And there was something else about Joni Mast’s life that made a big impression on the Mosers. They saw that the man’s children were with the parents throughout the day. The family did not have the 10- or 12-hour daily separation between children and parents that many American families accept as a part of 21st-century existence—babies dropped off at daycare at 6:30 a.m. and picked up at 6:30 p.m.
“I’d been thinking for a long time that I wanted to shrink my world, create a life where work, recreation, family and religion were all one, a whole, not so fragmented,” he says. Bill went home and looked up Amish in the encyclopedia. He learned that the Amish were part of the Anabaptist Reformation and had been around since the 1600’s.
Bill and Tricia’s curiosity kept drawing them closer to the Amish as the months went by. The couple hired Amish builders to frame their home in the Thumb. Eventually they visited the farm of a family that had recently left mainstream life and joined an Amish community in Manton, just north of Cadillac. The visit remains one of the most memorable points in Bill and Tricia’s journey.
It was a fall day, and the Moser family—by now five children, the oldest 12, the youngest an infant—pulled up to Alfred Gingerich’s home about the time of evening chores. Gingerich and his 10 children were in the barn milking cows by hand. The barn was a traditional barn with the cows tied in their stalls in the lower level. Bill remembers the children carrying milk pails through the barn and dumping them into the bulk tank. He remembers the sound of the milk pinging into the metal pail, the smell of silage mixed with the scent of cows and straw and manure. He remembers the family singing. One of the children would start a song, and the others would join in on old English hymns.
“These people were together as a family, enjoying each others’ company,” Bill says. “This was the vision I had for my family, their work, their religion and life all integrated together.”
The Amish call converts to their faith “Seekers,” and the term seemed so remarkably apt for the Mosers. Bill and Tricia drove to Ovid to enter the Amish life in 1999. “We pulled up in the driveway with a rental truck and there were about a half dozen families there to help us unload,” Bill says. He returned the truck and drove back to Ovid, and that was the last time he drove a car.
The Mosers had considered their decision a multitude of times, had prayed for direction, had a clear understanding of what they were doing, but still there have been moments when they’ve doubted the decision to become Amish.