The Paradox of Worldly Knowledge

I’ve been enjoying the gathering of stories from former Amish people who have acquired formal education after leaving their respective communities.

Today I’ll share a story of a former Amish couple in Holmes County, Ohio: Wayne and LaVina Weaver. I first met them at the Amish Conference at the Young Center in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania in 2007. Since then we’ve enjoyed wonderful conversations and they were gracious enough to host David and me for an overnight visit at their beautiful home.

Wayne Weaver is the author of the memoir Dust Between My Toes about the journey from his Amish childhood to becoming a medical doctor. I hope LaVina will someday write her memoir, for she has done some admirable and courageous things in her life, including working as a nurse on a mission in Haiti.

Both Wayne and LaVina have remarkable life stories. With their permission, I am sharing excerpts of stories printed about them in the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, along with links to both stories.

The first article was published in the Chicago Tribune on May 16, 1997 and is still available online.

The Prodigal Physician

Returning To The Country Roads Of His Birth, An Amish Son Relearns The Art Of Visiting

MILLERSBURG, Ohio — Playing daily in the emergency room of the local hospital is a real-life soap opera that might well be titled “You Can Go Home Again.” One recent afternoon, Dr. Wayne Weaver, who sews up the lacerations and sets the broken bones that come through the ambulance-service doors, was tending to a bearded young man wearing the 18th Century European peasant garb favored by the huge local Amish community. The man had a nasty cut below his knee, the product of too close an encounter with a chain saw.

“Who are your parents?” asked Weaver, 59. But before the young man could answer, Weaver repeated the question in the old German dialect the Amish speak among themselves. “Vir sind di eldra?” The young man seemed startled to hear Pennsylvania Dutch, as it’s called, coming from the mouth of this clean-shaven professional man wearing contemporary clothes. It obviously had never entered his head that a doctor could speak the language of the Amish–who are chiefly farmers and craftsmen, occasionally shopkeepers, but never professionals.

You can read the rest of the article here:

The second article was published in the Los Angeles Times on May 23, 2004

Two Worlds Fuse in Former Amish Pair

An Ohio couple who met after they left the community are valued for the knowledge they acquired by not being part of the church.

HOLMESVILLE, Ohio — When LaVina Miller Weaver chose to leave her Amish community at 17, it wasn’t a frivolous decision borne of teenage angst.

She desperately wanted to please her parents and stay true to her faith by marrying an Amish man and having seven or eight children. But she simply couldn’t ignore a tremendous desire to do something else with her life.

“I just went to them crying, ‘This is what I have to do,’ ” she said. “I wanted so much to have their blessing.”

Their reaction reflects the beliefs of a faith steeped in three centuries of tradition and teachings that admonish individuals to place community before themselves and preserve family values.

Her parents didn’t agree with her decision but respected her choice. An aunt was less understanding, refusing to eat at the same table with her.


Weaver and her husband, a doctor who also left the Amish church, offer a unique perspective as former members of the faith who are valued, paradoxically, for the worldly knowledge that they could not have gained if they were still part of the church.


“I’m sort of in a bit of awe that I returned to work with my own people in a capacity I never could have before I left,” said Weaver, 52.

She recalled the rigors of college classes and the aloofness of the students being a challenge, but said her first chemistry test brought her to tears — when it came back with an “A.”

“I couldn’t believe that I could do this,” she said. “From that time on, I became a bit of an academic… The world opened up to me.”

Read the rest of the story here.

If you enjoy the inspiration of these stories and would like to help young people find their academic path, please consider donating to the Amish Descendent Scholarship Fund. Your donations will go directly into providing Amish descendents to chart their path to formal education.

Thank you kindly for your support.

Saloma Furlong

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