Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Meet the Mennonites - my personal journey

January 1999

By the time we had reached 1999, I had:
1. Read all the tracts;
2. Started wearing a covering;
3. Been corresponding with Mervyn and Fannie for 8 or 9 months;
4. Seen three films on TV about the Amish; and
5. Written to Rod and Staff, asking for my nearest church.

I had also received a letter from Kenneth and his wife, Anna, from Wisconsin - and they wanted to visit me in the UK!

In the middle of January, they arrived. There were four of them altogether - Kenneth and Anna, and Kenneth's Uncle, James and his wife, Judy.

Right away I knew they were different. They dressed differently; when we went to church, they sat so that they were not seated next to anyone else's wife or daughter; and they went out of their way to be helpful and to join in our activities - not like 'guests' at all! I did not undrestand all these things at first, but I mention them as they are the things I noticed about them.

It turned out that Kenneth was Mervyn's grandson. I hadn't known that before I mentioned I had been writing to Mervyn and Fannie for some time. It also turned out that James was Mervyn's son and Judy had seen a letter I had written on Mervyn's desk. She had been curious as to why he was corresponding with someone in the UK and how he had come to find out about me.

They only stayed a few days; I wished it had been longer. Their visit only served to renew my enthusiasm and pursuit of what I later came to understand were anabaptist teachings.

Over the next few years, I met several other Mennonites, including one whose parents had been Amish (that explained why he wore a beard when mennonites are normally clean shaven). They helped in my garden, and the remodelling on our house; they loved to travel around the area looking at the countryside. There were one or two funny conversations too, like the time I was asked 'what are these little heaps of dirt beside the roads?' It took a moment to realise they were talking about mole hills - common to us, but unknown in Wisconsin! One time, I met a woman who brought her young son with her. I asked her if this was her first baby; she looked so young! Turned out he was baby number twelve - the Mennonites, as the Amish, do not believe in birth control!

We talked and asked questions of each other and it soon became apparent they were inclined to start a church in the UK. It would be the first Mennonite church in England ever. While the Reformation had caught the UK by storm, the anabaptists were virtually unknown - not only then, but also now. Finally, it seemed there might be a church in the UK and that it might even be in my own back yard.

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