The Outsiders: Amish Community Speaks Out

For the roughly 220,000 Amish living in North America, Holmes County, Ohio, serves as a capital of Amish culture. With more than 40,000 Amish and 210 different church districts, it is home to the largest Amish settlement in the world.

Simplicity and humility are foundations of the Amish culture.

"We've just got a different way of life," said an Amish elder who did not wish to be identified. The elder, who will be referred to as "John," spoke candidly with ABC News about temptations, faith and the life he and his wife built together during the past 40 years.

"We don't have electricity. We don't have telephones in the house. We don't have cars. We don't have TV, radios. We just kinda try to stay behind a little bit," John said.

John's wife added, "There is a quietness in this life. I would say family means a lot."

She told ABC News her daily mantra, explaining that "Who you are when you get up in the morning and who you are when you go to bed at night, that you did the best that you could, you know? And yes, we all sin, but your sins can be forgiven."

Although the Amish traditionally do not use phones and electricity in their homes, liberal sects permit the use of technology in the workplace if it aids business. As a result, many shops have sheds with telephones and fax machines.

Holmes County has an exclusive newspaper and even a telephone conference line that started in late 2004. By calling a telephone number and entering a password, community members can be connected to other Amish people around the country within minutes.

"It's just news about Amish and Mennonites, it's not national news -- it's just in our language and news of happenings among Amish and Mennonite people," John said. "Somebody dies, somebody gets married. Sometimes an accident, and a car hit a horse and buggy."

Worldly Temptation

A period known as rumspringa, which loosely translates to "running around," is an Amish youth's time to discover the world outside the community. Among the Pennsylvania Dutch, it may begin at around age 16 and ends when the individual agrees to become baptized or join the church. Amish teenagers often take advantage of relaxed rules by experimenting with technology, driving cars, drinking and smoking.

"I think the outside world sometimes thinks that the Amish don't have any problems. But it's not like that. The Amish have problems. Maybe not the same type of problems that some in the outside world have," John said.

The elders who spoke to ABC News said they sympathize with young Amish who are struggling with their decision. They recognize that today's youth have much more temptation to leave the Amish community, but still say that their Amish faith is what keeps them centered.

"I used to feel that I would never leave the Amish until I was probably 24. I had a car for so long, and was driving a truck," John said. "Pretty soon, I got to thinking, you know, 'You don't have to be Amish.' But then, in back of your mind, it's still ... would I be satisfied if I wouldn't be Amish?"

He offered some advice for the undecided. "I'd tell them to join a church as soon as they're 17 or 18 and get married. And get a job, or, you know, work on a farm or somewhere and raise a family. Then, when you're older you don't have to think about all this stuff that you did when you were younger that you shouldn't have done."

Guilt and shame, he said, are powerful deterrents.

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