MDS and MCC offer support to Amish community in wake of shooting

Joint news release of Mennonite Disaster Service and Mennonite Central Committee

AKRON, Pa. – Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) express their deep sympathy and prayers for families affected by the Oct. 2 shooting at an Amish school in Nickel Mines.

Both organizations are in contact with Amish community leaders and are offering support through a joint response.

MCC and MDS are accepting financial contributions to assist the affected community. Contributions may be made by phone, by mail or online. (See information below.)

Contributions to the Amish School Recovery Fund will help the affected community with medical care, transportation, supportive care and other needs.

“We call upon churches to unite in prayer and support for the Amish community at this time,” said Kevin King, MDS executive director.

Ken Sensenig, assistant director of MCC East Coast, visited Amish community members after the shooting and said he is observing their resilience and is impressed with their response.

Families banded together to provide emotional support and tend to immediate needs, such as milking cows while parents rushed to the hospital, Sensenig said. Many non-Amish neighbors helped by giving rides to hospitals.

“What impresses me is how strong this community is in the face of terrible tragedy,” Sensenig said.

For more information, contact Scott Sundberg, director of communications for MDS, at (717) 859-2210, (717) 917-8827 or, or contact Larry Guengerich, media/education coordinator for MCC, at (717) 333-2826 or

Tax-deductible donations can be made by calling MCC at (717) 859-1151, or MDS at (717) 859-2210. To donate online, go to or To donate by mail, send checks to MCC or MDS at the following addresses with the words “Amish School Recovery Fund” in the memo line.

Mennonite Disaster Service
1018 Main Street
Akron, PA 17501

Mennonite Central Committee
21 S. 12th St.
P.O. Box 500
Akron, PA 17501

Check out Mennonite Weekly Review:

Support for Amish in wake of shooting tragedy – By Robert Rhodes

Prayer and Reflection at Blooming GlenThis coming Sunday evening, the Blooming Glen congregation will host a time of prayer and reflection in response to the shooting in the Amish school in Lancaster County this past Monday. How do God’s people keep hope and faith, and not succumb to fear, in the wake of such a horrific event? You are invited attend this opportunity to be prayerful in response to this tragedy. The time is 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 8, 2006.

4 thoughts on “MDS and MCC offer support to Amish community in wake of shooting

  1. Amish and Mennonite leaders release statement:

    The following statement was released today by the Nickel Mines Accountability Committee, a group of Amish and Mennonite leaders organized to sort through the needs of the community affected by last week’s school shootings.

  2. Why the Amish Forgive: Tales of Redemption at Nickel Mines

    Donald B. Kraybill, Ph.D.

    The blood was hardly dry on the bare board floor of the Nickel Mines School when Amish parents sent words of forgiveness to the family of the killer who had executed their children. Forgiveness? So quickly and for such a heinous crime? Of the hundreds of media queries I’ve received in the past week, the forgiveness question rose to the top. Why and how could they do such a thing so quickly? Was it a genuine gesture or just an Amish gimmick?

    The world was outraged by the senseless assault on 10 Amish girls in the one-room West Nickel Mines School. Why would a killer turn his gun on the innocent of the innocent? First, questions focused on the killer’s motivations—why did he unleash his anger on the Amish? Then, questions shifted to the Amish. How would they cope with such an unprecedented tragedy?

    In many ways the Amish are better equipped to process grief than many other Americans. First, their religious faith sees even tragic events under the canopy of divine providence—having a higher purpose or meaning that is hidden from human sight at first glance. The Amish don’t argue with God. They have an enormous capacity to absorb adversity—a willingness to yield to divine providence in the face of hostility. Such religious resolve enables them to move forward without the endless paralysis of analysis that asks why—letting the analysis rest in the hands of God.

    Secondly, their historic habits of mutual aid—such as the barn raising—arise from their understanding that Christian teaching compels them to care for each other in time of disaster. This is why they reject commercial insurance and government-funded Social Security, believing that the Bible teaches them to care for each other.

    In moments of disaster the resources of this socio-spiritual capital spring into action. Meals are brought to grieving families. Neighbors milk cows and care for other daily chores. Hundreds of friends and neighbors visit the home of the bereaved to share quiet words and simply the gift of presence. After the burial, adult women who have lost a close family member will wear a black dress in public settings for as long as a year to signal their mourning and welcome visits of support.

    In all these ways Amish faith and culture provide profound resources for processing the sting of death. Make no mistake—death is painful. Many tears are shed. The pain is sharp, searing the hearts of Amish mothers and fathers like it would any other parents.

    But why forgiveness? Surely some anger — at least some grudges — are justifiable in the face of such a slaughter. A frequent phrase in Amish life is “forgive and forget.” That’s the recipe for responding to Amish members who transgress Amish rules if they confess their failures. Amish forgiveness also reaches to outsiders—even to killers of their children.

    Amish roots stretch back to the Anabaptist movement at the time of the Protestant Reformation in 16th century Europe. Hundreds of Anabaptists were burned at the stake, decapitated, and tortured because they contended that individuals should have the freedom to make voluntary decisions about religious faith. This insistence that the church, not the state, had the authority to decide matters like the age of baptism laid the foundation for our modern notion of religious liberty and the separation of church and state.

    Anabaptist martyrs emphasized yielding one’s life completely to God — even to death in the face of torture. Songs by imprisoned Anabaptists, recorded in the Ausbund, the Amish hymnbook, are regularly used in Amish church services today. The 1200-page Martyrs Mirror, first printed in 1660, which tells the martyr stories, is found in many Amish houses and is cited by preachers in their sermons. The martyr voice still rings loudly in Amish ears with the message of forgiveness of those who tortured them and burned their bodies at the stake.

    The martyr testimony springs from the example of Jesus, the cornerstone of Amish faith. As do other Anabaptists, the Amish take the life and teachings of Jesus seriously. Without formal creeds, their simple (but not simplistic) faith accents living in the way of Jesus rather than comprehending the complexities of religious doctrine. Their model is the suffering Jesus who carried his cross without complaint. And who, hanging on the cross, extended forgiveness to his tormentors: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

    Beyond his example, the Amish try to practice Jesus’ admonitions to turn the other cheek, to love one’s enemies, to forgive 70 times 7, and to leave vengeance to the Lord. Retaliation and revenge are not part of their vocabulary.

    As pragmatic as they are about other things, the Amish do not ask if forgiveness works; they simply seek to practice it as the Jesus way of responding to adversaries, even enemies. Rest assured, grudges are not always easily tossed aside in Amish life. Sometimes forgiveness is harder to dispense to fellow church members, whom they know too well, than to unknown strangers.

    Forgiveness is woven into the fabric of Amish faith. And that is why words of forgiveness were sent to the killer’s family before the blood had dried on the schoolhouse floor. It was just the natural thing to do, the Amish way of doing things. Such courage to forgive has jolted the watching world as much as the killing itself. The transforming power of forgiveness may be one redeeming thing that flows from the blood that was shed in Nickel Mines this week.

    Donald B. Kraybill, distinguished professor at Elizabethtown (PA) College, has written numerous books on Amish life including “The Riddle of Amish Culture.” He is a 1967 Bible and sociology graduate of Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va., and a former chair of the EMU board of trustees.

  3. ‘What if the Amish were in charge of the war on terror?’

    I confess: Over the last 10 days, I did not pay much attention to the Amish school shooting. As the mother of an 8-year old girl, I find school violence stories too painful to follow.

    Despite attempts to avoid this particular news, the stories of the Amish practice of forgiveness eventually captivated me. Their practice of forgiveness unfolded in four public acts over the course of a week. First, some elders visited Marie Roberts, the wife of the murderer, to offer forgiveness. Then, the families of the slain girls invited the widow to their own children’s funerals. Next, they requested that all relief monies intended for Amish families be shared with Roberts and her children. And, finally, in an astonishing act of reconciliation, more than 30 members of the Amish community attended the funeral of the killer.

    As my husband and I talked about the spiritual power of these actions, I commented in an offhanded way, “It is an amazing witness to the peace tradition.” He looked at me and said passionately, “Witness? I don’t think so. This went well past witnessing. They weren’t witnessing to anything. They were actively making peace.”

    He was right. Their actions not only witness that the Christian God is a God of forgiveness, but they actively created the conditions in which forgiveness could happen. In the most straightforward way, they embarked on imitating Christ: “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” In acting as Christ, they did not speculate on forgiveness. They forgave. And forgiveness is, as Christianity teaches, the prerequisite to peace. We forgive because God forgave us; in forgiving, we participate in God’s dream of reconciliation and shalom.

    Then an odd thought occurred to me: What if the Amish were in charge of the war on terror? What if, on the evening of Sept. 12, 2001, we had gone to Osama bin Laden’s house (metaphorically, of course, since we didn’t know where he lived!) and offered him forgiveness? What if we had invited the families of the hijackers to the funerals of the victims of 9/11? What if a portion of The September 11th Fund had been dedicated to relieving poverty in a Muslim country? What if we dignified the burial of their dead by our respectful grief?

    What if, instead of seeking vengeance, we had stood together in human pain, looking honestly at the shared sin and sadness we suffered? What if we had tried to make peace?

    So, here’s my modest proposal. We’re five years too late for an Amish response to 9/11. But maybe we should ask them to take over the Department of Homeland Security. After all, actively practicing forgiveness and making peace are the only real alternatives to perpetual fear and a multi-generational global religious war.

    I can’t imagine any other path to true security. And nobody else can figure out what to do to end this insane war. Why not try the Christian practice of forgiveness? If it worked in Lancaster, maybe it will work in Baghdad, too.

    Diana Butler Bass is an independent scholar and author. Her latest book, Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith, is published by Harper San Francisco.

  4. MCC and MDS collect $700,000 for Amish

    by Tim Shenk

    AKRON, Pa. — Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) have collected over $700,000 U.S., or $800,000 Cdn., for the community affected by the Oct. 2 shootings at an Amish school in Nickel Mines.

    MCC and MDS are transferring 100 percent of these contributions to a Nickel Mines Accountability Committee comprised of seven Amish community members and two non-Amish community members. The committee will apply the funds to needs that result from the shootings, including medical and counseling services, extra living expenses for affected families and long-term disability care.

    MCC and MDS agreed to accept contributions for the Nickel Mines Accountability Committee in consultation with Amish community leaders and will continue to do so until Oct. 27. These contributions should be designated for the “Amish School Recovery Fund.”

    In an Oct. 10 statement, the Nickel Mines Accountability Committee thanked the many people who have contributed in the wake of the shootings.

    “We, the people of the Nickel Mines community, are humbled and deeply thankful for this outpouring of love,” the committee stated. “Each act of kindness, the prayers and every gift, small or large, comfort us and assure as that our spirits will heal even though the painful loss will always be with us.”

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