Amish in the City 2004
I was born into an Old Order Amish community in Greenwood, Wi. on the 27th of July 1979. The 9th of 13 children. I was raised on a 255 acre farm and at a very young age I was working in the fields and sawmill. Early on, I discovered a love for reading. It was an escape from reality for that small, magical time when you begin reading between the two hard covers of a whole new world you had never heard or dreamt of. Reading books like “Tom Sawyer”, “Huckleberry Finn”, “Little Men”, “Little Women”, “Big Smoke Mountain”, or “Heidi”, certainly changed my world. It was during these years that I began writing a little and dreaming of one day living in the Swiss Alps and writing books for a living.
As my teenage years began, I started becoming ever more restless among the Amish. I began trying to find a way to some day escape into this wonderful world outside. During these years I lived in 7 different Amish communities throughout the Mid Western states, during which I taught all 8 grades in a one room schoolhouse for 4 years between Wisconsin and Kansas. I made several attempts to leave, but the transition was just too big!
Finally on July 3rd, 2002, after I finished my 4th yr of teaching, I left the Amish and the only way of life I knew from Yoder, Kansas. It goes without saying that any decision I’ve made before or since that day has paled in comparison to the decision I made that day.
I have lived in the Columbia, Mo area ever since. I Owned and operated my own construction company until August 2010, when, due to health reasons, I had to make the switch. Today, I am a sales Representative at Joe Machens Toyota in Columbia, Mo. Less then 2 months after I left the Amish, I met Shana Sue Gingerich. We got married in 2005. We now have 3 children, my step son Cole Richard Campbell, November 9 2000, Ella Jewell Gingerich January 15, 2008, and Anna Grace Gingerich November 1, 2010.
I have pursued my dream of exploring the world to the fullest. One of my philosophies has been that if a door opens for you, walk through it. (As long as it’s legal) Because woe is he who wakes up at 70, looks back over life and regrets not having lived life to the fullest, but varily I say unto you, it is now too late!
In 2004, I got an opportunity to be on a hit reality show televised on UPN. It was called “Amish in the City”. Producers John Kroll, Daniel Soiseth, and Daniel Laikind. The show featured 6 city kids and 5 ex Amish kids trying to co exist in a mansion in the middle of the Hollywood hills. The show ran a season of 10 episodes. It was the first major film ever done with actual Amish people in it. The Reality show was a huge success, but because of the controversy from all the Amish communities who felt like they were getting exploited to the world, it ran only one season. I was on several late night shows to help promote this show including “Jimmy Kimmel”, “Good Morning America”, “Regis and Kelly”, “Good Day Live”, and numerous radio shows.
Of the Producers from “Amish in the City”, Daniel Laikind never gave up on me, and kept trying to find ways to get me back on TV. It was hard for me to accept offers to travel far and abroad with my construction company and my growing family, but when I was approached in 2010 to do several documentaries in my area in mid Missouri, I accepted. In the summer of 2010 I starred and co Produced in 2 documentaries with Daniel Laikind and Stick Figure Production which were aired on The National Geographic Channel. These were both filmed right here in Columbia, Mo. The first, “Amish at the Altar”, featured Eli and Mary Gingerich, a couple who had been married Amish, but had chose to leave, renewing their wedding vows. But the focus was to document how an Amish wedding happens.
The second episode “Amish out of the Order”, featured a group of close ex Amish friends, Myself, and the life we’re now leading in Columbia, Mo. This episode put a lot of focus on myself and how many kids I have helped, given homes, cars, and jobs when they leave the Community.
It focused on me being a leader or Mentor in the ex Amish community. Although this may be the truth to some extent, in fairness to other ex Amish who have been out for some years and have become established in the community, there are many who have done exactly what I’ve done or more and were mentors I looked up to and they helped me when I first left.
The 2 Documentaries in 2010 were once again a success! So much so, in fact, that in 2011 Stick Figure and myself teamed up once again. This time we did an entire season of ten episodes, filmed in and around Columbia, Mo. The show was a success, and is to blame why a multitude of other Amish-related shows started being filmed and the frenzy for Amish literature and information became such a demand.
Some of my future goals are to eventually own a large acreage out in the country with housing for many people. Maybe give trail rides, but with the focus being on helping people who need privacy or simply wish to get away and clear their brain for awhile. Maybe even people who are searching for answers in their life (like I did for so many years). And obviously if I could in some way help find these answers, what a rewarding life that would be!
I also haven’t lost my vision of writing books, and am currently in the process of writing my first book, which I’ve been working on since 2007. It is difficult to set a time frame when one is writing a book. I will surely post a blog on this website when it gets published.
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