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New neighbors bring an old way of life to the area

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Borntregers are a family of Old Order Amish who have recently moved to the Fulton County area. In a series of articles we will introduce you to this family, their lifestyle and the way they make their living.
Buggies, beards, long dresses and head coverings -- all are descriptive of the Amish people. A familiar sight in Pennsylvania, Iowa and even Missouri, Amish communities are a rarity in Arkansas -- but not anymore. Along the Southfork River in Fulton County a family of Old Order Amish are settling in to their new homes in Arkansas.

The Borntreger family moved to Fulton County in December and January, arriving just before the ice storm of the century hit the area. While a little surprised by the intensity of the winter storm, the Borntregers were much better equipped at surviving the disaster than most born and bred Arkansans.

Entering the home of an Amish family is like stepping back to the not-so-distant days of rural Arkansas. Back when large families pulled together to make a living among the rocks of the Ozarks and electricity was a novelty, not a necessity.

The wood cook stove and large kitchen table were the focal points of a home back then and cousins were playmates and best friends. Running barefoot, climbing a tree or hitching a cart to a pony for a ride through the fields, kept children happy and active during playtime.

Work was something everyone did, regardless of age. Even the youngest had a chore to do.

The day began before the sun came up and ended when the chores were done and the night air had cooled enough to sleep.

Idle hands were rare. Even when sitting on the porch during the heat of the day or as evening took over, men's and boy's hands were repairing another broken item, while the women and girls were snapping beans, sewing on a button or patching another hole in the seat of a pair of pants.

Family time was all the time and not a planned event.

Sunday was a day of rest, worship and fellowship.

Meals were prepared by hand and included lots of fresh vegetables from the garden, fresh baked bread and desserts made with whatever fruit was ripe at the time. Meals were eaten at the large kitchen table and a prayer of thanks was always said.

This is how the Amish still live today.

The Amish people are an old religious sect and direct descendants of 16th century Anabaptists of Europe. These Anabaptists Christians challenged some of the reforms during the Protestant Reformation including rejecting infant baptism in favor of baptism by believing adults. They take their name from Jakob Ammann, who led a group that broke away from the Mennonites to follow the more rigid regulations first established by the Dutch Anabaptist leader Menno Simons. To this day, the Amish and Mennonites share most of the same beliefs.

The Amish' belief in God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are parallel with most religious organizations today. Amish communities do not have a separate church building. They hold their worship services every other week, usually rotating their meeting place among the homes of its members. Their worship service is conducted in German and includes acappella singing with songs from a large hymnal called an Ausband. Preachers in the Amish community are appointed by the members.

Worship services are almost always followed by a large community meal and fellowship.

Most Amish are affiliated with one of five religious orders -- Old Order Amish, New Order Amish, Andy Weaver Amish, Beachy Amish and Swartzentruber Amish. According to Albrecht Powell, "History of the Amish in America," these churches operate independently from each other with differences in how they practice their religion and live their daily lives. The Old Order Amish are the largest group in America and the Swartzentruber Amish, an offshoot of the Old Order, are the most conservative.

Although the lifestyle of the Amish may seem restricted, the Amish use appliances such as a wringer washer, refrigerator and sewing machines, that have been converted to run on diesel or kerosene which many consider a natural Godly-source of power. Because the Amish lifestyle is a deliberate effort to separate from the world and maintain self sufficiency, they believe that linking their homes to electrical wires would constitute a connection with the world and would violate the Bible's instruction not to be conformed with the world. This decision protects the Amish community from outside influences which would come from radio, television and the Internet.

Amish do not own cars but will accept rides or even pay for them, to meet various transportation needs such as travel to visit other Amish communities and family, to purchase supplies, outside employment and for medical visits. They believe that owning a car could be used as a status symbol because not everyone could afford them as well as interfere with the slow-paced Amish way of life.

The Amish do not believe in commercial insurance. Purchasing insurance is seen as not trusting in God to provide. In 1935, "The Social Security Act" was passed in Congress, and included an "Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance" which was extended to include farm operators in 1955. The Amish' view of separation of church and state means not accepting money from government programs, especially something viewed as welfare. For the Amish, the care of the elderly is seen as the responsibility of the family and the Amish community, not the government.

In 1965, the Medicare bill was passed by Congress and a clause exempted the Old Order Amish and any other religious sect who conscientiously objected to insurance, from paying Social Security payments, providing that sect had been in existence since Dec. 31, 1950.

Amish who work away from the community must still have Social Security withheld from their paychecks, and all Amish pay property taxes, personal taxes, income taxes and sales taxes.

The Amish observe many of the same holidays as the rest of the world -- but just the religious ones. They celebrate Christmas, and in some orders, Old Christmas, as well as Good Friday, Easter and Thanksgiving.

Over the next three weeks, we will introduce you to the Borntreger family -- Moses and his wife Mary Ellen, Vernon and his wife Ida who have five children, and Amos and his wife Mary who have four boys. Each of these families bring a skill to their Amish community and to the Fulton County area. Moses repairs saddles and makes halters, among other things. Vernon raises produce that he sells to the public and Amos shoes horses. Word of the quality of the Borntreger's products and the skill of their work is spreading throughout the area. We will share their story about the journey they have made from McKenzie, Tenn., to their new home in the Arkansas Ozarks.

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