Callie Wiser, a producer on God In America and The Amish, spent two years researching, filming and producing The Amish: Shunned. In this article, she describes one of the many amazing stories she has to tell from her time working on this documentary.
One of my favorite parts of my job is spending time with people. In most cases, I do a lot of talking on the phone and visiting over coffee before we ever schedule an on-camera interview. In the conversations I had while researching The Amish: Shunned all of these visits helped me better understand the breadth of experience of former Amish. And since only some visits turned in to on-camera interviews, there were other people I met whose stories I did not get to tell.
One of these people, a woman named Katie Troyer, I couldn't not film. She is such a warm and wise soul, I could not resist sitting her down to tell her story. I was sad when I couldn't knit her story in with the other characters in The Amish: Shunned, and I asked her if she would mind if I edited a web feature about her.
Katie is a little person, she stands three feet four inches tall. She brings a unique perspective (literally and figuratively) to life as an Amish person and now as former Amish. Because of her stature, Katie's community may never have been able to see her as able to fill the typical role of the Amish woman as a mother. This meant that she never fully fit in with her Amish community, but it also meant that she was more free to take on roles that an Amish mother would not be allowed, for example when she worked for a book publisher in an Amish community in Ontario.
Like many Amish I spoke to, Katie had been taught that she would be damned to Hell for leaving the Amish. "If you are born Amish, you must remain Amish" is taught in many Amish communities. (Though, like on many issues, there is diversity amongst the Amish, and some Amish families and communities do not believe this is true.) When Katie wondered why she didn't feel fulfilled, she asked God to help her see where she was failing. She ultimately had a conversation with God in which she realized that it was her clinging to her Amishness itself that was holding her back from full faith. She did not want to give up her Amish life or faith.
When she finally left the Amish in her forties, Katie moved to a small community in Sarasota, Florida that is made up of "plain" people, that is people who are Amish, former Amish, Mennonite or former Mennonite. Amish and Mennonite from up north come down to Pinecraft for vacation, and some make Pinecraft their permanent home. Katie says, " it's heaven on earth for the plain people."
After you watch the videos about Katie Troyer, I'm sure you will know why I felt I couldn't deny you a chance to hear her story.
"I Had to Give up Absolutely Everything" - Katie Troyer's 2-minute profile video
"Finding Home" - a 6-minute piece on Katie Troyer and life after the Amish
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