Thank you for allowing me to share. May the Lord use it for His glory! God bless and favor you always.
Do you live near an Amish community? Please leave a comment and tell us about it!