My Amish Story is the story of Lester & Rebecca’s last few years in the Amish Church
My Amish Story is the story of the last few years of Amish life for the Graber family in the nineteen nineties. It’s about the hurdles of breaking the barriers of centuries; of family circles being broken with no goodbyes; of heartbreak and estrangement; of the transitions and adjustments to a new way of living.
But it’s also, and more so, a story of leaving the old and embracing the new; of walking in the blessing of freedom from bondage; of leaving behind the fear of tomorrow. It’s the story of a family living, loving, and laughing their way along the journey of life.
Rebecca Borntrager Graber was born into an Amish family of ten children. She lost her mother at the tender age of ten and later taught school in the Amish Parochial schools. She married Lester Graber, who was ordained as an Amish minister the second year they were married. Rebecca and Lester were shunned by the Amish church thirteen years later, after taking a bold stand against some extra-biblical Amish rules.
Rebecca always enjoyed writing and was a frequently published author in the Family Life, Young Companion, and Blackboard Bulletin, which were monthly magazines published by the Amish. She has conducted many Women’s Bible Study groups in her home, taught Bible classes at a local jail, and carried on correspondence with prisoners from a variety of jails and prisons.
At present Rebecca and her husband Lester and youngest daughter Dorcas live in Fort Worth, Texas, where they are members of Eagle Mountain International Church.
Sketches from Lester & Rebecca Graber’s life
Lester Graber is a young Amish boy who admires the girl on the neighboring farm. On a dare he asks Rebecca if he can take her home after the young folks singing one night. Two years later the two are married in a grand Amish wedding. Their determination to live a good Amish life is strengthened when the lot falls on Lester to become a minister in the Amish Church. They decide that they will be proper examples of what it means to be Amish- they will keep the rules and they will serve God. Lester begins to study the Bible in preparation for preaching when he runs into some difficulty in understanding how to apply what he is reading. He takes his questions to his uncle Ura Yoder, a bishop in the Old Order Amish church.
“Don’t rock the boat,” says Ura Yoder. “Just go along with what we’re saying and doing.” Lester’s questions remain unanswered and he continues to try to reconcile what he is reading in the Bible with what he has to do as a
preacher in the Church. His questions and concerns start coming out in his sermons. The older men of the church are concerned. “Listen young whipper snapper,” says one of the men, “it doesn’t matter what the Bible says! Just do what we say.”
News comes from out of state: Bishop Ura Yoder and his sons have left the Old Order Amish Church! Before Lester has time to find out from Ura what happened, Ura and his sons are banned and excommunicated, effectively cutting off communication. Lester and Rebecca continue their quest to be good and proper Amish. They move from Amish settlement to Amish settlement, looking for a church where people love each other. Lester continues to study the Bible, eventually switching from german to english in an effort to understand more of what he is reading.
Lester is concerned when he discovers that the teaching of salvation by works and church membership that he has been preaching for fourteen years does not align with the Bible. He slowly grasps the message of salvation by grace through faith and his life is transformed. Lester and Rebecca begin to experience joy and fulfillment as faith in Christ replaces the list of rules they had been keeping. Lester begins to preach salvation by grace through faith instead of works and church membership. Church leaders and family members are concerned. Many of them come and visit, admonishing them to stay true to the faith of their fathers.
Lester and Rebecca are very careful to keep all the rules in order to avoid offence, but it becomes very clear: Lester must stop his radical teaching; He must agree to teach the traditional message of salvation by works and church membership, or be silenced and excommunicated.