I was born and raised Amish in Holmes County, Ohio. Holmes County is one of Ohio's biggest tourist attractions. Growing up, we were familiar with cars going by really slowly and watching us.
As children, I remember our parents telling us that we should not let tourists take pictures of us. As a result, we were sometimes very rude to the tourists. That was about thirty years ago—a lot has changed since then.
Today, the majority of Amish in the community where I grew up have cell phones, and most have modern conveniences. Their transportation style and dress is about the only thing that separates them.
One time, I asked my Dad why we couldn't take pictures of each other. He told me that it was because the 10 Commandments forbade it. He was, of course, talking about the second commandment. The ironic thing was, though, that if someone's picture got in the paper they would cut it out and put it in a scrapbook or photo album as a keepsake. My mom had a drawer full of old newspaper clippings of people she knew.
I had a pretty normal and comfortable life. I was single, living at home with my parents, rent free, and eating from my parents' table. I had a good income with almost no expenses. Every year, I would go on at least one expensive vacation, and sometimes more. Life was good.
However, my spiritual life was not good, and I knew it. We were taught that the way you get to Heaven was by obeying all the rules of the church, down to a "T". We were to "do this and you will make it." But I wasn't obeying the rules. We weren't allowed to have cell phones, and I had a cell phone. We weren't allowed to ride with young Amish boys that owned cars. I had friends like that, and I rode with them sometimes. I always hoped I wouldn't die suddenly, because I knew I had some repenting to do.
In 2010, my Mom died unexpectedly. We didn't even know something was wrong with her. My life was shattered. Two and a half years later, my Dad got remarried. That was devastating to me because we had been very close since Mom had died. I decided that it was time for me to move out. Right about that time, a piece of property came up for sale only a quarter of a mile from where I worked. About a year later, I moved onto the property.
Living alone, with lots of spare time and no one to talk to was a new experience. People would encourage me to find someone and get married, but I felt that all the good ones my age were already taken and I didn't know where to start looking. I prayed about it, and decided that I would put it entirely in God's hands.
One day, soon after I moved out, I was at Wal-Mart in the electronics department , and they had a table with some laptop computers on clearance. As I looked them over, I found one that was exactly what I wanted. Of course, computers would not be allowed by the church, but I figured I could probably get away with it if I didn't tell too many people. I made a couple laps around the store to make sure no one from my church was in the store, and then I bought the laptop. On the way home, I stopped at the Verizon store and bought a hotspot for it so that I would have Internet access at home. Suddenly, I didn't have enough spare time. I would spend hours, or even days, watching things on YouTube or Netflix.
Searching for Truth
Eventually, I found Walter Veith on YouTube. He fascinated me so much, I could not stop watching him. Of course, I quickly discovered that he was a Seventh-day Adventist. That didn't bother me because what he was saying made perfect sense, and he would align all of his teachings with the Bible. Watching his videos definitely changed my way of thinking, but I was not convicted enough to make any changes in my life. We were taught that if we stayed in the religion that we were born in, then we could be saved. However, if we chose to leave, especially after we had been baptized, there was little hope of salvation.
Soon, my world was shattered again. I had a brother, that was not Amish, his name was Leroy. He had been going to medical school when he started to get seizures. One weekend, He came up to my place and we got together with the rest of the family. We had a great time together. That night, he drove back home. While he was sleeping, he had a massive seizure and died. That was in May of 2016.
After that, I spent all my spare time researching and studying the Scriptures and I started learning about the plan of salvation. I learned that having a personal relationship with Jesus is the key. I also learned that the law of God had not been done away with at the cross. If God's law could be changed, than Jesus would not have had to die. Only the ceremonial laws of Moses were fulfilled at the cross. Sadly, none of this was taught in the Amish church. Even after learning all these new things, I still was not convicted to leave the Amish church. I thought, "Someday, when the Sunday Law comes, I will leave," but God had other plans.
In February of 2017, my Dad got pneumonia and died. This pushed me over the edge. Watching my family die one by one caused me to think that I might be next because I had stomach issues. I remember thinking, while I was at my Dad's funeral, that if it was me in the casket I would be lost. I knew I was living a lie. A few months later, in April, I started keeping the Bible Sabbath. At that time, I thought I was the only Amish person in the world that believed like this. I desperately wanted an Amish Sabbath-keeping church to go to, but had no idea there was such a church. I just stayed home and kept the Sabbath the best way I knew how to on Saturday, then went to my Amish Church on Sunday.
I’m Not Alone
One day, in June, I saw a Swartzentruber Amish lady on Facebook on a Saturday evening. She had posted a comment on how warm it was in church today. I got excited—an Amish person going to church on Saturday! Wow!! I started digging, and soon realized they were all Swartzentruber Amish, and that they were over an hour away from me. I thought, "There is no way I can go there." Time went on, and I had pretty much forgotten about it until one evening when I was listening to a Doug Batchelor sermon, and he mentioned an Amish couple in Northeast Ohio. Their names were Andy and Naomi Weaver, and they were Seventh-day Adventists. I got excited again. I found Andy and Naomi's 3ABN interview. After the video, they had contact information. I thought to myself, "I don't care if these people are Swartzentrubers or not, I'm going to get in contact with them because they believe exactly what I believe."
I sent them an email before I went to bed. To my surprise, I got a text from my Mennonite neighbor who was also a Sabbath keeper. He told me that he knew about West Salem Mission. That was before I had a vehicle, so he took me along with him to church a few times. A few months earlier, I had shared some information with my brother Vernon, and he was being convicted about the Sabbath, so I asked him if he would be interested in going to the Mission. He agreed, and we have been worshiping at West Salem Mission ever since. I can not imagine how my spiritual life would be without the fellowship of believers a the Mission—they have been a huge blessing to me.
I thank God for bringing me into His truth.
Abe Raber is a member of the West Salem Church, and is employed at Keim Lumber in Holmes County, Ohio.