by Marcie Bridges, @Marcie_Bridges

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to
all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5 

My guest today, Brenda
Nixon,  has written a memoir of her experiences taking in ex-Amish. I think her
stories will fascinate you just as they have me. So, please, grab yourself a
cup of tea and join us as we get to know her, her life, and learning about this
distinct group of people.
Welcome to Heart Thoughts, Brenda!
It’s a pleasure to have you with us. First, please tell us a little about

We live in Ohio – home to the
largest number of Amish settlements nationwide. My husband and I have raised
two daughters but, along the way, God has asked me to temporarily “parent”
other children. For a year, we took in a homeless twelve-year-old and helped
her feel safe and secure, while tending to her formal education and medical
care until she was able to join her father. Another summer I felt God asking me
to take in a French exchange student.

Today, our older daughter is
married to a wonderful young man who was raised and left the Amish. He’s
hard-working, determined, and resourceful. Our younger daughter is dating a
pharmacist. My husband is a university library director and I’m a writer with
an education degree so I love to transfer information in my books and when
speaking at public and private venues.

It takes a lot of courage, wisdom, patience, and love
to be a parent to others like that. I can see why your Scripture verse (above) is so comforting to you. Please, tell us a little bit about your book. What
made you decide to write it?

My impetus for writing a book about
“mothering” and mentoring Amish runaways came from the constant curiosity and encouragement
from others. Many of my author and church friends asked so many questions,
showed genuine love for the former Amish I met, and urged me to pen my
experiences for others.

The book title is a double-entendre
Beyond Buggies and Bonnets. I want
readers to think of Amish as more than buggies and bonnets, and the stories of
about those who went beyond their buggy and bonnet. 

So I’m curious, why did you
take in or house former Amish? How did this come about?

It fell in my lap. I neither
looked for this ministry nor prepared for it. God brought several “ex-Men” – as
my daughters teasingly called them – into my life. I guess my instincts took
over because they weren’t wanted by their parents for leaving the Amish. They
needed unconditional love, home-cooked meals, a place to call home, clothes, and
mentoring in adjusting to our “Englisch” world – a world they’d been warned to


The first to move in with us
was Moses, he goes by Mosie. Following a horrific car wreck where he had a
concussion and staples in his head, we invited Mosie to recover in our home.
That recovery evolved into a year where Mosie became like a son to us. We
helped him find a job, get proper dental care, a car, learn about insurance,
how to play softball, and included him in family vacations, etc. Mosie is
chapter one of my book.

Then our older daughter started
dating Harvey, who left his strict Swartzentruber order where his dad is the
settlement’s bishop. Through Mosie and Harvey I began a cultural learning
curve. Throughout the years, Rudy, Levi, Dan, Andy, Uriah, Ura, and more have
come through our home either for a meal, a place to belong, or a “mom” hug. Harvey
is chapter two of my book.

Then a brother/sister team –
Sarah and Monroe – left their Amish settlement one night. I got a phone call
from their former-Amish cousin asking if I could give them a place to stay. Word
gets out – I don’t look for nor advertise, I don’t have an organization – I
take each instance as God alerting me so I can respond in responsible love. 

This had to have impacted
your life on both a personal and spiritual level. Tell us about that?

I’ve learned volumes about
their upbringing and parenting, the discipline, school days, farm chores,
foods, rules, behaviors and beliefs of the strictest Amish orders. I learned
there are about 40 different orders, each with its own Ordnung (rules), bishop,
beliefs and behaviors. I started a blog – Beyond Buggies and Bonnets
– to share my unusual stories, their stories, what they’ve taught me, and
pictures. My blog has more than 110 thousand readers!

On a personal level, I’ve
often felt inadequate but responded like a “mom” with rules and relationship. On a spiritual level, I’ve seen how the Holy Spirit prompts people to respond.
I simply share about the guys or gals I’ve met and the people from our church
or my author friends give clothing, money, and other materials needs. I’ve
never had to remind or nag people to help.

My spirit is pricked because
I’ve learned that many Amish put rules over relationship with God. The uber
strict Swartzentruber and conservative Old Order Amish rely on obedience to the
Ordnung as their “hope” for God’s favor and heaven. Sadly, they never have
assurance of salvation as taught in the scriptures. In fact, they teach that to
say you’re saved is arrogant or prideful.

My heart breaks for those who don’t know God’s grace, love, and forgiveness.
When I see an Amish person, I whisper a prayer for their eternal soul. I’ve
learned that driving a buggy, living simply, and wearing plain clothes do not guarantee
the people are Christians. They may be living a lifestyle with a hunger to know
our Heavenly Father. Only God knows if that person has a personal relationship
with Him or is in false bondage to rules. 

That is so, so true. It
certainly does break my heart. Why do some Amish leave?

In my experiences with former
and current Amish, I’ve learned there are three main reasons they leave:
(1) it’s just not a lifestyle they wish to live, they want to live as English,
(2) religious freedom – to grow in their personal knowledge of God, and
(3) they want to work and live beyond the boundaries the Amish allow.

To explain (1), I know an
Ohio lady who just wanted to live English. She maintains a relationship with
her Amish family, likewise a Florida man left Amish and is still accepted by
his birth family, (2) most Amish orders prohibit reading the Bible in English
or outside the church. Some are prohibited from independent Bible studies. When
an Amish person breaks the rules to read an English language Bible or discovers
that salvation is free and not based on works, he/she is persecuted or asked to
leave; and (3) a young Swartzentruber man in KY wanted to work beyond the
physical boundaries of his settlement and to use power tools – both verboten –
so he left and is now shunned. 

This is obviously “culture shock” for them when they do leave! What are some things they had to
learn about the non-Amish life?

It’s interesting, we
outsiders look at the Amish with our own perception, thinking we understand
them. Amish look at us in the English world and think they understand us. Those
who leave the Amish life quickly learn about our insurances, rules of the road,
April income tax, health care, education beyond their 8th grade
Amish school, modern conveniences, technology, freedom to decisions, and more.
They experiment with different haircuts and clothing. Because they’ve always been
told precisely what to do, wear, think, and how to behave, they must learn to
make choices and sometimes their decision-making skills are immature. I’ve
known some former Amish who’ve made unhealthy choices and are living with
lifelong consequences. 

What did you learn about
their culture?
Some people call it a
religion. Some call it a lifestyle. The former Amish call it a system. I prefer
to recognize it as a culture because one is born into it, and expected to live,
marry, and die in it. There’s tremendous diversity among the orders,
settlements, and families. Reading fiction books – while entertaining – cannot
accurately explain the Amish. There can be no “expert” on this multi-layered,
mysterious culture.

Each week I learn something
new about the Amish and realize I know only about the Swartzentruber because of
my personal, intimate experiences of those God brought into my home and heart.

My book focuses on my
experiences with former Swartzentruber and conservative Old Order Amish.
Readers tell me, “I learned so much.” 

I learned quite a bit that I
didn’t know too! How did you get in touch with Amish who left to live on the

Word spreads among the former
Amish and those wanting to leave. 

I see. I know they are such a tight knit people so I’m sure word

travels well
throughout the community. Bringing this to a close my readers want to know what
makes this book different from other books about the Amish, especially the
fictional books about them?

It’s reality. Educational and
entertaining, like fiction with dialogue. Gives an inside look at the strictest
Amish orders. Surprises readers with laughter and tears. 

This is a great book and Brenda,
thank you for joining us this week and giving us a peek inside the lives of
these special people. One last question, how may our readers connect with you?

I welcome blog readers
and I’m on Twitter @BrendaNixon 

Buggies and Bonnets: Seven true stories of former Amish
is available on
Amazon in Kindle ($6.99) and Paperback ($15.99) or U.S. residents may order an
autographed copy directly from me ($17.00) at: PO Box 1302, Mount Vernon, OH

For media interviews or
speaking engagements contact:

Brenda Nixon 
PO Box 1302, Mount
Vernon, Ohio 43050
                                  BOOK BLURB:

Beyond Buggies and Bonnets Seven true stories of former Amish

By Brenda Nixon release date: May 2015 Available on Amazon or get
signed copies from the author!

Brenda Nixon shares her
dramatic experiences of assisting Amish who leave their plain life to join our
“forbidden” Englisch world. She gives an honest and courageous look at the
difficulties inherent in adjusting to a new culture from the perspective of
those who grew up in the reclusive Swartzentruber or conservative Old Order
Amish, and who meet the adjustments and responsibilities of life on the
“outside” with hope, humor, and an open heart. Readers will be amazed,
entertained, and enlightened as they:


Visit Amish
Gma [church],

how clergy is chosen,
Get facts on
bed courtship,
Learn rules
on kapps and buggies,
dental attitudes and practices
Inspect a rare Swartzentruber Ordnung, and much more. 

BIO:  Living in Ohio – home to the largest number of Amish districts nationwide
– Brenda Nixon has opened her heart and home to many youths who’ve left the
Swartzentruber and Old Order Amish. Her intense and interesting experiences are
a learning curve, which she shares on her award-winning 
Beyond Buggies and
Bonnets blog and through speaking at public
and private venues. Her goals are to teach cultural literacy about these
conservative orders within the diverse Amish culture, and be a voice for
ex-Amish. She is a wife, mom, teacher, speaker, and author or contributor to 35


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