We had another tour group at the historical society yesterday. The group is divided into four small groups which circlulate between three guides in the church, farm, and home sections. I put on my black Old Order Mennonite clothes and took our guests through the domestic portion of the museum.
One question that is asked frequently is if the black tie ribbons on my white cap mean I am married. They are usually surprised when I say, "No, it just means that I am over forty. " I never know what they will ask. Yesterday one of the ladies asked what is inside the pin cushions. That was one I've never been asked and had to say I did not know.
One of the men saw the wine set on display and said, "But the Mennonites and Amish don't drink, do they?" I had to be honest and admit some do. He said, "Well, maybe some of the Mennonites do, but NOT the Amish." What would you have said?
Later in the day I was working with one of the staff getting an arrowhead collection ready to be cataloged when she got a phone call. She came back and said, "The questions people ask!" The caller was a tourist who wanted to visit the Risser's Mennonite Church and wondered if the people there would be offended if they showed up in slacks. What would they think if they attended a service and found the women wearing slacks?
These two incidents made me think seriously about the difference between what we are and what the rest of the world expects of us. Although they may not do it themselves, people know we should not drink and women should wear skirts.
The Mennonite and Amish have been put on a pedestal and marketed to the world as a people who live an idyllic lifestyle. One tourist who visited the society was surprised to find the Amish country is not a vast farmland with only buggies on the road but crowded with the same commercialism they had at home. Amish do not live in a closeted community but between the Walmarts, McDonalds, Sheetz, etc. seen in any other part of the country.
Tourists are led to believe Mennonites and Amish are separate from the world and living on a higher plane of righteousness than other Christians. Not so! Mennonites and Amish are people just like everyone else. We deal with the same sin nature as our neighbors and are far from perfect. Some Mennonites have been so assimilated into the culture that they blend in and cannot be identified by their appearance. The tourist industry brings people from all parts of the world to our doors and provides an opportunity to share our faith. What does it do to our testimony when people find out we are not what they thought or know we should be?
We better clean up our act! Not just to protect our image but for our own good and for the generations that follow us.