I am writing the true Amish story of my friends Ora Jay and Irene Eash. In one of my conversations Irene mentioned that she had a famous relative. I love this story!
The Amish are a story-telling people, and perhaps the best-known story in Amish circles is that of Jacob Hochstetler, an eighteenth-century Amish man who lived with his family on the Pennsylvania frontier. In 1757, as the French and Indian War reached their corner of the world, the Hochstetlers awoke one night to find Native Americans attacking their cabin. Two of Hochstetler’s sons, Christian and Joseph, reached for their hunting guns, but Jacob would have none of it; he forbade them to use violence. Instead, the family took refuge in the cellar. The mother, one son, and one daughter were killed. Two of the surviving sons later fathered large families, from which a sizable percentage of today’s Amish population can trace its ancestry—no doubt one of the reasons the story is so often repeated. 1
Hearing stories like this makes me consider my ancestors. Ancestors on my maternal grandfather’s side came from Kansas. They were farmers who moved to California during the Great Depression. On my maternal grandmother’s side, my great grandparents came from Mexico. They moved to California around the same time, and my grandmother grew up living in a box car. Humble beginnings for both families!
On my paternal grandmother’s side, my great-grandparents were German immigrants. Great-great-grandfather came to the United States with six nearly grown daughters, all of them over six feet tall! (That must be where I got my size 11 shoe from, even though I am only 5’6”.)
But my favorite discovery was hearing about my paternal grandfather’s family. My great-great-great-great-great grandfather was Friedrich Wyneken (1773-1863), a German missionary who became a circuit preacher, reaching out to the German immigrants in the midwest. Seeing the great need, he returned to Germany and recruited missionaries to help. He also was the first president of Concordia Theological Seminary.
Since I grew up not knowing my biological father, I was an Christian, author, and speaker before I even understood my family’s history. It made me wonder if my ancestors ever prayed for their children and children to be servants of God. They no doubt did.
What thoughts does this leave me with?
- Each of us came from amazing people and backgrounds, but it’s God who knew us before we were born (Psalm 139).
- You never know how your prayers for your children, grandchildren, and even great-great-great-great-great grandchildren will play out . . . so pray!
- Each life is precious. I’m here because others before me nurtured and celebrated life.
- How I live my life matters. My children, grandchildren, and other descendants will have record of my story; the life I live will impact generations!
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:5
Now, how about you? Who are you related to?
1 Kraybill, Donald B.; Nolt, Steven M.; Weaver-Zercher, David L. (2010-03-11). Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy (p. 103). Wiley. Kindle Edition.