Building Relationships with the Amish to Keep Everyone Safe and Healthy

By Jeanette Harder, Dove's Nest Cofounder and Board President

As I was eagerly anticipating my return trip to New York, my friends asked if I would be visiting different Amish and Old Order Mennonite communities this time. They seemed puzzled by my response, “No, I want to keep building relationships with the families I got to know last summer.”

Relationships. They’re important in easing isolation, getting work done, building community, solidifying identity. When working with Plain communities, relationships are even more important. As a “high context culture,” they most want to know who I am and that I care and that they can trust me. They don’t care about my title or education or accomplishments.

Building relationships in any culture is fostered through face-to-face interactions—even more so with people in the Plain communities who are reluctant to embrace technology (e.g., smart phones, e-mail, Facebook).

So yes, I visited the friends I made last year. And they introduced me to their family and friends. And I introduced them to some of mine.

Our conversation often centered around children—our shared concern for their safety and well-being. The Amish and Old Order Mennonites may make different choices than we do about physical and mental health care, but they are no less sincere than we are about good health.

I learned much about physical and mental health care at the Amish conference at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. Since Plain community members don’t purchase insurance, costs for care quickly become overwhelming. They turn to mutual aid within their own communities, but that too has its limits. I learned about the many creative things people are doing to make health care acceptable and accessible to the Plain communities.

I saw hope in many places. I visited a birth clinic that specializes in providing certified midwives to the Plain communities. I toured a medical clinic and was amazed to hear a physician share about how he is learning about herbs and acupuncture to better serve the Plain communities. I toured another clinic that is administered by the Plain communities that provides mental health services. I listened to a lecture by a physician who is conducting groundbreaking research and providing care to children in Plain communities who have genetic disorders.

Child protective services in multiple states are now interested in having Dove’s Nest help them better relate to the Amish and Old Order Mennonites in their communities. We can make a significant impact on keeping children and youth safe by continuing to build relationships with families in the Plain communities and with social services.

If you are as intrigued and energized by this work as we are, I invite you to make a financial contribution to our organization. Making significant impacts in this area requires resources. Dove’s Nest needs your help so we can keep building relationships with Amish and Old Order Mennonites.