I am glad to welcome Amish fiction author, Dee Yoder, to The Power of Words! Dee's debut novel, The Miting, is moving, compelling, informative, uncomfortably real at times - and a story that I think Amish fiction fans will find very interesting. You can see my review here.
But what I found most fascinating is Dee's passion for helping the formerly Amish and her involvement with the Mission to Amish People organization, which she tells about in her interview. Dee is also giving a copy of The Miting to one of you, and if you have any thoughts or questions about this ministry, don't hesitate to ask. Now meet Dee . . .
Q: Please share a little bit about yourself, Dee. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?
I am married and have one young adult son. My son’s father passed away from cancer when our son was three. I re-married Arlen Yoder and we will celebrate 18 years of marriage soon. Most of my husband’s extended family is Amish from the Holmes County, Ohio area. My husband grew up in Berlin, Ohio. I keep busy with writing, doing our small church bulletin, writing the former Amish bi-annual newsletter, Dee’s News, for Mission to Amish People, mentoring and helping the former Amish who come to our area, and enjoying my family. And the exciting news this year is I’m a new grandmother! My informally adopted ex-Amish daughter and son-in-law just had their first little boy. What a joy and a blessing!
Q: What are three "fun" or "unique" things about you?
My son thinks I’m unique and funny, according to him, and finds these experiences “interesting” about my life:
1) I used to work in research and handled studies with thousands of rats and their little babies because my job was to observe for birth defects and reproductive problems in successive generations. I was bitten only once by a mama rat, and made friends with lots of beady-eyed critters. I always knew, as soon as I stepped into my study room, when a rat had escaped his cage by how his comrade’s eyes focused on their renegade pal trying to hide along the wall. Then all eyes would swing to me at the door. They seemed to be thinking “Uh oh. What’s she going to do now?” I learned to open the door and close it quickly behind me, just in case one had “gone over the wall”. Contrary to popular belief, rats can be fun. But my study buddies were all white. When I see a wild brown rat now, I scream and run, like any other sane person.
2) When I was in third grade, my uncle had a job helping to construct the John Hancock building in Chicago. He took us to the top floor of the building on the freight elevator before any walls or windows were put in! It was scary. I clung to the existing back wall with my mom, but my sister, brother and dad ventured to the edge and looked down. Even from where I stood hovering near safety, I could actually see the building swaying. Two summers ago, my husband, son, and I went back to the building for the first time since I was a little girl. As the elevator doors opened to the top observation floor, the view was exactly the same! With walls. And windows, of course.
3) I went on a disco on the Rhine in the hey-day of disco. The boat with loaded with military and it was smoke-filled and noisy. I ended up outside, in the rain, on the top deck, to escape the partiers. I met a soldier up there from Oklahoma who knew someone living within a few miles of my home in Ohio! We had great fun, and stood up to salute and sing the star-spangled banner when we passed a US flag along the way. I got wet, but it was wonderful to see the sights from outside and meet with a patriot when both of us were so far from home. On that same trip the summer of 1978, I was in Versailles Palace outside of Paris when gendarmes came rushing inside, guns at ready. After returning to what was then West Germany that evening, I learned a terrorist bomb had been detonated, destroying many of the Napoleon rooms I saw that day. Thank God He protected all visitors from harm.
My son claims the many more odd events in my life give me great fodder for my writing, and, indeed, there are some stories that made it into the flash fiction I wrote at FaithWriters and some are included in my coming-of-age novel The Powerful Odor of Mendacity. I plan to work on that poignant and funny manuscript once I complete my Amish series for Kregel Publications.
Q: You seem to have a heart for the Amish. Tell us a little about your experience with the Mission to Amish People organization.
I have a connection to the Amish through my husband, and I also grew up in the area where The Miting is set. I had Amish neighbors as a child, but nothing prepared me for what I learned about the Old Order and Swartzentruber Amish, the strictest of the Amish groups. I met Joe Keim through my husband’s interaction with Joe’s former Amish young men’s Bible study. They began to meet in our home on Saturday mornings and I decided to go to the MAP website to learn about Joe and the ministry. The more we got to know the former Amish who were coming to our area from all over the US, the more their stories broke my heart. Over the years, there were, and are, so many things to celebrate about our former Amish friends and how they go on in life. Many do so in spite of the shunning, much of it unofficial, since many left before joining the church. Yet, there is heartbreak, too. Being associated with MAP also led to our family becoming involved in the videoing of two documentaries filmed at our home: PBS’s American Experience: The Amish, Parts 1 and 2, and National Geographic’s Amish: Out of Order with Mose Gingerich. Mose gave his heart to Jesus at our dining room table and it is a moment I will never forget. The Lord was very present as His love wrapped us all in peace.
Q: Tell us a little about the novel we are featuring today, The Miting.
The Miting is a book based on my former Amish friends’ stories. I have included many of their experiences in the tale of Leah and her friends. Leah is made up from three young ladies I especially love. One of those young ladies is our adopted daughter—she’s so precious to us. I wanted to show both sides of what it means to have a shunning, or miting, in the strictest groups of an Amish family. I prayed every time I sat down to write because my goal was not to cause controversy, though I knew controversy would be unavoidable in the sharing of such an honest story, but to shed light. To let the story of the former Amish, with all its joys and struggles, be the priority. It was a labor of love and conviction. And my prayer has always been that readers not only learn something, but open their hearts to both sides of what it means to be Amish. Being Amish is not simple, nor is it uncomplicated, as we so often believe it is while viewing the lifestyle from the outside looking in. I sincerely hope my goals were accomplished.
Q: Describe The Miting in 5 adjectives.
Powerful. Honest. Heart-breaking. Joyous. God-breathed.
Q: What are some things that will draw readers to Leah?
I believe readers can relate to Leah’s maturing into adulthood. I wanted to show her curiosity and desire to know more about the whys of her life and where God fits into it. I’m sure many of us have wondered if Amish teens do yearn for something more, just as English teens do at that age. I know I certainly had a longing at eighteen to find out what God meant to me, personally, when I was entering my young adult years. It’s a story about the human need to fill that hole in the soul, and it’s a story about how religion alone often falls short of filling that emptiness with what only God can give. I also wanted her to be a little bit like each of the young ladies I based her character on. Fun. Adventurous. Quiet. She’s steadfast, as well as often unsure of herself and how to fit into her world. I hope they are able to empathize and sympathize with her in her struggles, and not just because she is Amish, but because she is human.
Q: In The Miting, Leah says: "I just couldn't go back to living under the Ordnung. I knew I couldn't give up on God." Is it possible for the Ordnung and personal relationship with Christ to co-exist?
It’s important for readers to know that there are many, many Amish sects. Some are more open to the gospel message of Jesus being our gate to heaven. But some are strictly adherents to the forefathers and tradition, and their Ordnungs reflect that belief. All Amish consider themselves born into Christianity by birth. Some readily accept that Jesus is their way to heaven, and good works are just the fruit of that relationship. But the ones we are familiar with count highly on living the good works as a means to gaining a heavenly home. Because of this, the Ordnung letter is often filled with rules that are nearly impossible to keep, day in and day out. This form of religion can lead to fear and reporting on one another. It’s nothing new. We’ve done this with religion since we’ve been born on the earth. The Bible is filled with examples of how we humans fall into relying on what we can do, in our human strength, to make ourselves worthy of God’s gift of heaven. Unfortunately, we humans have never succeeded in our works alone. But God’s mercy and love for us sent His Son Jesus so we could rely on Christ’s one good work to free us from sin’s grasp. For those Amish who cling to Jesus as their way to heaven, life is still not simple, but the fear of failure is greatly relieved.
Q: What do you hope your readers will take away from The Miting?
I hope readers take away a better understanding of what living and being Amish means. How it is a reflection of their hope of heaven, and not just a simple way of life. I hope readers learn that not all Amish know Jesus. And that rejecting the lifestyle can mean serious consequences for family and community relationships in the orders that practice strict shunning. I also pray the message of God’s peace and contentment by faith in Christ comes through as a shining and remarkable hope for all of us.
Q: What stories can readers expect from you in the days ahead?
I am now working on book 2 of the Amish series, continuing Leah and Jacob’s story as they begin anew in Holmes County, Ohio among the New Order Amish. I am halfway through that manuscript. I also have book 3 in that series in mind, though it is only roughly outlined at this point. Look for more in book 3 about Leah and Jacob, and a reappearance of other characters featured in The Miting. And I am also anxiously awaiting the chance to have The Powerful Odor of Mendacity ready for publication. The manuscript won FaithWriter’s Page Turner competition in 2011. I love the main character, Annie Thomas, like a mamma loves her baby. The setting is the 1960’s Boomer era. It’s a wonderfully fun read.
Q: How can we support and/or pray for you, Dee?
Prayers are most coveted and appreciated because the writing of this Amish book series is deeply personal to me and a labor of love. I pray for before each writing session that God will use me and my words to craft the story He wants to tell. Knowing I have the support of readers is such a blessed and precious gift!
In more hands on ways, reviews like yours are also a gift to authors in this day and age of Internet dominance. Now, more than ever, our book sales are dependent on good old word of mouth, so reviews on blogs, Amazon, and other social networks are whole-heartedly appreciated.
Thank you for taking the time to read and review The Miting, Carole. And thank you to the readers who give life to my words.
To enter the drawing for The Miting, simply leave a meaningful comment based on Dee's interview (something more than "I'd like to read this book") or a question for Dee - something about her ministry to the former Amish, for example. E-mail address are required for the drawing and be sure to leave them in a safe format - [at] and [dot]. If you're willing, it's also helpful to share about this giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter.
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- E-mail required, one entry per person. Odds of winning are based on number of entries.
- Contest ends at midnight PST on Sunday, October 5. No purchase necessary.
- Winner will be chosen by Random.org and contacted by e-mail on Tuesday, October 7. Respond within 48 hours of notification or another winner will be chosen.
- Eligibility: US residents, 18 and older