My Old Order Amish friend, Naomi, (not her real name) is in much demand as a midwife—often going without sleep for long periods of time. She tells me that she is grateful for a husband who has always encouraged her in her ministry.
The use of that term is important. She and her husband do not refer to what she does as her “work” or her “job.” It is always her “ministry.” I heard such respect for her in his voice when he estimated how many babies she had delivered. “Over five hundred,” he said. Then he turned to her for affirmation. “Is that about right?” She quietly amended that she had delivered well over that number.
She is tired from helping a mother through a long labor the night before, and her legs ache. She has her feet up on a stool when she asks her husband if he will make her some mint tea. Mint tea is a favorite among the Amish, and most have a small harvest of mint from the plants they grow each summer.
Making tea at their house is a bit more complicated than popping a cup of water and a tea bag into a microwave. Water has to first be heated to boiling on a wood stove, then poured over loose mint leaves and finally strained into a clean cup. Her husband cheerfully brings each of us a mug of it.
I am a little taken aback by being waited on by an Amish man, but Naomi takes it as a matter-of-course and continues the conversation we were having about her ministry as a midwife and my ministry as a Christian writer. When her husband goes outside to feed the livestock, she takes the opportunity to discuss in some depth how blessed we are to have husbands who encourage us to do the work to which our Lord has called us. I tell her that my husband has prayed for my writing every day for over ten years. Her eyes sparkle. “My husband prays for me,too!” she says.
This gentle scenario came to mind recently when a non-Amish acquaintance asked if Amish women weren’t terribly badly treated and downtrodden by their men. I can not speak about every Amish household in the world, but one thing I know–I have seen no evidence of it in the various Old Order homes where I’ve stayed. What I’ve seen, instead, is a mutual respect that most women would envy.