So then it was time to plan the trip. When would we go? How long would we stay? Where would we stay? What would we see? As my husband likes to point out, for me planning a trip is a big part of the fun! So to the internet I went! This had to be just right. Since I am friends with several great Amish authors on facebook, I decided to send a message to some of them for advice on how to experience as much as possible of an authentic Amish visit, not just the "touristy" spots. Thanks to Cindy Woodsmall's posting a question on her wall about recommendations of where to stay, a fan responded, "How would you like to stay with an Amish family?" That one started the adrenalin flowing! I made email contact with her and got a phone number for a dear Amish lady who ran a guest house in the dawdi house where her parents had lived when they were alive. I can't even describe how excited I felt when I talked with Miriam and worked out the details for our lodging! The excitement of a little kid on Christmas morning doesn't begin to compare!
So my dream trip happened! We spent a night in Holmes County, Ohio, and then five in Lancaster County. We saw a lot of Amish sites, ate a lot of Amish food, even had the awesome experience of attending an Amish church service on Sunday morning! Did I have fun? Amazingly so! Did I learn more about the Amish lifestyle? Loads! (If you have a few hours, I could share the details!)
But what was the best part of all? Through visiting with Miriam and her husband Sam, some of their family, and others at the Sunday fellowship meal, here's what I learned: "the Amish" are not just some group of people with some weird practices, outdated ways, and funny clothes. They are real people, just like the rest of us. They have their day-to-day joys, day-to-day struggles, family concerns . . . just like I do. They don't handle them all exactly the same way I would, but I'm not sure there's anyone else just like me in the "English" world either. And "the Amish" don't all fit a cookie-cutter pattern, any more than "the Baptists" or "the Missourians" or any other group of people.
After the Sunday morning service in a barn (3 hours, 99% of it spoken in German) and the fellowship meal to follow (probably over 100 people fed very quickly and efficiently in the hosts' home), one of the minister's wives came over to where I was sitting to visit with me. She asked if I was understanding anything that was going on; most of the women and girls in the house were speaking to each other in their "Pennsylania Dutch" language. I told her it reminded me of what I would see in a fellowship with friends in a church back home -- lots of talking and laughter, many conversations going on at once, not able to keep up with everyone talking at the same time! There were mothers and daughters, children and teens, catching up on each other's lives since the last time they had visited. And my husband was in the barn (where the men ate their lunch) visiting with the ministers and deacons, sharing in their conversations about church and work and such. Just people being the people they are!