Then on a Sunday near Christmas during the Gulf War of the early 1990’s, something happened that elevated their concerns. During the regular church service, military color guard carrying rifles marched in formation up the center aisle of the church. They took position between the altar and the pews, and they led the parishioners in patriotic songs.
“It was very troubling,” Tricia says. “We talked about it in the car on the way home.” Tricia proclaims a love for her country, but her religious beliefs guide her here. “What really bothered me is that my Christian nephew could be called up to go to another country and kill another Christian, or worse, kill a non-Christian who won’t go to heaven.”
About this same time, the couple began wanting to move to the countryside—maybe find a small school for their kids, or maybe home school—so they bought land in Michigan’s Thumb. Bill designed the house and bought lumber from an Amish man who ran a sawmill in Gladwin, near a cottage the Moser family has owned since the 1950’s.
Bill had noticed the Amish moving to the Gladwin countryside in the late 1970’s. “I saw fallow land being farmed again, decrepit farmhouses being fixed up,” he says. “And I noticed that the people made do with what they had.”
One time Bill was canoeing down a narrow river near Gladwin, and a massive Belgian draft horse crashed out of the shoreline thicket. It splashed across the river directly in front of him, and then disappeared on the other side. The horse was an Amish workhorse, and looking back on the moment—the tight quarters of the river, the water, the tremendous, muscular presence of the horse careening by, then vanishing—it’s tempting to think of the event as a foreshadowing of the force that the Amish would play in his life.
The Amish sawmill owner, Joni Mast, was a lifelong Amish, friendly and curious about the Mosers and their Christian beliefs. “He gave me a statement of their faith. It looked like what I believed in, nothing there that would look strange to most Christians,” Bill says. He especially liked the Amish idea that daily acts—the moment by moment things we do—not words, are the true expression of faith.
“If I shake somebody’s hand and say, ‘God be with you,’ and then walk away, what have I really done?” he says. For Bill the statement of faith put to rest concerns that the Amish community is a cult.