Daniel & Lydia Swartzendruber have been attending the Seventh-day Adventist Mission in West Salem, Ohio. The Swartzendrubers come from many generations of Old Order Amish, and were recently interviewed by Gerry Wagoner. Their story is very encouraging.
HI DANIEL AND LYDIA. I HAVE BEEN TO THE WEST SALEM MISSION THREE TIMES THIS YEAR AND ALWAYS COME HOME IMPRESSED WHAT THE LORD IS DOING AMONG THE AMISH. THANKS FOR GIVING US THIS INTERVIEW.
Both: You’re welcome.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR EXTENDED FAMILIES.
Daniel Swartzendruber (DS): I grew up in Ashland County, Ohio, near Sullivan. My parents were good parents. I have 14 brothers & sisters. I am the oldest son, and my youngest sibling is eight years old.
Lydia Swartzendruber (LS): I am the oldest daughter and I had 4 sisters. We grew up in Heuvelton, New York.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO GROW UP AMISH?
DS: It was a good life. We had differences at times but still a good life. My family made baskets and I enjoyed that. As a little boy I liked repairing things. I like making things work better and I love creating things. I liked machine work too. We Amish don’t have many machines but a neighbor in our church district had a metal shop. He ran the machines on line shaft via a diesel engine outside. That shop had an ironworker and several other pieces of equipment. That was the beginning of my interest in metalworking, and I purchased some of my own tools to repair machinery.
WHAT DID YOU DO FOR RECREATION?
DS: I loved playing dodgeball and tag. We played outside a lot – I preferred to be outside rather than indoors.
HOW DID YOU MEET LYDIA?
DS: One of my cousins arranged for us to begin writing. She lived in New York and he told me about her. We wrote each other for twelve months. We met for the first time in April 2005, after writing for almost four months. I could barely tolerate not meeting her for four months! We got published [in the Amish community, getting “published” is a formal announcement of your engagement] in early February 2006 and married 2-23-06. Sometimes the news spreads faster among the Amish than Facebook. We have five children now. I got a good wife.
WHAT KIND OF WORK DO YOU DO?
DS: I work in construction. I have done that for several years now. I had many tools for metalworking, and eventually sold them and became a painter.
LS: Lydia – I take care of the house and children.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT THE AMISH LIFE?
DS: I like the lifestyle. I thought we had to work pretty hard at times but I look back on it as a great experience. I never thought about being English. City people think different than country people. City people often look at hardship as worse than persecution.
LS: I still like the Amish lifestyle. It’s the way I was brought up. Things could be easier if we were allowed to use some things but I enjoyed church and friends. I never thought I would leave.
HOW DID YOU LEARN ABOUT THE ADVENTIST MESSAGE?
DS: Apostle Paul never thought he would be a Christian—after he saw the light he was different. We found a better way. As a teenager I sometimes questioned the calendar and saw that the Saturday was the seventh-day. Then I forgot about it and later I got married. Years later, Lydia developed hip pain. At the time we were under “guardian” [guardian is where the church manages your affairs until you can get back on your feet].
A man stopped in to sell books one day. We bought a health book thinking there might be something to help Lydia in there. We bought a Bible—an English one. We also bought some natural remedies.
The book, helped us, and the natural remedies did too. It turned out to be an Adventist book. It had Scriptures in it and we liked that.
We found out that Adventists keep Sabbath – not Sunday. Then I remembered the calendar that I questioned as a boy. We bought more books from Kent Millard [colporteur] and kept reading. That led us to eventually question Amish beliefs.
LS: I thought the Sabbath was wrong, and people were telling me that Daniel was all mixed up. That was a rough time for me – I felt alone not being spiritually connected with my husband. It took me a while to accept these new truths. I learned to talk to God about my troubles – not to other people.
HOW DID THIS EXPERIENCE AFFECT YOUR MARRIAGE?
DS: Going through this experience has made us closer!
LS: I can say coming to the Adventist message helped bring a new unity into our marriage.
WAS IT HARD FOR YOU TO LEAVE THE AMISH?
DS: Yes it was. I had many friends there. After I left I could not visit friends and siblings the way I used to. It also affected my livelihood. Just before conversion, I was working at my parent’s house. I was installing drywall and insulation and putting on a new roof. After they banned me, I couldn’t work for/with them or eat with them.
LS: That was a struggle for me. The question I had to face was should I follow the church and the bishop? It was a struggle for me to understand that. Last winter I felt that I should follow my husband. My people told me I would be breaking my vows to the church. My family was hard on my mind. I gave my life to the Lord and He helped me more than I could believe. We understand each other a lot better after we gave our lives to the Lord. Daniel said just follow Jesus. Should I follow the church or Daniel – or just follow Jesus. I wondered, how does following Jesus bless my husband? We still pray for understanding and truth – still learning. I can forgive the people who put so much pressure on me.
HOW DID YOUR FAMILIES AND COMMUNITY REACT TO YOUR CHANGE?
DS: They shunned us. As the oldest children in our families a lot was expected of us. We never owned a piece of land – we rented our home. The landlord is Amish and he decided he wanted us to leave. The landlord came by one day and said “You can chew (test) your Jesus, until you find out it doesn’t work.” I was surprised how angry he was. He meant to reject me but I can say he didn’t reject me – he rejected my Lord Jesus.
WHAT PARTS OF THE BIBLE BECAME MEANINGFUL TO YOU AS YOU WENT THROUGH THIS EXPERIENCE?
DS: Galatians 1:10 says “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” I have learned to mind what God thinks of me more than men. I also appreciate the Proverbs.
LS: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:27-38). I also like 1 Corinthians 13, where it talks about true love.
HOW ARE YOUR CHILDREN ADAPTING TO THE CHANGES IN YOUR LIFE?
DS: When Sabbath is over they can’t wait until the next one. They really enjoy learning about the Bible. It’s a new experience for them.
WHAT CAN ADVENTISTS LEARN FROM THE AMISH?
DS: Adventists could learn how to grow food and work in the garden. They could learn to treat diseases on trees and vegetables.
LS: The Amish are really good about cooking and baking and housework. Adventists girls and their families could benefit from that.
WHAT COULD THE AMISH LEARN FROM THE ADVENTISTS?
DS: How to be more loving. They could also learn to let loose of man-made rules and follow the Lord alone. I think God is going to open their eyes soon.
HERE WE ARE AT THE END OF 2015, AND TOMORROW IS CHRISTMAS. DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIAL GET-TOGETHERS OR TRADITIONS OR IS IT JUST ANOTHER DAY FOR YOU?
DS: We don’t have Christmas trees. Some may give gifts now and then, but not always. We are not to live for trees and presents, but we are to live for Jesus.
LS: I agree with what Daniel said. We sometimes have family get-togethers on Christmas. Most Amish don’t work on Christmas.
I HAVE REALLY ENJOYED GETTING TO KNOW YOU BOTH. DO YOU HAVE ANY CLOSING THOUGHTS FOR US?
DS: Jesus brings strength to each of us if we let Him. True Christians think differently than the world does. When we think about Jesus we are strong – when we think about the world we are weak. I encourage anybody to read the Bible. Read it again and again. Read the Psalms—they will teach you how to pray. Invite God into your heart even if you don’t know what to say. Be patient with each other.
LS: Pray and read bible – ask God for understanding.