Over 400 colonies of approximately 45,000 Hutterites live in Western Canada, Montana, the Dakotas and other various places. Many look at the Hutterites with awe and fascination. Their traditions, old-fashioned ways, communal lifestyle and Hutterish accent set them apart from the rest of us, but little is known about them.
Some may inaccurately depict them on tv shows and in paperback romances. Many will say one thing, yet others will say something different. Really, few know.
Nine ex-hutterites try to describe how life really was for them in their book Hutterites: Our Story to Freedom ( available online or in bookstores).
Each tell his or her story through their own eyes. They relate their struggles and victories, and their ultimate discovery - Jesus Christ.
Most of The Nine are related by blood or marriage. All left because of their faith, and some were excommunicated and forced to leave their homes in Manitoba and North Dakota. Most of the Nine live in the States now.
Though life does vary from colony to colony, they expose the basics of a Hutterite life. Some may think their story is too harsh and unjust, or overly dramatized, but those that are familiar with the Anabaptists will see just how real their stories are.
The Nine share how they each were able to find a fulfilling life, and use the gifts and talents they were given to please God, others, and still be joyful and satisfied. They take pleasure in being creative with their time and dress, and consider the little things we take for granted miracles, such as swimming, horseback riding, driving or shopping.
As they explain in their book, the jobs that each one is assigned for life in the Hutterite colonies depends on their status or relationships with those in charge. Jason Waldner, one of the nine, had always been interested in construction and graphic-design. He was not consulted or asked what he wanted to do with his life, but assigned to work in the chicken barns. Not that this job in and of itself was bad, but it was not something that fit his personality or interests.
But, as they will say, these weren’t the only reasons they left. Far from it. They said “Many youth leave to work and make money, and find freedom, and soon return.Without Jesus, you won’t have a successful life anywhere.”
The book tells how the Hutterites aren’t what they started out to be. In the 16th century, Jacob Hutter, their founder, travelled and preached, and was burned to death for doing so. Nowadays, the Hutterites do not try to share the gospel, and most consider themselves holyier than the “English” world. Also, the early founders were against drunkenness, and this now is very common among the Hutterites.
Their book is a heartfelt plea that should be heard and appreciated. They want others - Hutterites and non-Hutterites - to know that there is always another way. Sometimes it may take great sacrifice and perseverance, but in the end it is well worth it.
They hope that you will be encouraged, and maybe even be inspired to help others.
When asked if many leave the Hutterites; “Yes, especially in the last decade” said Sheryl, Karen and Cindy Waldner, three of the nine. “Two families left just this last couple of weeks.”
There will be some that will be bothered by the Nine’s decision to press a lawsuit against one of the colonies. They said “We did everything we could biblically. We tried to talk to them, but they would not listen. And already they had made it very clear that they did not want to be our brethren. We felt that we could make them hear us in the courtroom.”
According to the Bible, it is wrong for one Christian to sue another Christian. We should be more willing to be hurt ourselves rather than to hurt another. That is where much trouble comes. Who is or is not a Christian? A brother or sister in Christ?
If we remember the parable of the Good Samaritan, we should treat all good..not just those that are similar to us, or even just those that like us.
Also in the story of Cain and Abel, Abel never did anything back to Cain. It was Cain who killed his brother and said “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Something evil never makes up for many good deeds. And, yes, maybe the Hutterite life is not fair, but if one chooses it, it is their life, and they should be allowed to live how they see best for themselves and their family.
Despite their mistakes, you can see that The Nine are trying to serve their Lord with all their might. Besides reaching out to those here, they have traveled to Liberia to help the people there. They are active in their ministry and church. Their utmost goal is to bring peace and freedom to everyone.
The Nine also stress the importance of forgiveness. They say that they hold nothing against their Hutterite friends. In fact they say that they did learn many good things from the Hutterites, such as working hard and cooking well.
“No, it was God’s plan for us to be born there” they answered when asked if they felt their time with the Hutterites was wasted. “Even though we may not understand His reasons, it was God’s specific plan for us.”
To get the other side, I called a Hutterite relative in Manitoba. When asked what his opinion was on how the Nine live their lives and why they left, he answered “I have no association with them. They left and made their decision. You would have to ask them why they left.”
They are currently working on their second book Since We Told The Truth which will be available in bookstores and online July 1.
The Nine are having a book signing in Bozeman at Barnes & Noble on Saturday, May 10, 2pm-4pm. If you have any questions, or just want to see them, be sure to stop by.