Lovina’s Amish Kitchen Facebook Page Hits 1000 Likes & More

Several months ago Amy Gingerich, our editorial director, told you about Lovina’s Amish Kitchen–our new venture syndicating newspaper columnist Lovina Eicher. (She had previously written for 12 years as The Amish Cook, handled by a different syndicate.)

So in a step of faith, we launched her new column in July, started a website for it, and began a Facebook page and Twitter account. It is so curious and fascinating to personally use some of the newest media and technologies available while working alongside a writer who writes by gaslight and pen and paper. (I know, there are things lots newer than Twitter, but we’re running as fast as we can to keep up!)

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We’ve been buoyed and excited to see the growth of Lovina’s Facebook page for the column. Some of her friends with access to technology keep her a bit in the loop, so even though she does not engage directly through these electronic media, she knows what’s going on, responds to letters sent to her with a self-addressed stamped envelope, and is deeply grateful for the outpouring of support.

This past Monday the Facebook page for Lovina’s Amish Kitchen passed 1000 likes, which is a nice big marker. When Amy sent word to Lovina to let her know about the 1000 likes, she was extremely gladdened as well. It is amazing because we have not done anything special to promote the Facebook page: we have not purchased ads, have not run contests, have not begged people to like it (other than when it first launched, a few staff sent the typical “suggested likes” to some friends). It has grown organically, one “like” at a time.

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Can you spot the dog? Izzy, the Eicher family pet, celebrates 1000 FB likes in the autumn leaves.

Curious, we posted a little poll on Facebook. Some 46 people responded to this question:

We love that this Facebook page is growing very fast and are curious as to how you find it. Comment please? 1. From a newspaper where you now read Lovina’s column 2. From the website for Lovina’s Amish Kitchen 3. Just from being a longtime reader/fan 4. When a friend of yours likes the page or shares it 5. Random — you don’t know

Here is how people responded:

  1. From a newspaper where you now read Lovina’s column – 6 2. From the website for Lovina’s Amish Kitchen – 7 3. Just from being a longtime reader/fan – 11 4. When a friend of yours likes the page or shares it – 7 5. Random — you don’t know – 2

Of course some of these “stock” answers did not fit all situations so there were these additional categories that I grouped together.

  1. Searching online – 4 7. Came up on Facebook – 11 8. All of the above – 1 9. Other – 1

The fact that many are longtime fans (and some listed multiple numbers for their response) did not surprise me. Many had previously followed Lovina’s mother’s column. (Before Lovina wrote as The Amish Cook, her mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, was the author of that column.) What did surprise me was that her page came up as a suggestion on Facebook. Like I said, we did not buy ads or sponsor the suggestions, so apparently the algorithms connected to people already liking other Amish-related Facebook pages caused the suggested “like” to show up.

To read the actual comments from fans, you can like Lovina’s Amish Kitchen Facebook page and go to October 24. You’ll find some fun and interesting comments, including from friends, relatives, neighbors. My favorite was a comment from Cherie Kreutziger:

“Always used to see her column on another Amish site … used to race home from work to read her letter and see the recipe. When I didn’t see it, I was rather upset. LOVE it … thank you for getting her on the net and sharing on Facebook. Now I can visit her website each and every day and reread maybe what I didn’t see the 1st time. Thanks again. God bless.”

While we run two other Facebook pages with over 1000 likes (this morning MennoMedia has 1768 and Third Way has 1123), Lovina’s has grown the fastest and we hope and trust the trend will only continue. (If you’ve joined Facebook, we appreciate you liking these pages as well. It’s one small free thing you can do to help support this ministry!)

Why go on about this? What does the popularity of this column and Facebook page say about our culture’s fascination with the simple and hardworking life of our cousins in the Anabaptist faith tradition? Is it our yearning for simplicity, faith, values, family? All of the above? What do you detect?

At MennoMedia and our book imprint Herald Press, we don’t see ourselves jumping on a recent bandwagon. Over the years, we have published dozens of titles relating to Amish, plain, and conservative Anabaptist groups, helping people understand and interpret this precious and Christian heritage. Just last week one of our editors, Valerie Weaver-Zercher, wrote about our newest book series, Plainspoken, but before that there were many other titles. Below is just a sampling of them.

Novels:

Children’s books:

Cookbooks:

  • Amish Cooking (no longer in print)

Nonfiction and memoir:

Lovina’s columns really function as a letter from home. In our society, that’s almost a relic. Will your children have letters from you? Lovina’s columns all end with a recipe—the promise of a good home-cooked dish or treat. Will your children have memories of home-cooked dishes you served?

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Lovina’s column hits on two basics of our stock in trade: faith and food. I wouldn’t want to live without either. Would you?

P1050565Melodie Davis, author of Whatever Happened to Dinner?, editor, columnist

Pandemic Fears, Realistic Response

Ebola. The word alone in a news headline is enough to make me want to click and read more.

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And the media certainly know how to play off my fears. All they have to do is insert the word crisis and they know they’ve got me.

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I live in suburban Ohio, between Cleveland and Akron—very close to the area where Dallas nurse Amber Vinson visited last weekend before she was diagnosed with Ebola. A few area schools have been closed and cleaned “out of an abundance of caution”; a bridal store she visited has been closed; and Vinson’s friends and family who had direct contact with her are being quarantined for 21 days (including three who work on the same college campus as my spouse). My husband got a notice about it at work, my younger daughter’s daycare sent home a notice, the pediatrician asked about possible exposure when I called to make an appointment, there’s a countywide Ebola hotline, the list goes on.

It feels to me like level of panic in this area is at an all-time high.

I don’t want to bury my head in the sand here and skip the news altogether, but I also need to be realistic: it’s more likely at this point that I’m going to die from a car accident or the flu than Ebola. There is a very real Ebola outbreak, but right now it’s in West Africa.

How do I manage my own personal fears while also working to help solve the problem? This was my quandary late last week when I remembered a series of resources MennoMedia developed a few years ago about pandemic preparedness.

Back in 2009, medical authorities were warning that the world was due to suffer a flu virus on a global scale, equal to or greater than the international pandemic of 1918. They warned that, despite our advanced medical technology, thousands of people would die and many more would become sick. People would fear for their health. Naturally, people would want to protect themselves.

So we at MennoMedia considered: How would the church respond to a pandemic? Do we have a plan? Will we retreat in fear, or are we ready to be God’s light in the midst of suffering?

We developed a series of pandemic preparedness resources. It has three parts:

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The Beyond Our Fears guide is designed to be part of a congregational study series, but it can also be a personal resource for inspiration and learning.

This series was written not to raise our fears, but to do the exact opposite: to prepare the church to shine as God’s light in the midst of such crises, to respond to our call to be people of healing and hope. Even if these crises never occur, the resources (especially the ones for adults) will help us think through our mission as Christians and how God calls us to join the work of healing and hope in our families, neighborhoods, and world.

Most of us would rather not think about worst-case scenarios such as Ebola in Ohio (or anywhere else, for that matter), a new flu pandemic, or devastating hurricanes or tornadoes. But governments and municipalities are creating plans to be prepared for each of these crises. So shouldn’t we, as ordinary people of faith, be spiritually prepared? Why not know before the crisis what kinds of actions and attitudes are most consistent with our faith? Why not think together about how is God calling us to be good stewards of the future? Let’s face it: crisis has always been a fact of human existence on this planet, and it can hit without warning.

Because these pandemic preparedness resources are perfect for such a time as this, MennoMedia is offering 20% off any of the three titles this week. Just use code BEYOND14 at checkout. I encourage you to take advantage of the sale and to consider these issues with your congregation.

Now to part 2: the matter of stopping and controlling Ebola in West Africa. There are so many inspiring stories of what’s being done in Africa. But, as experts warn us, more work needs to be done to contain and control this virus. Dollars are needed—quickly—to aid in this work. In the last week on the news or in my Facebook feed, I’ve heard of people giving to the following organizations. Click on the name of the organization to make your own contribution.

Manage your fears; make a donation. That’s my recipe for realism and action amidst worst-case scenario reporting.

How are you coping with fears of Ebola or other crises? If you have children, how are you talking about Ebola with your children? Has your congregation used any of these resources?

Amy Gingerich, editorial director

Amy Gingerich

Engaging the Jesus Way

Are Anabaptists ready to rock and roll? Truly ready? We live in a time when the larger church is interested in articulating positions around peace, reconciliation, and simple living, among others. And that interest is driving people to check out Anabaptist-affiliated groups and churches.

But are the Russian and German cultural heritage pieces keeping people away? Is four-part singing keeping people from engaging at a deeper level? Is talk of Zwieback or Faspa keeping us from sharing the good news?

This past weekend I attended “Church and Post-Christian Culture: Christian Witness in the Way of Jesus,” a conference hosted by Missio Alliance that focused on the convergence of evangelical and Anabaptist thought and how we apply that theology to the concept of mission.

There were 10 excellent preachers on Friday, plus more speakers on Saturday, and a workshop each day as well. My mind is still churning with ideas, so what follows are a few of my takeaways and how they intersect with my work at MennoMedia.

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So many good conversations happened during this conference. Yes, there were a number of women present (including three of us from MennoMedia and Herald Press), but this photo from our booth doesn’t show any.

Cultural religious heritage

Greg Boyd, of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, encouraged Mennonites and other Anabaptists to stop putting so much weight into the cultural aspects of religion, such as four-part singing, and instead get ready to rock and roll in our churches. I don’t doubt for a moment that Greg is right. How do we make room in our churches to welcome newcomers? Music is certainly one part of what Mennonites need to work on to be more welcoming. So are potlucks, the weight given to certain last names, and more.

“As the rest of Christianity is discovering God’s peaceful kingdom, Anabaptists are trying to forget it.” Ouch. But again, Boyd is right. Many Anabaptist churches have tried to distance themselves from their historic peace position. And yet this is what is driving neo-Anabaptists to explore Anabaptism. From a publishing perspective, I know this is what others coming to Herald Press and MennoMedia are looking for and expect.

Kurt Willems, of the Pangea Communities in Seattle, spoke of his own Mennonite heritage and affirmed exactly what Boyd was saying earlier: Willems was a raised a cultural Mennonite but not an Anabaptist.

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Kurt Willems preaching about growing up culturally Mennonite but not Anabaptist.

He grew up with Mennonite foods, attended Mennonite schools, was part of a Mennonite family with all the right surnames, and yet he did not know the Anabaptist message of peace. He has a powerful story of being convicted about the gospel of peace not by other Mennonites but in attending an event where evangelical author Shane Claiborne spoke. Willems is now a church planter in Seattle and sharing the gospel of peace with those coming to the Pangea Communities.

Jesus-looking faith

A Jesus-looking faith does not mean complicity or following a stable leader without cost. A Jesus-looking faith is risky, willing to question what the Empire has taught. Over and over the speakers shared this message in different ways, and I believe people are hungry for books and resources that flesh out this message.

“Jesus wasn’t handing out tickets to heaven,” preached Brian Zahnd, founder and lead pastor of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri. “He was re-founding the world … [Jesus] isn’t Lord-Elect; he’s Lord right now!”

We’ve often gotten that wrong, and thought of faith as forward-looking toward heaven rather than in the present tense.

Think, for example, of the story from Matthew 14 of Jesus walking on the water. In that story we often focus on Jesus pulling Peter from the water once he starts to sink—the act of Jesus “saving” Peter. But Meghan Good, pastor of Albany Mennonite Church, said that this emphasis causes us to miss an important point: “Most people think Jesus is the one who pulls us out of the lake, when in reality he’s the one calling us out onto it.” Good delivered a powerful sermon, with such excellent exegetical work around this story. To what is Jesus calling each of us?

Anton Flores-Maisonet is a full-time volunteer among immigrant populations in Georgia and co-founder of the Alterna Community. He shared the idea that Jesus is the “Good Coyote,” who provides safe crossing and knows how to make the outcast feel like the most important person in the room. His work among those without documentation is a powerful witness for what it means to have a Jesus-looking faith.

Time now for me to put these challenges into action, and to have conversations with possible writers to help bring these ideas into books and resources. What ideas here resonate with you? What ideas would you like to know more about in resource or book form?