It’s been two weeks since I journeyed to Shipshewana, Indiana. And what a busy two weeks it has been. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to sit down at my computer, if you can believe that!
There’s nothing like the feeling of coming home…and that’s how I felt when I pulled into the driveway of my adopted Indiana parents’ home. They were kind enough to let me stay with them. Between Bonney and Marlette (my Indiana sister and BFF), we had a great time traveling to different libraries for book signings and speaking engagements. But the best part of the trip was being able to spend time with them.
This was the third year in a row for me to visit Shipshewana and the surrounding area. It all started with a simple invite from Marlette and I cannot thank her enough for that invitation.
Throughout the thirty years that I’ve been writing about the Amish (and visiting different areas as well as living with families, too), I’ve become familiar with many different communities in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Colorado, even Belize. But Indiana holds a special place in my heart.
When I first went out there, I hadn’t met Marlette or her family. Immediately I knew that God had blessed me by making this connection. You’d be hard pressed to find kinder people, that’s for certain. I could sit and talk to them for hours.
They live in a wonderful community, completely surrounded by Amish farms and families. The main difference between the Amish in Indiana and the other places that I have visited is that there is very little difference between the Amish and the Englische. When you visit different stores and see Amish people working behind the counters, they treat you (or me, anyway) as if I’m an old friend. People are willing to stop and chat with visitors, genuinely interested in you and your stories.
One day, I was leaving a store and there was a beautiful rainbow in the sky. An Amish woman was walking toward me, her umbrella shielding her face. I stopped my truck and rolled down the window.
“You’re missing a beautiful rainbow,” I called out and pointed to the sky.
The woman stopped, turned around, and gazed into the clouds. “Oh! Where?”
I pointed again. “It’s a double one.”
“I can’t see it.”
I tried to point it out again. But she wasn’t able to see the colors against the cloud cover.
“It’s fading now,” I said.
She sighed. “I so love rainbows.” And then she smiled at me. “Thank you for telling me though.” We talked for a few more minutes before I waved and drove away.
Believe me, that conversation would never have happened in Lancaster.
You see, in many of the communities where I’ve traveled, there is a heavy separation between the two communities. In Lancaster and Holmes County, the Amish tend to be more standoffish to outsiders. If you are a stranger, most Amish will not open themselves to conversation like that. Perhaps it is the tremendous amount of tourists who visit those areas, often disregarding the NO PHOTOS requests from the Amish or some of the strange questions they are asked by people who don’t understand the religion or culture. Whatever it is, gaining the trust of the Amish in those areas takes a lot of work.
In Indiana, there are not as many tourists and most of the draw to the area is focused on Shipshewana: quilting events, craft fairs, theatre, etc. It seems that many people go there with a purpose, not just to learn about the Amish. And the tourists seem to stick to the main town of Shipshewana rather than venturing out to smaller towns…and this allows the Amish to live their lives without distractions from the curious and well-minded tourists.
Leaving Indiana and knowing that I won’t be back for another year was terribly sad—although life on my farm in Florida keeps me busy enough, that’s for sure and certain. But I look forward to next October when I’ll return, visit with my Indiana family, and get to meet more readers once again.
Sarah Price is the author of the Plain Fame series and the Amish of Ephrata series, among other books. She comes from a long line of devout Mennonites, and her writing reflects accurate and authentic stories based upon her own experiences with several Amish communities. Visit her at sarahpriceauthor.com and on Facebook.