March 26, 2019
*Article Forward: What follows is that of an expanded version of one of the larger messages I was honored to deliver at a recent conference among Amish in northern Indiana. As the reader may have access to multiple Internet window sessions while reading this article, I encourage you to consider playing the instrumental soaking worship video above, as a worshipful backdrop to what unfolds within this article.
This morning, awakening from an exhausting 12-hour trek between 4 airports the day before, and ending with retiring to bed at 01:00 a.m., I reflect upon yet another chapter of sweet ministry and fellowship among Amish of northern Indiana, southern Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Montana—who convened for a collective 7 meetings over a 5-day period. This being my 12th occasion to co-labor and minister among my precious Amish family abroad, and that over a 12-year period to date; I am truly blessed to be a part of what I have witnessed unfolding within the Amish nationally—an Amish Awakening.
I flash-back to the Summer of 1991, and an early Saturday morning, a morning in which I felt drawn to the countryside to spend time in isolation, to process all that I had been experiencing of God in recent months—a season of major measures of God’s love, mercy, compassion, kindness and healing power amidst the ministry “camp” of which I belonged at the time. I was serving a “church planter’s internship” in the Ohio Valley region, within a very large congregation experiencing explosive growth within a much larger ministry experiencing equally explosive growth, and which was impacting the world with God’s love and His power to heal. It was not uncommon for me to spend 5 days a week on campus, ministering in a variety of capacities, yet in all capacities witnessing truly mind-numbing measures of God’s raw presence—melting hearts and setting captives free—to in turn embrace Jesus.
On this Summer morning, 28 years ago at this juncture, I headed east and into deep farm country in eastern Ohio. During this season in my life I found myself ushered into a very fluid flow of the Revelatory (Spiritual) Gifts, through which it seemed God’s Kingdom had become a far more vivid and tangible reality than my natural surroundings. Every day held for me what might best be described as a spiritual safari wrought with high-risk activities—which were readily met with high-anointing encounters. And so, with my spiritual circuit-board on system-overload (in a good way), I needed to get into the countryside, away from all the activity, as exciting as it was, and simply be still for a day—perhaps in an effort to come back down to planet earth.
Deep into farm country Ohio, after having driven aimlessly for several hours, I pulled over to the side of the road to investigate a very inviting cluster of roadside stands adorned with produce, baked goods and homemade furniture. Within a matter of minutes I had amassed an armful of fresh Amish baked goods, which I had planned to devour as I further headed into the country. Placing the baked goods on the counter, I looked momentarily into the eyes of the Amishman manning the cash register. He had already been looking into my eyes, and our eyes locked for a good 3 seconds or so, far longer than most strangers would typically make eye contact, and especially so between Amish and the “Englishers” (i.e., anyone non-Amish). I recall in those moments feeling as if time had stood still, as everything immediately thereafter appeared to unfold in slow motion. As well, it seemed as if all sound had been silenced, even as I engaged a brief verbal exchange with the Amishman.
Moments later I walked to my car, unloaded my goods in the seat next to me, and went to turn the ignition, when I then felt prodded to sit back in my seat and close my eyes. I then experienced a very familiar presence of the Holy Spirit filling my car. I sat there for a very long time, silent, and simply staring into a field within the adjacent Amish farm. I wound up sitting there for a very long time, so long that the Amish family began closing down their roadside business for the day. I recall walking back to the Amishman I had met earlier in the day, and shaking his hand I re-introduced myself, and asked if he would mind that I take a walk about the property. He simply smiled, like he did when I had met him earlier, and said, “Sure, enjoy yourself.”
As I paced about on this Amish property and ultimately leaned upon a fence rail housing horses, I heard the musical “clop…clop…clop” of Amish horse-n-buggy, moving near me. I felt a very deep stirring in the spirit, and a quickening which told me I had stumbled upon something that would be of great significance down the road—something which would become a significant part of my journey.
As I ultimately left the property, rather than head back toward home, which was a long drive, I headed yet deeper into Amish farm country. As I laid eyes upon buildings which I knew inwardly to be Amish church meeting places (large barns), I began to see enormous purple-colored hearts—beating inside the buildings. It was as if I were seeing through the walls, with spiritual x-ray, to then see an enormous, suspended and beautifully-purple heart, beating in real time. I knew that each time I saw these visions of hearts I was witnessing God’s deep love for the Amish—for the Amish nation in its entirety—and His longing to reveal the fullness of His heart to them—and ultimately through them.
While it can be argued that “God is no respecter of persons” (e.g., Romans 2:11), it can equally be argued that He deals with various people groups uniquely. After all, He is the Author of creativity.
As I returned home that evening, I resumed ministry engagements with a multitude of people, in many directions. All the while however, I would never forget what happened to me, in my heart, in Amish country. I would go on to pray for the Amish around the country; that my world would one day meet theirs—my world being one trademarked at the time by pressing into the ebb-and-flow of the Holy Spirit’s movement about me from one moment to the next—a 24-hour adventure, every day. And, I prayed that their world would meet mine—their world characterized by their near-complete detachment from an extremely carnal and stressful contemporary rat race.
It would not be until some 16 years later, in 2007, that I would again shake the hand of an Amishman. I had been invited to speak and minister at a conference hosted by the Amish of Libby Montana, a conference simply entitled “The Gift of Prophecy.” Upon meeting Amish Bishop Ben Girod and his wife Barbara, I experienced a flash-back to the encounter of 1991—as the Holy Spirit then connected the divine dots.
In an instant, and as I looked into Ben and Barbara’s eyes, in their home, I knew that there would be a significant work ahead of me with this dear couple—and a much broader Amish family at large. I recall seeing profound humility, great authority, and very tender wounds as I looked into the eyes of both of these dear saints. In that moment I simply laid hands on them and asked the Lord to permeate them with a healing balm. It would be not long following, that I would learn of the lifelong baptism of fire which had trademarked Ben and Barbara’s lives. I would later discover that Ben and Barbara’s lives had constituted the re-writing of Amish history, as they so carried the torch of Holy Spirit fire which follows those who have been radically transformed by an encounter with Jesus, and a subsequent baptism into the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
As torch-bearers, both Ben and Barbara would spend half a century blazing a trail with Holy Spirit fire—through a treacherous jungle of religiosity, opposition, rebuke, accusation, condemnation, slander and character assassination. They had truly walked through the “refiner’s fire,” and had emerged crowned with kingdom jewels, from head to toe. I recall seeing in their hearts, divine treasure chests of purity, humility, truth and revelation—to include the revelation of God’s unfathomable love for the very people who had figuratively crucified them for nearly half a century at that juncture.
As time would unfold I would come to know many more Amish of Libby Montana, Bonners Ferry Idaho, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Shipshewana Indiana, and more recently southern Kentucky. Equally I would meet many Mennonites from far and wide, to include Russian Mennonites and Old Order German Baptist Brethren (Old Order German Baptist Brethren consider themselves “Pietists,” distinct form Anabaptists, yet their outward “plain” dress is quite similar, as well as the primary foundations of their beliefs and theology). I would go on to co-labor with many of these Anabaptists, within 3 truly life-changing missions to Israel over a 4 year span. It would also be during this span that I would learn of the additional re-writing of Anabaptist history as Ben would spearhead major reconciliation efforts and corresponding conferences with the Reformed Church of Switzerland; the First Nations Peoples (Native Americans); and the Jewish Nation—Israel. Many truly history-changing conferences and ceremonies unfolded within an approximate span of perhaps 20 years, through current date.
Perhaps the most heart-wrenching and boldest of Ben Girod’s undertakings in the 12 years that I have co-labored with him, was that of his solo national tour of the U.S., in seeking out Amish leaders who had persecuted him over nearly half a century, and to bless them and ask for their forgiveness for having offended them with his witness. It was as he labored in this posture of truly profound humility, that his lifetime effort as a Kingdom torch-bearer among the Amish, with Barbara at his side, to include the close support of his immediate and extended family in Libby Montana, unlocked and unleashed sweeping Holy Spirit visitation upon the Amish nation abroad. At this juncture, and as of this writing, many pockets of Old Order Amish are emerging to inquire of what it means to be born-again, to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, and to discover the Spirit-filled life in Christ.
As I reflect upon Ben and Barbara’s lives, and I see the testimonies within the lives of their children, and their extended families among Spirit-filled Amish, I am reminded of why it is that the Book of Job was placed within the pages of Scripture. Most readily refer to Job as a conversational plumb line for placing their personal sufferings in context—wholly missing the deeper truth that Job’s life is a portrait of the level of refining fire required of each of us—if we contend to walk in the fullness of End-Times apostolic authority and power. We must be willing, and determined, like Job, to remain faithful to the very end—amidst the vicious and brutal stripping of our carnal nature, to such the degree that all that is left is that of our faith in an omniscient and omnipotent God.
There are many whom I’ve met within the Amish Nation abroad, who share similar stories of having been shunned, banned and ultimately figuratively crucified by a wildfire of slander within their communities, as they have, while being Spirit-led, dared to question or challenge the dragon of legalism—one of the more toxic tentacles of the Religious Spirit. Yet the tip of the spear, of these history-changing forerunners, remains Ben and Barbara Girod, of Libby Montana.
As there have been so many within contemporary Anabaptist history that have fueled the flames of the return to the original fire which propelled the Anabaptist forefathers, it would be very difficult to account for them all. Many names readily come to mind however, to include present Amish and Mennonite families in Montana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky. Laterally, and of great importance to mention, is that of one critical-Kingdom-lynchpin which served to “unlock a door which no man can shut” (Rev. 3:8), and which further enabled and empowered Ben and Barbara Girod to facilitate the rapid spread of Holy Spirit visitation among Anabaptists throughout the nation, and beyond, was that of an apostolic couple within the Reformed Church of Switzerland, who emerged to engage restoration within the epicenter of a historical divide between the same and Anabaptists abroad—most pointedly the Amish and Mennonite.
The apostolic couple who served this critical-Kingdom-lynchpin role, and a role which added yet another colorful chapter to the unfolding history of the Anabaptist Nation, is that of Geri and Lilo Keller of Stiftung Schleife Ministries based in Switzerland, and which impacts the globe in its ongoing efforts to equip, build-up and empower the Body of Christ universal (please see photo of Geri and Lilo Keller, below).
In more recent years, Andreas and Stephanie Keller (son and daughter-in-law), have transitioned into the role of ministry oversight of Stiftung Schleife (please see photo of Andreas and Stephanie, below).
In so listening to and absorbing the many stories among Amish who have left the Old Order in the 12 years that I have been co-laboring and monitoring the heartbeat of the same, I have observed many heart-wrenching transitions which have initially appeared to invite the potential for a dangerous posture of bitterness to ensue. With rare exception however, most of these emerging have boldly chosen to forgive, and to rather bless their Amish heritage, while knowing that in doing so they both free themselves and their persecutors.
If the reader has tarried with me thus far, perhaps the reader will in this moment discern and embrace the heart of the Father, by understanding that the Old Order Amish are moving in no greater measure of the Religious Spirit than most of the mainline Christian denominations in the West, presently. To therefore characterize the present Old Order Amish as religious villains is to grossly overlook what is actually precious among Old Order Amish culture. For I have observed that because the Amish have been historically removed and detached from metropolitan and cosmopolitan life, they have been preserved and insulated from the defilement which contemporary American culture has to offer—defilement which, at this juncture, is toxic at more levels than can be defined, and which has intoxicated much of the Church in the West. As the result of the centuries-old detachment from larger society, there remains an inherent quietness, gentleness, humility and purity among the Old Order Amish, which has been preserved through the centuries. Equally so, I have come to find beauty in the “plain” dress of the Old Order. While it is true that many points of legalism have long monitored, policed and dictated such the “plain” dress, conversely it is beautiful in contrast to the endless and growing perversions of contemporary fashion here in the West.
My heart, which I believe reflects the Father’s Heart in this, is that God’s love would permeate and envelop the Amish nation in its entirety—right where they are—and in so doing would redeem the early beginnings of the Anabaptist movement of 300-plus years ago. The early Holy Spirit fire which fueled Menno Simon and Jacob Ammon, and which empowered their visions has not been quenched, for it is the blood of the Anabaptist martyrs crying-out for centuries, at this stage, which has been answered, and which has been re-ignited in the form of torch-bearers such as Ben and Barbara Girod, and the subsequent Spirit-filled generations now walking in the fullness of the knowledge of their rich Anabaptist heritage—combined with the richness of the knowledge of their inheritance as sons and daughters of God. This, in full measure, is what I believe our Father God longs to impart to all Old Order Amish—right where they are—and in so doing not to call them away from their communities, districts, farms, etc., but to rather beautify the same—for the world to see.
While in Shipshewana this time around, 1 day ago, as of this writing, and as I observed Spirit-filled Amish from 5 geographic pockets in the U.S. converge for several days, to simply seek the voice of God, it became increasingly clear to me, on Day-4 most pointedly, that the cries of the blood of the Anabaptist martyrs had released a deposit of heaven on earth, now evidenced in the fervor and passion among the young, who are not only being raised in many redeeming and beautiful components of Amish tradition, but who are also laying hold of the fullness of life in Christ Jesus, and the empowerment of baptism in the Holy Spirit. I am fully convinced that the early Anabaptists had encountered the same Holy Spirit fire which graced the pages of the second chapter of the Book of Acts. Through the centuries however, doctrine, theology, orthodoxy, the traditions of men, and the dragon of the Religious Spirit, has managed to quench such the fire—until now.
It was while ministering within my first conference among the Amish of Libby Montana, in 2007, that Pastor Lloyd Miller (and wife Maryetta) invited me to spend a night in his home, to include the invitation to use his prayer room, should the mood strike during the night. The mood stuck—at 03:33 a.m. – a time at which the Lord has awakened me on several hundred occasions, since 09-09-2009. It was then that I arose from a deep stupor and staggered into Lloyd’s prayer room. I stood there in the darkness, looking out and into the surrounds of his property, while so appreciating the lighthouse-like structure of his prayer room. I began praying in the Spirit, and immediately recall a vivid vision of a century-old train yard turntable (please see photos, below).
Within these century-old circular train yards was the ingenious method of utilizing a circular turntable, within a circular warehousing concept, which in turn enabled locomotives to deliver boxcars and thereafter hook-up to new boxcars, whereby the locomotive was figuratively both “imparting” and “receiving” goods to go in a myriad of directions throughout the country—and beyond.
I knew while seeing this image in the vision, precisely what it meant. It spoke to what was to transpire among the Amish of Libby Montana in the years to come—locomotives symbolizing ministries and congregations, imparting and receiving impartation, while being duly watered by the Amish. I have since begun to see the same vision over many concentrations of Amish throughout the country, wherein and whereby Amish throughout the country would begin to regularly cross-pollinate and water one another, not unlike that depicted within these train yard turntables, in turn enabling the collective to impart to the larger Body of Christ in the West—and beyond.
It is most interesting to note that the warehouses surrounding the circular train yard turntables are circular as well. Thus, we can readily see the concept of “a wheel within a wheel.”
It would be some 3 years later, while accompanying the Amish-Mennonite team on a Repentance Mission to Israel in 2010, that I would experience a very similar vision, and while visiting “Nahalal” – a massive Israeli kibbutz situated west of Nazareth, in northern Israel—on land named-after and originally occupied-by a branch of the ancient Tribe of Levi. Our Amish-Mennonite team had been invited to dine with the senior hosts of Nahalal, a true honor for us. They treated us very graciously. It was as I sat at the enormously long table over dinner that I began to stare at the wall opposite me, and feel once again the familiar encounter of 03:33 a.m. in Lloyd Miller’s prayer room, in Libby Montana, in 2007.
After dinner our entourage walked much of the grounds of the epicenter of Nahalal. I was thoroughly amazed at the planning and interweaving of the massively circular community. It appeared they had very accurately emulated what I have long-envisioned of the Acts chapter two community. It was then not until returning to the U.S. from this trip, that I would learn why I felt such the powerful spiritual symbiosis between Nahalal Kibbutz and my vision of the train yard in Libby Montana some 3 years previous (please see aerial photos of Nahalal Israel, below).
Recall the very evident construct of the “wheel within a wheel” of the century-old train yards and their turn tables. We see the very same construct within the Nahalal Kibbutz, reflecting an interior, circular road, and a much larger, outer circular road. We also see a thriving community of many hundreds of dwellers, living in harmony, with singularity and commonality of purpose.
With these images in view, hold onto such for a moment, and also ponder that in all of Scripture, nothing has spoken to me more profoundly of the ideal of church life, than that depicted and beautifully described in Acts 2:42-47, wherein the early church is characterized as follows:
“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who believed were together and had all things in common…day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved (NASB).”
At the epicenter of the many Amish communities I presently see emerging into the Spirit-filled life, and who are adorned with the Holy Spirit’s leading, is this divine formula within chapter two of the Book of Acts. I envision this dynamic weaving and knitting together these communities nationwide, to form singleness of vision and purpose, to ultimate equate to very strategic and critical advance within the Body of Christ—as the same is imparted to the larger Church in the West collectively.
While it is true that the Church in Ephesus may more beautifully recount the maturation of the early church, it yet remains for me the Church of Acts chapter two, in their bold infancy, which speaks most profoundly of what we of the contemporary Church should strive to obtain and experience.
Recall the apparent concept of the “wheel within a wheel” as we looked upon the aerial views of both train yard turntables and the Israeli kibbutz community of Nahalal. I see the Spirit-filled Amish presently emerging throughout the nation as a wheel—within the larger wheel of the Body of Christ in the West. What is emerging from the Amish, nationwide, is the fulfillment of centuries of prayer rooted in Mathew chapter 6, and most pointedly verse 10, which reads:
“Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (NASB).
It is once again, the Father’s heart, that His “kingdom come…on earth” – amidst the Old Order Amish, thus releasing the fullness of His habitation therein, rather than the need for those steadily leaving the same, to find the fullness of His habitation outside the Old Order Amish. For while it is true that the Old Order is steeped in orthodoxy, tradition and legalism, it is once again no different than most mainline Christian denominations in this regard. And, more importantly, it is the subject of ‘round-the-clock intercession for the unveiling of the Father’s Heart, in their midst.
The Holy Spirit longs to regularly inhabit each and every authentic move and stream of God, however within this discussion we presently focus upon the beauty and richness of Anabaptist heritage and its unique and original expression of God-breathed revelation—centuries ago. It is very apparent to me at this juncture, that God is once again breathing revelation into the Amish, and re-igniting the fire which fueled and propelled Menno Simon and Jacob Ammon so long ago. It is my believe that both Menno Simon and Jacob Ammon met with pure Holy Spirit revelation in their day, and had perpetual and very personal experiences and encounters with the ebb and flow of the Spirit-filled life—which we may never read in book form. My conviction in this regard is rooted in having prayed for the Amish for 28 years at this juncture. Herein lay a mystery within the ministry of Intercession, for it is as we intercede at length for a person, or persons, or a conglomerate of persons, that we are often given or granted divine glimpses into things not seen in the natural. So it is, and was, with the early Mennonites and Amish, via the divine glimpses I have been given, in and through ardent prayer.
As we revisit the imagery of “a wheel within a wheel,” symbolizing the “wheel” of what is stirring among the Amish, within the larger “wheel” of the Body of Christ in the West, perhaps we do well to visit Ezekiel’s vision of same within the Book of Ezekiel, chapter 1, verses 15 thru 20, and namely verse 20, which reads:
“Wherever the spirit was about to go, they would go in that direction. And the wheels rose close beside them; for the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels” (NASB).
As I imagine “a wheel within a wheel,” I picture two wheels, inserted within one another, at right-angles, enabling the subsequent formation to roll in any direction. This imagery speaks to me of God’s omniscience and omnipotence—to move in any direction and at any time. And, it is His omniscience which I presently see invading and stirring the Old Order Amish—thus rekindling the flame of those who have gone before—centuries previous—carrying the Anabaptist torch—the same torch which was given to Ben and Barbara Girod—to impart to the 21st century Church.
In recent months, and that leading up to the recent conference in Shipshewana, I found myself on government contracting business walking the beaches of Corpus Christi Texas (my home state, presently), on the Padre Island National Seashore, in the early evenings. At close of business I would quickly make a B-line to the beach, with several loaves of bread in-hand, to walk along the beach and feed the many seabirds. In so doing I identified 3 distinct breeds of seagulls and 3 distinct breeds of sandpipers, to include blue herons, cranes, storks, hawks, and a host of other magnificent birds adorning the Padre Island National Seashore—the more secluded and untamed strand of barrier island and seashore within the southern outskirts of Corpus Christi.
While praying in the Spirit as the sun would go down on this seemingly endless strand of desolate beach, and with an army of seagulls and sandpipers in-tow, following my bread trail, I would repeatedly hear the words, “Body of Christ…Body of Christ…Body of Christ.” It was not until several days of walking-out this pattern, that I was reminded by the Holy Spirit that Corpus Christi, in Latin, means literally, “Body of Christ.” And so, here I was, praying in the Spirit, on the seashore named a few centuries ago by those seafaring pioneers and explorers who chose to call the immediate surrounds, “the Body of Christ.” As I then continued to pray in the Spirit on the beaches of Corpus Christi, I realized I was in fact interceding for the “wheel within a wheel” – the Amish—who are rapidly emerging as a torch which will enlighten the whole of the Body of Christ in the West—and beyond—as they collectively discover the richness of their heritage—a heritage birthed by a revelation of the Kingdom of God—fueled by the blood of the early Anabaptist martyrs—and now being made manifest on earth, as it is in heaven.