Writing about conservative Mennonites has been an interesting journey. While my books are usually linked with Amish fiction, there are marked differences between the Mennonites and the Amish. In fact, disagreements in doctrinal issues led to a split in the Mennonite Church in 1693. Led by a man named Jacob Amman, a group of Mennonite believers left the denomination, and formed what we know as the Amish Church. This group held tight to some traditions that many in the Mennonite Church no longer followed.
In my book, Deadly Echoes, I addressed one such change in the long-held beliefs of the Mennonite Church. Instrumental music is still not included in most Amish services, but some conservative Mennonite churches have opened the door to gifted musicians desiring to use their God-given gift to praise their Savior. In Deadly Echoes, there are two churches in the small town of Sanctuary, Missouri. One church is conservative Mennonite, and the other is non-denominational (Agape Fellowship). I created an atmosphere there I would like to see, where churches with different beliefs that can still treat each other with respect, reach out in love, and focus on their similarities. I believe that, as Christians, the most important link we have with one another is our love for God and our belief in salvation through Jesus Christ.
After a conversation with Jonathon Weise, the pastor of Agape Fellowship, Pastor Jacob Troyer addresses his Mennonite congregation with these words: “Why would God find instruments pleasant in Old Testament times and then suddenly not want them anymore? We must remember that the division between the Old Testament and New Testament was added by men. Even though we are now under grace through Jesus Christ, the story of God is seamless. We must not elevate traditions over the nature of God. There is nothing evil about instruments used to praise the name of the Lord.”
Of course, change can be difficult. Some of the older members of the Sanctuary Mennonite Church weren’t sure about the addition of a young guitar player, but Henry Schultz won them over with his gentle accompaniment. In the end, even the oldest member was seen to smile when Henry began to softly strum his guitar.
Writing this scene wasn’t difficult because Mennonite beliefs are broader and have changed through the years. I’ve always respected brilliant Amish authors because of their dedication to research. I’m actually working on an Amish series now and am realizing how difficult it is to “write it right.”
The more I learn about these two fascinating cultures, the more I find reasons to appreciate them. Why are readers drawn to “bonnet books?” I believe it’s because we’ve discovered a profound message in the teaching of simplicity. In a world full of too much noise, too many distractions, and too many voices, the idea of simplifying our lives is something we can all relate to. I know I’ve taken the message to heart, and I suspect many other readers and writers have made changes in their lives because of what they’ve learned from these gentle, plain people.
Nancy Mehl lives in Festus, Missouri with her husband, Norman, and her very active puggle, Watson. She’s authored over 21 books and is currently at work on her newest series for Bethany House Publishing. Her latest release is Deadly Echoes.
All of Nancy’s novels have an added touch – something for your spirit as well as your soul. “I welcome the opportunity to share my faith through my writing,” Nancy says. “God is number one in my life. I wouldn’t be writing at all if I didn’t believe that this is what He’s called me to do. I hope everyone who reads my books will walk away with the most important message I can give them: God is good, and He loves you more than you can imagine. He has a good plan for your life, and there is nothing you can’t overcome with His help.”
Purchase Nancy’s books here.