Episode Ten recap:
We held a holiday party at the Cedar Creek Lodges, then a bonfire by the lake outside, and then on to a memorial service for Cephas Yoder. We tied ribbons to a tree, placed the plaque by Cephas’ tree, sang a song, spoke a few words of peace for the departed, then the group of Ex-Amish turned to face the cameras. Slowly, the cameras faded out, their lenses remaining focused on the group of Ex-Amish, until finally, the little red recording lights on the sides of the cameras went out altogether. Then, the filming of Amish: out of Order was over.
Cephas' Memorial Service
Amish: out of Order recap:
When I look back over the long and trying year it took to film the show, I marvel at how fragile the likelihood was of it ever making it onto TV. There were four very important people who worked on this project—people who, once they committed, were going to see it through regardless of what lay in the way. Perhaps there were more than four such people, but the rest were in that faraway place known as the editing offices in NYC… a place I never had the opportunity to visit. Of these four people then, those that worked closely with the cast, I am willing to bet that, had any of the four been removed at any point in the production part of things, the show would’ve come to a screeching halt, and possibly been cancelled altogether. But, by the teaming up of these individuals, a beautiful, albeit emotional ten-part documentary came together, one that I had the honor of being a part of.
Daniel Laikind: Owner and founder of Stick Figure Productions, also a co-producer on several of my previous documentary/reality shows; Amish In the City, 2004, Amish out of the Order and Amish at the Altar, two stand-alone documentaries filmed and televised in 2010. Without Daniel behind me, encouraging me, supporting me, and finally, pushing me to help bring together a cast of Ex-Amish, this show would never have made it past a faint whisper. I fought Daniel and his idea of this show for over a year, mainly because I knew criticism would come, and I don’t always handle criticism well, but also because I knew, even then, that I was going through a vulnerable time in my life, and that my soul would be bared to the world, which is in and of itself, enough to scare most. Certainly, it scared away many of the Ex-Amish who had great stories to tell but were unwilling to share them with the world. Also, I am married, with three children, have a great job that requires a ton of devotion, and really, was resting peacefully in a comfort zone of life. Why shake things up? I don’t even like being on TV… I don’t like the attention all that much, and what good will come of it in the long run anyway—we film for a year, I exhaust every single ounce of my energy into it, then the show, like almost all others, runs its course and fades out, and in ten years, maybe even five, almost nobody will remember me and the rest of the cast. Little did I know how rewarding it would be to invest that time and energy, and how rewarding it would be to meet all those great people that I would have never met otherwise.
Jake Abraham: Jake came on board somewhere around episode four. At that time, when some of the cast realized that TV work was hard, with long hours spent filming in the evenings after work, and on weekends, many of them began to bail. Also, at that time, the chemistry among film crew, sound guys, filed editors, and numerous other production staff wasn’t very good. Jake was able to organize, eliminate a few problem producers, and give us structure. Jake was consistently back and forth between NYC and Missouri, putting out fires before they started, answering his cell phone at any time of the day or night, and really, quickly became the ‘go to’ guy for any problems. Perhaps a good title for Jake Abraham would have been the ‘Man who keeps the wheels greased.’
Jeff Hoagland: When I finally committed to filming the show, I realized one thing with absolute certainty. The camera guy needed to be a country boy, and not a slick-haired city boy like some of the others that had tried to slither into the good graces of the Ex-Amish. The camera guy needed to be relatable, honest, (because an Ex-Amish can smell insincerity from a mile away) and he needed to be able to dig in his heels and work his rear off when the going gets tough. And believe me, the going would get tough. Example: By episode four, almost every cast member had bailed except me and a few select others. At that time, we had committed to filming six episodes for The National Geographic Channel, not the ten we ended up with. Anyway, by episode four, it was apparent that we were not only not going to have enough footage for the first six episodes, but when NatGeo ordered the next four to complete ten in total, a lesser camera dude would have readily thrown in the towel and disappeared back into the city, cursing the fleeing cast all the way. But Jeff, well Jeff did exactly what was needed. He patiently took cast member after cast member out to lunch, and spent a great deal of time making friends, without adding any pressure at all for them to stay on. I could’ve done the same thing, and did, but it wouldn’t have been the same. They needed to trust and respect the guy who will be behind the camera, and who will eventually be back in the studios helping with the editing process. And Jeff delivered.
Jeff, a country boy from nowhere Kentucky, wandered into Columbia, Missouri, looking more like a relative of the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s then a professional camera dude. Very private about his personal life, almost shy, and with no desire whatsoever to be in the spotlight, or to ever receive praise or credit for any of his accomplishments. As a matter of fact, I had to argue and curse him before he finally agreed to let me blog about him, and even then, only if he could read it first. Jeff, a person who never seemed to eat or sleep, and who never ran out of energy. Or Jeff, bringing me my favorite energy drink at eleven p.m., when I am exhausted, my eyes are bloodshot, and I am dragging rear end, but we need to film for two more hours, and Jeff pushed me to dig deeper. Jeff, with whom I would spend dozens of nights sleeping in dingy motel rooms across the Midwest, when budgeting for the show began to run low, and Jeff, who, never one to mince words, was very comfortable looking me directly in the eyes and tell me that I was making a mistake when I had my heart set on certain scenes, or certain cast members who simply weren’t good on camera, but I hadn’t the eye to see it. Jeff, who protected me from the criticism of Amish and Ex-Amish alike, advised me on how to handle the fame that came with being a TV star, long after his job was finished and he was back in Kentucky filming another show.
Jeff doing Jeff things
Finally, I have thousands of photos of Jeff hanging out of my car window, or protruding out through the moonroof on top, while I am driving, him leaning awkwardly with the camera, trying to get that perfect shot. Jeff, spending hours and hours getting out all the camera equipment, setting up the lighting, connecting dozens of power cords and microphones, for only a ten minute clip that was needed. Jeff was there, behind the camera, filming me receiving my salvation with Pastor Joe Keim in Ohio, getting spiritually healed with the Lapp Brothers in Pennsylvania, and he was there when Cephas Yoder died. In doing scenes about Cephas after his death, it seemed Jeff and I rotated in emotions. One day I would have to fight through tears, and Jeff would be the strong one, and then there were days where he struggled emotionally behind the camera, even though a camera guy is supposed to be invisible. Jeff, whose job it was to just get footage, but who, at my request, spent the night before Cephas’ funeral cutting together the DVD that I played for the Ex-Amish in the living room of our house—the DVD you saw a part of in episode nine, and then, with almost no sleep, going to the funeral with us the next day and spending the entire day filming.
Something happens when you spend months together, driving thousands of miles, sleeping in the same motel rooms—a bond is formed. Today, Jeff and I remain the closest of friends, and I trust him as fully as I have ever trusted anyone in my life.
Mose J Gingerich: I’ll try and make this short, since nothing good ever comes of tooting one’s own horn. Let me begin by reiterating that it is extremely difficult to get an Amish or Ex-Amish to agree to being filmed. It is even more difficult to convince them to stick around when they realize that the show will take an entire year to film, when we had at first thought it would be only a few weeks, or possibly a month. And finally, it is practically impossible to keep an Ex-Amish committed to the show when the criticism starts. And believe me, criticism about the filming of the show began before we filmed even one second of it. It really wouldn’t have mattered what the show was about—the Amish belief is that one simply doesn’t allow oneself to be filmed, something about one of the Ten Commandments that teaches about the evil of worshipping graven images. Anyway, we could have been saving starving children from third world countries, or saving the souls of millions in America, or pick about any good cause you can think of… None of it would have mattered—generations of brain-washing are more powerful than any words of wisdom I could speak, even if, for many of them, they left the Amish for those exact reasons—that is to say, to get away from those narrow-minded, strict teachings. For myself, once I finally committed to the show, I committed one hundred percent, regardless of the obstacles. And I am of the opinion that my strength and unwavering commitment was an inspiration for some of them, because that is what they needed as an example, in order to withstand the pressures and criticism.
But why did I agree to do the show then, knowing the controversy and criticism that would come with it? I still don’t have a clear answer, but I will try to explain. If you are an atheist, shut your eyes for the rest of this paragraph, or don’t. You decide. But by the time I was struggling with the decision to film, or not to film, I already had a close enough relationship with God that I could feel his guiding voice. I have many examples of this throughout my life, including when I finally managed to leave the Amish for good. Although I had struggled mightily about the decision of leaving, for years, when it was finally time, a peace flooded my entire body, and on that day I left the Amish with God’s blessing. So, I spoke with God extensively about the show. And I felt the pull. I felt like something about the show could inspire viewers, like, although I had no control over it, and had no idea what we would even film about, that by putting my trust and faith in God, he would use me and the Ex-Amish community to serve a powerful message to viewers. Deep stuff, I know. But I felt it, and it grew stronger and stronger, until the voice was too loud to ignore. Now, looking back, I have a much clearer image of the inspiration God was trying to deliver through us, but possibly, I still haven’t fully grasped it. All I know is that I have received hundreds of messages from people who were struggling in life, and they told me their testimony of how our show ‘saved’ them. One lady told me that she was suicidal, and that she had already planned on how she would end it. But by watching the show on her final night on earth, and seeing other people, (the Ex-Amish), going through similar struggles, it gave her the strength to keep fighting for another day. Perhaps I can summarize it best like this… If we, the Ex-Amish, can inspire one viewer to become a better version of himself/herself, than they had previously been, simply by watching our stories, than isn’t that enough reason to film an entire show?
Moving on: I find it scary how many crazy things went down during the filming of this show—things that weren’t set up by us, for the purpose of getting entertaining footage. From Jonas’ car accident, and then later, Cephas with another, this one much more tragic, from Chris L’s cage fighting, Michaela converting to Amish, Esther M from Kansas following or not following her dreams to become an actor, my road trip where I found Christ in an even truer form than ever before, where I also found forgiveness, a long overdue visit with my own mother, an answers I would have never found if not for this trip. And finally, the tornado that ripped apart Joplin, Missouri. While one would never wish some of these tragedies on oneself, what are the odds they all befell us in this one year period?
Questions I receive: So, did Michaela actually go Amish?
Answer: This is still a developing process. It is a complicated thing to make happen, with loopholes too numerous to bore you with, but the flame hasn’t been extinguished.
Question: Will there be another season?
Answer: probably not. While there have been some rumors floating around, nothing is set in stone. Before I even came close to re-committing to a second season, I would have to go through a serious re-evaluation process. But based on what I’ve told you, with the stress, criticism, struggles, trying to balance family, a second job, and little sleep for another year, does the positive outweigh the negative? Or, has our story been officially written in one season, and a second would become more for money, or fame, thereby losing the intended message?
So, what is next for Mose J Gingerich? Well, he doesn’t want to sell cars until he’s old and calloused. And he can’t go back to construction because he’s had several heat strokes, and one more might be enough to do him in. But, what does Mose want to do as a career hobby? What would make him entirely happy? Not film or TV work—while rewarding, it is not a ‘pull’ he feels himself drawn toward. So, here it is… get ready to laugh. If he can find a way to write for a living, whether it be blogs, newspaper articles, or books, that would make me truly happy. In fact, Mose can say with absolute certainty, that he has never been happier than when he has finished composing a creative story. There is an euphoria that comes with using his creative side, a rush perhaps not unlike some addictive drugs. So, one day, maybe not in the too far future, you may see a novel, written by Mose J Gingerich. And while the first one may be average, the second will be better, then, the third will be better yet. And eventually, if one dares to dream big and lofty dreams, perhaps one day he will finally realize his ultimate dream—that of becoming a writer that inspires millions. Perhaps then, he will travel the world, write from the cabins of the Swiss Alps, or rent a tent and write in the middle of a sandy desert, or buy a ship, like Earnest Hemmingway, and write from the middle of the sea. And when that time comes, you can bet that he will blog and tell you all about it.
Demonstrating a trick instead of selling cars
Until then, Mose will be holed up in good old Columbia, Missouri, sitting in a relatively quiet office at a car dealership, always with one eye on the car lot outside, willing a customer to drive through and tell him how he is “just looking.” But for now, Mose is perfectly content to sit back, relax, and let the chatter surrounding the show fade slowly away, as does the chatter of every show, so soon replaced by new shows. And Mose will remain content, if only for a minute in life, until one day, much like when he was Amish, he will hear a voice pulling him, nudging him, and finally, shoving him forward, ever forward, always in the direction God wants him to go. And he go with absolute peace flooding his entire body and soul…