Just over ten years ago, a disturbed man entered a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania and held ten young girls hostage for more than an hour. The stand-off ended in tragedy when he killed five of the girls before taking his own life.
The eyes of the nation were fixed on that small Amish community. How would these peace-loving people, who were known for their firm stance of nonviolence, respond? The answer came swiftly, and has been consistent from the outset—they chose to forgive. And not with words only. Many members of the Amish district that suffered the devastating loss reached out to the gunman’s family to express their love, sympathy, and especially their forgiveness. Across the country and even the world, people shook their heads in disbelief and confessed, “If that had been my daughter, I don’t think I could forgive her killer.”
The Amish way of life is fascinating to us Englisch for that very reason. We serve the same God, and proclaim the same Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Yet for many mainstream Christians, faith is something to profess, a church to attend, or a set of rules to follow. When tragedy—real tragedy—strikes close to home, we cover ourselves in ashes and wail, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this?”
Make no mistake—the tragedy in Nickel Mines was as keenly felt by Amish families as such a loss would be by anyone. To this day the memory is so painful that the Amish in Pennsylvania refer to the event as the Happening. Every Amish person knows what those words represent. They feel the sadness as keenly as any Englisch parent would, but they choose to bury that sadness beneath the rich soil of forgiveness.
In The Amish Widower, I explore the depths of forgiveness as interpreted by one man who suffered the pain of devastating loss at the hands of others. Seth Hostetler has the example of the Happening to draw upon, and yet still struggles to find a way to forgive those who have hurt him so deeply. All around him he sees examples on both ends of the spectrum – what happens in the lives of those who chose to forgive, and what happens to those who don’t, or who can’t. In the end, Seth discovers the same thing as any of us who truly seek answers to the hard questions—forgiveness is not a trait that comes naturally to human beings. But we have a God Who understands, and Who is ready to step in with the strength we need when ours is gone. That strength is not available exclusively to the Amish—it is there for all who seek.
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After the devastating loss of his second wife, Seth Hostetler believes a lasting love is beyond all hope. A year has passed, and his mamm and sister are determined to see him happily married once again. But how can he open his heart to another woman when their relationship could end in tragedy?
On an outing with his family, Seth comes across an Amish potter hard at work and jumps at the chance to take a seat at the wheel. He takes quickly to this creative outlet, pouring his long-buried emotions into each piece he shapes. Unfortunately, the fancy nature of his art draws the disapproval of his district’s leadership.
His work puts him in the path of Leah, an Englisch woman employed by the Amish to sell their wares to tourists. Despite her aloofness, something about her speaks to Seth’s wounded soul. But what is he to do when the things he wants most threaten to pull him away from the life he’s committed to live?
A compelling novel of second chances and the power of God to redeem hearts and dreams, set in the inviting Amish community of Lancaster County.
VIRGINIA SMITH is the bestselling author of more than thirty novels, an illustrated children’s book, and over fifty articles and short stories. An avid reader with eclectic tastes in fiction, Ginny writes in a variety of styles, from lighthearted relationship stories to breath-snatching suspense. Her books have received many awards, including two Holt Medallion Awards of Merit. The Amish Widower is the fourth installment in the Men of Lancaster County Series, the second of which won a Christy Award. Learn more about Ginny and her books at www.VirginiaSmith.org.