New devotional book by Mennonite Girls Can Cook authors

Bread for the Journey launches in conjunction with theatrical production

BreadForTheJourneyHARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ontario—In a gift-style volume, the women who contribute to the popularity of the Mennonite Girls Can Cook blog and cookbook series have authored devotionals, recipes, and family stories for a new devotional book.

Bread for the Journey: Meditations and Recipes to Nourish the Soul is a hardback collection of 90 meditations. (The new title is also available as an ebook.)

The meditations, all drawn from promises in Scripture, focus on helping readers strengthen their relationship with God by savoring everyday moments. Interspersed with the devotionals are dramatic family stories and favorite recipes, inviting users to extend their tables in hospitality and share God’s blessing with others.

Bread for the Journey will minister to every part of you: body, soul, and spirit. Every woman needs it!” writes Linda Dillow, author of Calm My Anxious Heart and Satisfy My Thirsty Soul.

Janice Dick, novelist, says, “Between the beautifully bound covers of Bread for the Journey lies a collection of life lessons, from everyday occurrences to miraculous deliverance: pictures of faith, forgiveness, and hope.”

The 10 authors include coordinator Lovella Schellenberg, along with (alphabetically) Ellen Bayles, Marg Bartel, Anneliese Friesen, Bev Klassen, Julie Klassen, Kathy McLellan, Betty Reimer, Charlotte, Penner, and Judy Wiebe.

This is the first book release from the Mennonite Girls since 2013, timed to coincide with the opening in the United States of comedy production by Blue Gate Musicals, Mennonite Girls Can Cook!

Many of the 10 authors plan to attend the Mennonite Girls Can Cook! comedy at both Blue Gate Theatre in Shipshewana, Indiana, and Ohio Star Theater in Walnut Creek, Ohio, this fall, and will sign copies of their new devotional and their two cookbooks, Mennonite Girls Can Cook (Herald Press, 2011) and Mennonite Girls Can Cook Celebrations (Herald Press, 2013).

The producer of the comedy is Dan Posthuma, president and executive producer of Blue Gate Musicals; script writer is Martha Bolton, a former comedy writer for Bob Hope along with hundreds of other shows, including five hit Broadway-style musicals about Mennonites or Amish. The Mennonite Girls comedy is a one-act play and centers on a small-town cable TV cooking show, hosted by two Mennonite women, that attracts the attention of a Hollywood producer.

Lovella Schellenberg coordinates the blog and accompanying books, and lives in western British Columbia. Nine of the women live in Canada and one resides in the United States. They have appeared on numerous Canadian television segments, and donate all their author royalties to nourish children around the world.

Bread for the Journey is available for $16.99 USD from Herald Press at 800-245-7894 and, as well as other websites and local bookstores. The book is being published August 2, 2016.

MennoMedia Staff, July 27, 2016

High-resolution photos available.

 For more information from Herald Press:

Melodie Davis
News manager

New book tells insider story of Amish beard cutters

BreakawayAmish_CMYK July 6, 2016

New book tells insider story of Amish beard cutters
Power, isolation, and manipulation were tools of cult-like leader Sam Mullet

HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ont.—The strange case of the Amish beard cutters five years ago thrust a normally quiet community into the national spotlight. The bizarre attacks seemed so out of character for a Christian community whose traditions emphasize nonviolence and forgiveness.


Johnny Mast

Now, as the fifth anniversary of those attacks approaches, a new book tells the inside story: Breakaway Amish: Growing Up with the Bergholz Beard Cutters by Johnny Mast (written with Shawn Smucker, Herald Press, $15.99 paper). Mast is the grandson of Bishop Sam Mullet, who led the attacks—and who pressured his grandson to participate by cutting his own father’s beard.

The Bergholz Amish community where Johnny Mast grew up in southern Ohio became increasingly isolated from other Amish people as his grandfather Sam Mullet exerted cult-like control, ordering abusive attacks of beard and hair cutting and other punishments, including forcing men to live in chicken coops. Some of the wives of those men moved in with Sam Mullet, who sexually abused them. “Somehow I’m getting a lot of power by committing these sins,” Mullet told Mast after Mast learned of his grandfather’s activities. “I know it’s wrong, but I’m getting a lot of power.”

Members became convinced that cutting their own hair was a sign of repentance and remorse—“a cleansing humiliation and a fresh start,” Mast says. But when that conviction drove them to forcibly cut off the beards of Amish people outside their community, it was more than a strange religious ritual. It was a crime.

Recalling the disturbing events, Mast writes: “I saw images I’d rather forget: Holding my own father’s hair in my hands and cutting off pieces with a scissors. Watching six or seven men wander down toward Sam’s barn, chunks of their hair shaved off, their beards cut straight across with sharp scissors. I remember seeing those disheveled men, skinny from not having eaten, their weird hair and their hats that no longer fit quite right, and thinking they looked like demons.”

The Bergholz community was founded by Sam Mullet and attracted families who preferred the strict Amish way of life practiced there—no indoor plumbing, no tractors, no cars, no radio or television, no cell phones. Life was peaceful until Mullet began using violence and intimidation, along with strange punishments, to control the community. A teenager at the time, Mast lived and worked on his grandfather’s farm. In hindsight, he writes, “What I didn’t realize was how Sam operated: he used knowledge and emotions and sometimes lies to drive a wedge between people. Isolated people, it turns out, are very easy to control.”

Mast asks, “Why would a bunch of grown men allow another man to treat them that way? I can’t say for sure, but I think that for most of us, Bergholz was all we had. Every friend we had in the world lived there, every family member. Sam held the key to all of that.”

He adds, “I think most people stayed in Bergholz because they honestly believed that if they left, they would go to hell when they died.”

Mast’s story is one of redemption and courage. At age 22, he testified against his grandfather and 15 other defendants, many of them his aunts and uncles. They were all found guilty and are serving sentences for their crimes of up to 15 years. Mast left the community—the only world he knew.

Mast reports that Bergholz is still controlled by Sam Mullet, from his prison cell. Mast’s parents remain there, even though Mast’s father was a beard-cutting victim. When Mast left the community, his mother begged him to stay and “try to do everything Sam tells you to do.” His parents have refused to meet his family, Clara and young daughter, Esther Jane. “It would be nice to see my dad again, to be able to have a regular conversation,” Mast says. “But what happened in Bergholz ruined that.”

It did not ruin Mast’s belief in God, however, though he lost interest in belonging to a church. But since the birth of his daughter, Mast is interested in seeking out a new church home at some point. “Everything that happened led me here: to Clara and Esther Jane and a new life,” he writes. “I don’t live with regret. Actually, I have a lot of hope these days. I think it’s going to be a good life.”

Donald B. Kraybill, author of Renegade Amish, writes in the foreword: “Breakaway Amish is a story of human tragedy. It chronicles what happens when men, in the name of God, abuse positions of power to exploit, harm, and denigrate others. It’s an important, cautionary tale, and the rest of us would do well to listen carefully.”

Tom Shachtman, author of Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish, says of the book, “Seldom do outsiders get such a revealing glimpse of what happens to an isolated group when, as Johnny Mast writes, ‘You learn to ignore the voices in your head that were telling you, This isn’t right. None of this is right.’ An eyewitness account of a leader’s twisted descent into mental hell and of the havoc it can cause among people who only seek to be devout and faithful.”

Mast, 26, works on a construction crew. He and Clara and their daughter live in Ohio.


Shawn Smucker

Shawn Smucker is the author or coauthor of seven books. He and his wife, Maile, and their children live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Breakaway Amish is available for $15.99 from Herald Press at 800-245-7894 and, as well as other websites and local bookstores. The book is being published July 12, 2016.

View a video book trailer for Breakaway Amish.

Kelly Hughes, DeChant-Hughes & Associates Inc.

To set up interviews with the author contact: Kelly Hughes, 312-280-8126, or

High-resolution photos available.

For more information from Herald Press:
Melodie Davis
News manager

Annie completes Ellie’s People series of Amish novels

July 6, 2016
News release

Annie completes Ellie’s People series of Amish novels
Herald Press republishes nine of Mary Christner Borntrager’s book

HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ont.—With the release of Annie, Herald Press concludes the popular series of books about Amish life called Ellie’s People. Annie is book 9 of the series. The series has sold over half a million copies since its original release from 1988 to 1998, originally aimed for younger readers age 10 and up.

In this final book, Annie Troyer, born Pearlie Mae Streeter, is adopted into an Amish family. Annie finds love and security there, but has a hard time adjusting to Amish customs. Her new sister Lucy is jealous of the attention Annie receives, and Annie must make choices about where her loyalties lie.

Fans of Amish fiction and of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series will enjoy Annie and the entire Ellie’s People series. The books open a window to the Amish faith and way of life for non-Amish readers. Annie, like the other books in the series, features a new Pennsylvania Dutch glossary and family tree for the families featured in the books.

Author Mary Christner Borntrager brought firsthand experience to her accurate portrayals of Amish life. She was born to Amish parents near Plain City, Ohio, and lived her first 20 years among the Amish. She called her books “faction”: fiction based on the facts of her childhood and youth.

MaryChristnerBorntrager_SigningBooksBorn seventh in a family of 10, Mary came to writing through the classic avenue of storytelling. Stories about her Amish youth, told to her children and grandchildren, sparked the idea for the Ellie’s People books, which Mary began writing at age 67.

Reading Mary’s books is “like having a cup of tea and chatting with a friend,” said her daughter Kathryn Keim. “She wrote about people’s lives just like hers: the struggles, joys, hopes, and fears.”

Nine of the Ellie’s People books have been rereleased to provide a new generation with entertainment, wisdom, and inspiration. The covers and some terminology have been updated, but the traditional stories remain. “The series is a wonderful legacy to remember how one woman touched many lives through her books and her life,” said her daughter.

Annie is available for $9.99 USD from MennoMedia at 800-245-7894 or, as well as at bookstores.

–Ardell Stauffer

High-resolution photos available.
For more information on this press release:
Melodie Davis
News manager