Mose was born the ninth of 13 children. His father died when he was 12, and Mose first left his Amish community in Greenwood, Wisconsin, at the age of 14, after being caught with a smuggled radio. He stayed out for five months, working for room and board at a neighboring farm. Over the next seven years, Mose worked as a schoolteacher, relocated to the Amish community in Clark, Missouri, and ultimately landed in Yoder, Kansas, where he found an Amish community much more liberal than he’d known before. At the age of 22, Mose left the Amish for good and moved to Columbia, Missouri, to start a new life—one centered on welcoming and guiding others. To date, he has helped more than 20 ex-Amish, all in various stages of their lives, while supporting his wife and three children.
Jonas originates from Granton, Wisconsin, and left the Amish last year only to return a month later. On his second attempt at leaving the Amish, Jonas was introduced to Hoss and Peggy, who’ve taken young Jonas in as their own son. He is determined to make a go of his ex-Amish life this time around and has taken work at a sawmill in order to finance the big purchase for anyone fresh out of the Amish—a car. With wheels come independence, and Jonas’s next few months will prove once and for all whether he’s on the outside for good.
Esther is the eldest of ten children born to an Amish family living in Texas. The family relocated to Oklahoma when Esther was three, then settled in Yoder, Kansas, eight years later. Esther left the Amish at the age of 18 and lives with her two ex-Amish siblings, Joleen and Jonah. Esther has been dating her “English” boyfriend, Devin, for eight months; they are madly in love and hope to be married someday. Esther has obtained her GED and has high aspirations for her future. She prefers to live amongst the “English” while retaining some of her Amish traditions and culture.
Amos has made a real life for himself. He’s working an oil rig in Oklahoma, which pays well. He’s grown comfortable in the English world. He represents the next stage of ex-Amishhood; he is assimilated. Amos has been out of the Amish for a number of years and has been studying for his GED in previous months. He wants to be an engineer and plans on attending college in Missouri. Amos lives several miles from Hoss and Peggy Head in Macon, Missouri.
Many stories centered around the Amish focus on those who leave the community; Michaela’s personal journey reflects the opposite—an “English” girl becoming an Amish girl. Originally from Mississippi, Michaela recently moved to St. Peters, a suburb of St. Louis, and began traveling weekly to Columbia with her mother. During these visits Michaela was introduced to the Clark Amish community and fell in love with their respectfulness, earnestness, and simplicity. Seeking a new direction in her own life, Michaela has sought out Mose Gingerich in hopes that he can guide her towards a new beginning.
Cephas lives near Booneville, Missouri, in a shack he built with his brother Gideon. The shack has no running water and houses the two brothers until they can save up enough money for other arrangements. A gifted craftsman and builder, Cephas’s dreams outshine many of the ex-Amish, and the hot, sweaty hours he toils in an Oklahoma oil field only serve to further his main aspiration, which is to be a millionaire by the time he’s 25. Cephas’s idealism matches his self-confidence, and none of his ex-Amish friends doubt he will achieve anything he puts his mind to.
At 16 years old, Chris Y. is among the younger kids in the Columbia ex-Amish community. He lives with his brother Reuben and works for Manny Burkholder, owner-operator of the Ex Amish Specialties construction business. Chris has one primary goal—to be the first ex-Amish he knows to attend and graduate from a public high school—and has enrolled in North Calloway High School near Columbia. He also harbors a secret passion: He wants to play football. Being a bit younger than a lot of the ex-Amish boys around Columbia, Chris wants to experience the modern teenage life for himself.
The oldest of five children, Chris L. was born and raised Amish. He first left the Amish at age 14 mainly due to troubles with his father. His parents called the police and he hid for several days in a wooden shed in the fields as they searched for him. A loyal and competitive young man, Chris has worked to carry some of his Amish background into the “English” world by providing housing for other ex-Amish youth. Recently he has embarked on quite the modern endeavor: to earn his way onto a mixed martial Arts cage-fighting team.
Albert is the third of five children and brother to Chris L. He and his wife, Alice, recently celebrated the birth of their first child, Anthony. Albert works for Mose S., Abe’s brother, who operates a successful construction and roofing company. Albert is smart, outspoken, and very opinionated about the things he believes in, and works hard to provide a strong family unit for his young child. He is a leader amongst the ex-Amish and has gained that reputation by standing up for those in need.
Abe was out among the ex-Amish for years before deciding recently to enter back into his family’s Amish community in Clark, Missouri. In the “English” world, Abe was a leader among the boys and spent a lot of time with his good friends Albert and Amos. When Abe’s brother Chris, owner of a Feed Store in Clark, needed help running his Amish farm, Abe re-entered the community to provide a helping hand. He is somewhat torn between the two worlds, Amish and “English,” but firmly believes that family always comes first.
Raymond "Hoss" Head
A resident of Macon, Missouri, “Hoss” Head is a mechanic, part-time bounty hunter, horse trainer, farmer, and welder. He and his wife, Peggy, met Freeman, an Amish boy, while attending horse shows and took to him like a son. When Freeman decided to leave the Amish, Hoss was there for him, providing crucial support and housing. As Amos, Jonas, and Jacob left their Amish homes, Hoss provided for them too by helping them find employment, counseling them on the “English” world, and encouraging them to reach for their dreams.
Hoss is “Dad” to Jonas, Jacob, Freeman, and Amos; Peggy is “Mom.” Initially a private person, Peggy grew to love Freeman as a son when he entered her life, and now she regularly hosts entire batches of ex-Amish kids, feeding, mothering, and supporting them through whatever challenges they face. With no biological children of her own, Peggy’s life has bloomed since “her boys” entered her home and her heart.