One of the many families who joined the Seventh-day Adventist church in 2014 is Andy and Naomi Weaver from West Salem, Ohio. The Weavers come from many generations of Swartzendruber Old Order Amish, and were recently interviewed by Gerry Wagoner. Their story is fascinating.
Hi Andy and Naomi. Thanks for participating in this interview.
Tell us about yourself.
Andy Weaver (AW): I come from a family of eight children, born and raised in Northern Ohio. I am the youngest of six boys. My wife Naomi comes from a family of ten children. We were both raised Amish. It was a good life, with many pleasant memories.
How did you two meet?
AW: Even though Naomi comes from a different church district than I do, we both attended the same Amish school. We were married in 2004. We have been blessed with seven children. We are very happy together.
What does a normal day look like in your family?
AW: I work as a handyman and carpenter. We have a good sized vegetable farm and I also build furniture.
Naomi Weaver (NW): I take care of our children and tend a large garden, with the help of the older children.
Tell us about Amish life.
AW: There are many things that I appreciate about being raised Amish. I’m glad that we don’t know everything that is going on in the world. Some people are so consumed by who is president and politicaI things and the television. I like the close families and simplicity that we were raised with. I love horses. Nothing against cars, but given a choice between an auto and my horse, I would prefer the horse [laughs]. I also like the fact we would help each other in the community. We had a lot of fellowship.
NW: I liked the Amish life style. I liked the family community. With all the problems in the world, we kind of created our own world.
How did you learn about the Adventist message?
AW: We had a neighbor that was an atheist. One day he sold his property and I was helping him clean his barn out. He said that a Seventh-day Adventist had purchased the farm. I didn’t know what that was. I was curious to meet them. One day my older brother met these Adventist people. He was pleased to learn that these people believe in the Ten Commandments, and New Testament Communion. They gave him a tract on Daniel and Revelation from Amazing Facts. My brother and I both read the tract and liked it. We compared it with the Bible; there was no question it was true. Later, they gave us a copy of the Desire of Ages. I love to read and had a hard time putting it down at first, but it began to trouble me. I would read the book, and then put it down and go outside and walk around the house. I was thinking.
What were you thinking about?
AW: I was thinking this is going to cost a lot if I accept it. This is so powerful it demands change in my life. I was taught the Ten Commandments as a boy and then I discovered that I was violating one of them. I realized that this book was going to take us somewhere. So I avoided the book for a while. I feared that change might bring strife to my family.
NW: I was here by his side. We read the book together—sometimes Andy would read it to me. I agreed that it was truth, but I was also fearful what it might mean for us.
How long did you wrestle with God over the Advent Message?
AW: About a year. There were times when I wanted to turn back. Thank God He did not let us turn back. I got to the point where I felt trapped. It began to affect my life too. I lost a good bit of weight. I had no peace and was under stress. Naomi was part of my burden; I worried how this might affect her and our marriage.
NW: People thought Andy had a disease. I was fearful for him and our family.
Then what happened?
AW: A year after reading the Desire of Ages I reached a turning point. I was Amish on the outside, but my heart was Adventist. My father and a brother came to visit me. They had watched me carefully for a year. They questioned my loyalty that night. My father tried to talk me out of leaving the Amish community. I made my decision. I decided I was going to leave the Amish church. I was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist church. Peace filled my life.
Were there any Scriptures that became special to you during this time?
AW: Yes. Mark 7:7, “In vain they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” And John 12:35 “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going.” These verses still mean a lot to me.
How are your children adjusting to the change in your life?
AW: I have a funny story. Our children went to Amish school last year. One day while the students were reciting the Ten Commandments, after reciting the 4th commandment, the teacher turned and looked at our children. They were thinking about it in a new way.
How did the change affect your marriage?
AW: God protected us. What we went through strengthened our appreciation for each other. It improved our family; made it better. Prayer became real to us. We get in a circle and pray together. We have Bible study together.
NW: I always had hope. I had to rely on God and believe that He will work it out. My faith was weak at times, but God would help us through.
Have you lost any friends because of your change?
AW: Many people we thought were friends became enemies. I know circumstances changed--they have to shun us. We have gained new friends--lots of them. I learned that people who you can relate to spiritually become better friends.
What will you do now?
AW: We have a burden to reach souls with the Advent Message. We also have a burden for the Anabaptist people. Some Amish are distrustful of their leaders. We want to help them find hope and peace in the Bible. We live in a changing world and Jesus is coming again. I believe the world is starting to shake. I believe it is happening in the Adventist church too. Some people want the blood of Christ, but not His righteousness. Two groups are emerging in the world. To reach people we are starting a ministry called West Salem Mission in Northern Ohio.
What needs do you have?
AW: Number one, prayer for Gods leading. Also that He would open doors for us to share the everlasting gospel to people. Some of this will require transportation. We would like to buy a fifteen passenger van for this.
(A special fund has been set up for those who wish to contribute to the West Salem Mission.)
The Amish need many things that we have; what can Adventists learn from your life story?
AW: Each of us can benefit from a wholesome simpler lifestyle. Some Adventists could also benefit from the Amish work ethic, spiritual fellowship, and family. Also helping each other more. An Amish proverb says, “You don’t know a person until you break a sweat with them.”
It’s been a real pleasure getting to know you both. Do you have any parting words for us?
AW: Yes. We must preach and live the everlasting gospel. All people are coming to a concrete wall--they are going have to make a decision how to get over the wall. The question is will I follow the Commandments of God or the traditions of men? We want to cast our crowns at Jesus’ feet.
May God help us to learn from our mistakes and other people’s mistakes. My experience taught me a lot about God’s patience. At times I would pull back and then God would draw me to Him with mercy and truth. I’m not a special person--the Lord is. The time is short and people will be safe if their heart is right.