Learning By Listening: Reflections on The Amish, a People of Preservation

I was born in Minnesota and spent the first 26 years of my life within the borders of the Viking state. Of course, I ventured out to other states and even to our neighbors in the north and south for family vacations and summer missions trips, but I hadn’t lived anywhere but Minnesota until I moved to Turkey at the age of 26.

Although I never saw myself as closed minded, I realized upon moving abroad that many of the ideas I’d held about others were wrong. Since I’d taken little time to get to know people from other backgrounds, in this case, Muslims, my mind was full of misconceptions about what “they” believe and how “they” live. I’ve realized that I often hold untrue views about groups of people that are different than me (cultures, religions, denominations, nationalities, attendees of a certain church, etc.) Living abroad has exposed me to a bigger piece of humanity and a larger cross section of the body of Christ. I’ve learned a lot about how to approach others whose views I don’t understand.

I’ve learned that I often must suspend the things I think I know about others in order to listen to what people actually say about themselves and their beliefs in order to really learn about them, one must also not accept one person as the representative for a whole group, but must recognize that no two people are the same. I find that one way to go through this process of learning by listening to others, (when there’s not a real person present,) is by watching documentaries.

This morning I watched one of our popular DVDs “The Amish, a People of Preservation.” Although a little dated in it’s production quality and in the scenes throughout the program, I found the telling of the Amish’s story and especially the recounting of life in an Amish community by people raised in that world absolutely fascinating. It was great to learn that some of the ideas I held about the Amish were not true. That is true learning! I was especially interested to hear about how, when and why they choose to accept some technology. Surprisingly, it’s not so much about rejecting certain technology as bad, it’s more about setting their own pace of life and not letting it be set by those creating and promoting technology.

It was wonderful to see how they play, to hear how their worship services work, what courtship and marriage look like in a society like theirs and to hear about their roots in Church history. It was also interesting to hear young people reflect on their decision to stay in the community and fact that they’re given the choice of whether to be Amish or not as adults. There’s so much to learn here. I can’t wait to watch the second film in this series.

I recommend this film as a way of expanding your world-view. You may not have an Amish family in your community who you can go and get to know, but you can do the second best thing by watching this film.

You can buy The Amish, a People of Preservation here.