March 26, 2011

Leaving the Amish life behind

Moses Gingerich, who left his simple farm world for modern America, helps others do the same.

By JANESE SILVEY The Columbia Tribune

(Continued from page 2)

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Moses Gingerich surveys the Joe Machens dealership in Columbia, Mo., after preparing a vehicle for a customer. Gingerich, who left an Amish community in Wisconsin, works as a car salesman and mentors other ex-Amish who are trying to adjust to the modern world.

The Associated Press

Gingerich is rare in that regard, Amos Miller said. Like their practicing counterparts, ex-Amish typically aren't interested in sharing details of their past lives with the curious outside world, either.

"If I hadn't met him, I wouldn't be talking to you now," Miller told the Tribune.


Miller considers Gingerich a sort of protege. He lived with the Gingerich family for a while as he transitioned to a new life.

Miller decided to leave the Amish because he wanted an education beyond the eighth grade. He has been working on obtaining his GED while working in construction and participating in bull-riding events on weekends.

These days, Miller lives in Macon and has opened his home to others.

"I've just had two new 'escapees' move in with me," he said. "So I've kind of come full circle, helping kids."

Miller doesn't struggle with issues of faith. He doesn't attend a church, and while he believes in the concept of heaven and hell, he's not convinced leaving the Amish means eternal damnation.

During that vulnerable moment caught on camera, Gingerich said he had been taught since he was a tot that those who abandoned their Amish ways are doomed.

"The fear of going to hell and burning eternally is a fear unlike any other fear I know," he says in the opening of the documentary. "Do I think I'm going to hell for the decision I made? Probably."

A woman who watched that segment sent Gingerich a note earlier this month encouraging him. It now hangs next to "Amish in the City" stories from entertainment magazines on the back wall of his office.

"Please know," the note from a stranger reads, "the Lord loves you beyond measure."

Gingerich has experimented with other types of churches, but the leap to a new religion is too steep. Clapping in church, laughing, even smiling, contradicts everything he was taught.

But, he's quick to say: "I still believe in God -- big time."


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