The Plain People
Simple, sincere, fun-loving, devoted to family, generous, faithful,
loyal, hard-working – these are the Amish! Many are unaware that they
have a lovely community is tucked away in a valley and within plain
view of the majestic Cabinet Mountains ten miles outside of Libby,
Montana. Last month, Robert and I had the privilege of presenting an
Elijah House Seminar at their Amish Community Church. It was our very
first visit and we didn’t know quite what to expect!
People tend to judge what they don’t understand, so the Amish have
been the brunt of jokes, ridicule, rejection and persecution for many
generations. Just to give you a short history lesson, I found this on
Google at PaDutch.com:
“The Plain People trace their origin back to the Protestant
Reformation in Europe, where there was an emphasis on returning to the
purity of the New Testament church. In 1536, a young Catholic priest
from Holland named Menno Simons joined the Anabaptist movement. His
writings and leadership united many of the Anabaptist groups, who
later became known as “Mennonites.”
One of the teachings of the Amish faith is called the ban or shunning.
This is based on the New Testament command not to associate with a
church member who does not repent of his sinful conduct. The purpose
of this discipline is to help the member realize the error of his ways
and to encourage his repentance, after which he would be restored to
This excommunication was at first only applied at the communion table.
However, the followers of Jacob Amman felt the unrepentant individual
should be completely shunned or avoided by all church members. This
belief, along with other differences, led to Amman’s split with the
Mennonites in 1693. His followers were later called Amish.
These Anabaptist groups were severely persecuted throughout Europe.
Thousands were put to death as heretics by both Catholics and
Protestants. To avoid this persecution many fled to the mountains of
Switzerland and southern Germany. Here began the Amish tradition of
farming and holding their worship services in homes rather than churches.
Many Amish and Mennonites accepted William Penn’s offer of religious
freedom as part of Penn’s “holy experiment” of religious tolerance.
They settled in what later became known as Pennsylvania. The first
sizable group of Amish arrived in Lancaster County in the 1720’s or
Today, the Amish can be found in 23 states here and in one Canadian
province. Their settlement in and around Lancaster County is their
second largest. Because of their large families, the total Amish
population has more than doubled since 1960 to over 85,000. Very few
of their children leave the church.
Old Order Amish women and girls wear modest dresses made from
solid-colored fabric with long sleeves and a full skirt (not shorter
than half-way between knee and floor). These dresses are covered with
a cape and apron and are fastened with straight pins or snaps. They
never cut their hair, which they wear in a bun on the back of the
head. On their heads they wear a white prayer covering if they are
married and a black one if they are single. Amish women do not wear
Men and boys wear dark-colored suits, straight-cut coats without
lapels, broadfall trousers, suspenders, solid-colored shirts, black
socks and shoes, and black or straw broad-brimmed hats. Their shirts
fasten with conventional buttons, but their suit coats and vests
fasten with hooks and eyes. They do not have mustaches, but they grow
beards after they marry.”
The Amish feel these distinctive clothes encourage humility and
separation from the world. Their clothing is not a costume; it is an
expression of their faith.
Lloyd and Mary Etta Miller are the pastors of this group which has
grown to 20 households plus other local families. The Millers roots
are from the farmland of northern Indiana. In 1975 they moved from
there to Montana. Then in 1992 they, along with another family,
decided to make their home on 800 acres near Libby. They are log home
builders and the beauty of their skill and creativity can be seen in
all of their homes, barns, outbuildings and the Meeting Hall, where
they worship on Sundays.
The warm welcome we received made us feel right at home. When we
arrived, there was a delicious smell of freshly baked whole-wheat
bread from the oven. Three of the Miller’s nine children played
happily in the next room. They eyed us cautiously with shy grins, but
we easily made friends with them before sitting down with the whole
family to enjoy a delicious home cooked meal.
In January, the Millers had come to Elijah House to meet Mark Sandford
and us and to plan the seminar. They said, “We need help!” Their
“spiritual father” in Switzerland knew John Sandford, and had
encouraged them to connect with us to receive healing in their
community. In 1995 the Libby community began to experience the Holy
Spirit’s ministry. Many members began to realize that God wants them
to have a deeper experience of the faith. Relationship with God should
be more than just obeying rules and traditions—it should be a living,
vital, personal fellowship with a loving Father who longs to set us
free to joyfully love and obey Him! They longed for this kind of
freedom in Christ.
Four years ago they made the decision to go from horse and buggy to
motorized vehicles. Their whole identity as an Amish Community was in
jeopardy as they struggled to find the balance between maintaining the
good aspects of their traditions while embracing the new. Sometimes
the old and the new are in direct opposition to each other. At times,
there have been clashes between those who felt committed to their old
traditions and those who, like the Millers and others, wanted to walk
in more spiritual freedom in the areas of dress, music and creativity.
At the seminar in February, the people soaked up the teaching like
sponges. We taught them about bitter roots and how they defile us and
others, how to be healed from shame, how shame, fear and control can
be an enemy stronghold to keep us in bondage, how to be healed from
wounds of rejection, and the importance of honoring the Holy Spirit.
We confirmed to them something that others have prophesied to them as
well, that God has called them to be a healing community. In talking
with several of the individuals, we sensed their hearts of love and
compassion. One morning, our host family told us about a call she had
received the previous night. A young woman phoned her from a motel in
Libby. She had randomly chosen the church’s phone number out of the
phone book. This stranger was calling out of desperation for prayer
and proceeded to pour out her hurting heart to our precious Amish
sister on the other end of the line! We all felt the incident was
further confirmation that their community will be a place of “refuge”
for those looking for help and healing.
The seminar ended on Sunday, but one of our Elijah House Prayer
Ministers arrived that afternoon and stayed until the following
Saturday to counsel and pray for anyone who wanted personal ministry.
She took 30 appointments that week! Healing is happening in the Amish
On March 10-14 Elijah House along with Restoring the Foundations
sponsored a free “Turning Point” Retreat for wounded and burned out
pastors and leaders. Thirty-two pastors and leaders from various
backgrounds and cultures attended the retreat at Ross Point Bible
Camp, including three from the Libby Amish Community. More healing
happened, and they are being equipped with tools to help others. An
added bonus was how warmly they were welcomed by pastors from many
We are so blessed by our relationship with the Amish community in
Libby. They are truly our brothers and sisters in Christ. They are