Rumschpringe—sometimes spelled differently depending on the area—is an often misunderstood time in an Amish young person’s life. So-called “reality” shows on television have sensationalized this passage, making it sound as if Amish youth burst free of parental control and run wild.
This just doesn’t happen in most Amish communities. Sure, there are always some teens and youth in their early twenties who will test the limits. But I’ve found this is just an exaggeration on the part of the media.
Rumschpringe is an important time for everyone in the Amish community since the Amish don’t baptize their children as babies, as many people do in the Englisch world. Membership in the Amish church is a serious, lifelong commitment of faith and life in the community, so youth are encouraged to take a good look at their spiritual beliefs and their commitment to family and community.
The time period for rumschpringe can vary from community to community but it’s generally considered to be from the late teens to the early/mid-twenties. It’s a time when youth are encouraged to explore their curiosity about the Englisch world. This is when you’ll see Amish youth attending movies and other events outside their community—sometimes dressed in Englisch clothing like jeans. Of course things like rock music and yes, drinking alcohol might interest some youth because they are forbidden in their community.
In the end, statistics show that nearly ninety percent of the Amish who choose to look at whether they want to join the church do indeed take the necessary classes and make the commitment to their faith and their life in the community. Amish families—birth and extended—are so close-knit and most youth recognize they are part of the fabric of the church and would miss something if they left for the Englisch world.
The Amish Roads series (Abingdon Press) is a three-book series about young Amish in their rumschpringe. In the first book A Road Unknown, Emma finds being the eldest of nine children onerous. Sometimes she wishes she could be an only child. Then she’d have more time to herself. She wouldn’t have to constantly be looking after her younger siblings and there wouldn’t be so many chores. It would be so nice to have a life like her Englisch friend, Paula, whom she met at her part-time job at the farmer’s market. Paula is the only child of two attorneys, and seems to have it all, including her own “wheels.” Emma gets a taste of freedom each weekend when she stays with Paula and her family—and those days are the highlight of her week. She decides to take a close look at the Englisch world by sharing an apartment with Paula in a town far from her family home.
In Crossroads, the second book of this series due out the first week of August, readers meet Emma, a young Amish woman who always thought she and her childhood sweetheart would get married. But when Isaac seems to lose his way as he experiences his rumschpringe, she finds things changing very quickly. Emma longs for marriage, family, and community. She asks herself: Can a good girl reform a bad boy?
In book three, One True Path, due out early next year, readers meet Rachel Ann who is enjoying her rumschpringe by dating Michael, an Englisch man. Abram, her neighbor and best friend, watches her stray from the life he had hoped for them and regrets not telling her that his feelings for her have deepened. When her little brother is critically injured, she begins to feel a pull toward home. Leaning on Michael for support, she realizes he might not be the man she needs . . . or wants. She begins to wonder if the husband she has hoped for be waiting next door?
Read the Amish Roads series for a more accurate depiction of the true Amish rumpschpringe.
Barbara Cameron has a heart for writing about the spiritual values and simple joys of the Amish. She is the author of more than 40 fiction and nonfiction books, three nationally televised movies, and the winner of the first Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award. Barbara currently resides in Jacksonville, Florida. Find out more about Barbara at Amishliving.com.
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