Ex-Amish back on TV with new series
By Janese Silvey of The Daily Columbia Tribune, Columbia, Missouri
Monday, April 30, 2012
A Columbia man who left his Amish roots and now helps others do the same is back on the small screen.
Moses Gingerich is the star of a 10-episode series, "Amish: Out of Order," on the National Geographic Channel. The program airs at 9 p.m. Tuesdays.
Dubbed by the cable channel as the "de facto mayor of the ex-Amish community in Columbia," Gingerich serves as a mentor for Amish teens trying to explore the outside world. He not only helps them escape when they reach out to him, Gingerich also helps them find work and stay out of trouble when they're here. Some ultimately decide to return to their communities, making Columbia a sort of revolving door for Amish.
The latest series highlights the challenges the teens face when they get here. Not only do they struggle with leaving family members and questions of faith; they also have to adapt to a new, modern world.
In tomorrow's episode, for instance, an ex-Amish teenager gets his driver's license but then has a car crash that lands him in the hospital. Making matters worse, according to an online preview, is that he doesn't get support from his family, including his father, who tells him he would have spent eternity in hell had he died.
Gingerich has provided the public with a rare glimpse of Amish life for years. After leaving his own community in Wisconsin, he was one of the stars of "Amish in the City," a one-season reality show that aired on UPN in 2004.
Two years ago, he worked with the National Geographic Channel to produce two specials on the Amish life.
The main reason Gingerich said he is willing to work with media to highlight his life is to show ex-Amish they aren't alone.
"I wanted to leave the Amish for many, many years and couldn't and wouldn't because I had no support," he said. "No one was there to tell me, 'It's OK.' There are hundreds of thousands of Amish kids in that same boat."
Gingerich's story caught the eye of North Carolina author Alice Wisler, a Christian author who works with Bethany House Publishers. That's the same company that publishes Beverly Lewis, best known for her dozens of novels about Amish life.
Wisler said she was inspired by Gingerich's willingness to provide an alternate view of a life she feels has been somewhat glorified.
"There's so much more to the Amish than what people choose to believe," she said. "It was refreshing to hear that he was viewing his Amish life differently than what you usually hear when you're reading fiction about Amish."
Gingerich has since become inspiration for Wisler's latest book, Still Life in Shadows, which revolves around a character who left the Amish and helps others escape, including his brother. The book is set to be released in August.
Gingerich wasn't familiar with the book when asked about it but wasn't surprised. He hears from countless other non-Amish people who have read or watched his story.
"Many people in the outside world can relate to my story about how difficult it was for me to make a jump on my own," he said. "I'm not anything special, I just tell my life story, and it inspires people. And if I can inspire people, why the hell not?"
Reach Janese Silvey at 573-815-1705 or e-mail email@example.com.
This article was published on page A8 of the Monday, April 30, 2012 edition of The Columbia Daily Tribune with the headline "Ex-Amish back on television: Columbia man's efforts followed." Click here to Subscribe.