|The Revelation, Abram's Daughters Series #5|
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In the conclusion to the "Abram's Daughters" series, Jonas Mast's return from Ohio has given Leah Ebersol reason to hope again. Yet she endures an unexplained silence that makes her fear his family and the bishop are conspiring to once again keep her and Jonas apart. Jake Mast pines for his first love, but if he follows his brother Jonas back home, Leah and Sadie will be forced to reveal their closely guarded secret.
(NIV) Matthew 5:16 - "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
Read our Interview with Beverly Lewis
|What will the upcoming new series, Annie’s People focus on?
The books are contemporary but have an historical feel since the Amish continue to live much as they did during the 18th century. The setting for “Annie’s People” is Paradise, Pennsylvania, in the heart of Lancaster County Amish country. It also happens to be the area where my maternal grandparents, who were horse-and-buggy Mennonites, grew up as children. It’s a slice of heaven on earth—so lush and green and fertile. But for my character, Annie Zook, who is the preacher’s daughter for her Amish church, Paradise is something of a dead end street. She’s living a double life—not permitted to openly express her individuality as an artist, yet torn, wishing she could do what is expected of her as one of the People…all the while she paints in a secret studio provided by her Mennonite cousins. Just turned 20, Annie still hasn’t decided to join her father’s church, seemingly in rebellion, yet longing to fit in, all the same.
Another interesting aspect of the series is the unique friendship Annie has with a non-Amish (English) pen pal—Louisa Stafford—from Denver, Colorado. The juxtaposition of plain versus “fancy” occurs when Louisa runs away from her wedding, to Amish country, leaving behind the opulence of her life. She, too, is a seeker of truth. Here are two best friends, yet they’d never met, having confided in each other through letters since they were 10 years old. The Preacher’s Daughter is an intriguing story, and I’m really enjoying the writing journey!
Tell us about the children you support in Thailand.
Dave and I chose our first sponsored child from Compassion International which is based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. We drove over to their headquarters and asked for the neediest little girl in Thailand. We wanted to save a life, so to speak, because of the despicable things that happen to so many young Thai girls. We picked five-year-old Nuchie (her nickname), trusting that through prayer and our correspondence with her, as well as the financial support, she might be guided toward the light of the Lord Jesus. She was 5 years old then and now she’s 16 and just married. We also support Laura in Bolivia, enrolled in Compassion’s Leadership Training Program, as well as four-year-old Ton of Thailand. We’re thrilled to have a small part in ministering to these precious young people.
What was the significance of the width of the brim of an Amish man’s hat in the Abram’s Daughters series?
The Ordnung specifies the “ordering of rules” for each church district. It includes everything from the width of the hat brim (for a man) to the length of a woman’s dress…to whether or not a non-farmer is allowed to use a cell phone to conduct his woodworking business. A church district is comprised of approximately 200-250 people, and twice each year, there is a time of fasting and prayer after which the members gather to discuss their particular Ordnung. If the people are in one accord and experiencing unity, then they contemplate the rules and regulations to decide if they’re in agreement for the next six months. The bishop then enacts the punishment for wayward members, as well as the receiving back of repentant members if they had been shunned. It is an important aspect of the inner workings of the church. If you’re a man and you willfully decide to have a wider hat brim than is allowed, perhaps similar to your Plain cousins in Holmes County, Ohio, but you’re a member of a Lancaster church district—and you refuse to repent and submit—you could be considered in rebellion and in danger of the Bann (excommunication).
Why would they shun a furniture maker such as Jonas Mast?
In the ‘50’s and ‘60’s the older Amish in Lancaster County were strict about not making fancy kinds of furniture. Jonas had spent years in Ohio, where he was accustomed to a less strict Ordnung and was been permitted to make furniture for “English” customers. So when he returned to Lancaster, to the church of his baptism, his bishop had a plan to purge him during a stringent Proving time. This is why he was not allowed to use any fancy equipment in his woodworking shop.
Is drinking a problem among the Amish?
Abuse of alcohol is common among every society, cloistered or not. Because a person grows up in a protected community doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t drawn to sin. My Amish friends continually say to me, “We aren’t perfect…we struggle just like anyone.”
It made the national news, when, several summers ago, two young men from Amish communities in Lancaster County were arrested for dealing drugs to their peers. It is also commonly known that young Amish women seek abortions outside their Plain communities. “Sin has many tools….” (Oliver Wendell Holmes)
Is your husband David Lewis writing another novel?
He has just completed Saving Alice, which is to be released in early 2006. It’s a compelling story of second choices and second chances—Stephen is living his life under the burden of, “What if I had saved Alice?” (his deceased fiancée) until present circumstances get his attention and he realizes his first love wasn’t what he was looking for at all.
Presently Dave is writing a fugitive-style, CIA series for Tyndale to be launched in the summer of ‘06.
How many will be in David’s series?
Are your books going to be made into movies?
That is a real possibility, yes.
Is an Amish bishop as strong an influence in the church as is portrayed in The Revelation?
They are believed to be divinely appointed and ordained of God to oversee the particular flock. So, yes, absolutely they have a great influence in their community.
Are the people in the Old Order permitted to read the Bible?
They are expected to read only certain passages, not the whole of Scripture. To study or memorize verses is also prohibited.
Are Mennonites considered to be Christians?
If an Amish person accepts the redemption of Jesus Christ, embracing the assurance of salvation, and desires to move forward with a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, they would typically gravitate to one of the more conservative Mennonite churches in the area. Mennonites typically would accept an Amish person who has embraced Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
A new believer most likely would not wish to remain in his or her Amish setting. I happen to know of a number of “saved” Amish who have stayed, however, calling themselves “silent believers,” not wishing to flaunt their “salvation” because such would be considered as prideful by the church brethren—the height of arrogance. And if these same believers did not want to endure excommunication and shunning, wishing to remain with their families, they would remain in the Amish church in hopes of shedding the light of the full Gospel, as well.
To answer the question more fully, I can’t say that all Mennonites are born-again believers, just as all Lutherans or members of other denominations aren’t automatically classified as Christians simply due to an affiliation with a particular church, according to the Scriptural definition of a follower of the Lord Jesus.
How long did it take you to complete each book in the Abram’s Daughters series?
Well, I’ve been thinking about the whole of the Abram’s Daughters saga for about four years, keeping notes and extensive outlines, thinking about the character arcs and motivations, etc. As to beginning the writing of the first draft, working on revisions and the edit; it can require about 4 to 5 months of my life for each book.
How much research did The Revelation take to complete?
I am so blessed with a team of wonderful research people. My Amish friends would never want to be praised for their help, however, nor have their names published in my acknowledgements. I return to my birthplace, Lancaster, Pa., and spend time with my Plain family and friends, who are eager to help with accurate research. I am also delighted to say that I’ve made some good friends in the Amish community of Sugarcreek, Ohio. I love to gather the research right on the soil of the area, if at all possible.
How many books will be in the Annie’s People series?
Is there any other book project on the horizon?
Oh, yes. I’m writing a picture book for ages 4-8.
What is the subject matter?
The topic is one of my favorites—heaven and how to get there.
|Will you be compiling any more cookbooks?
I haven’t decided. Readers keep asking for a sequel. But how do you write a sequel to a cook book when you’ve given every Amish recipe away already? So my present cookbook may be all there is.
Are you going to branch out with your writing into other subject areas?
I certainly have an abundance of ideas, so I might do just that at some point. My readers continue to plead for more Amish stories, however, and I do have lots of ideas for Plain settings. Maybe enough for two lifetimes!
Who is the person who most influenced you with your writing?
Oh, my mother, absolutely. She was the one who would read aloud in a most expressive, beautiful way. When my sister and I were little girls, every night our mother read Bible stories, as well as the “Little House” books, which I dearly loved. We’d cry together and we’d laugh. She whet Barbara’s and my appetite for good books when we were small girls. Soon after, I started writing poetry and began studying piano when I was four years old. I was a very serious little pianist—my first love.
I wrote lyrics to go with the five-finger piano melodies I played. Later, when I was a sixth grader, I became smitten with the idea of writing short stories and from then on my mother saved everything I wrote. I have those long, long stories filed away in my office, and my kids and granddaughters just roll their eyes and say, “Oh, mom this is too funny.”
Is your mother still alive?
Thankfully, she is. My book, The Sunroom tells her story from my eyes, although fictionalized ….a 12 year old girl quickly losing her mother to a dreaded cancer. The miracle is that God healed her and the cancer never returned. She celebrated her 83rd birthday last year. Without her amazing faith and encouraging ways, I would not be writing today. She is remarkable in her prayer life...I can always depend on hers and Dad’s prayers. I used to ask her to do my final line edit because she’d find mistakes that proof readers missed. She has an incredible eye for the written word. I could go on and on; she is a darling!
What were your favorite books as a child?
All of the old classics, of course. The Secret Garden, the Anne books, anything by Louisa May Alcott. I love poetry. Robert Louis Stevenson is incredible. The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew intrigued me—I loved that book. Cheaper By The Dozen inspired me to pray, when I was ten--“Lord, I would like to adopt children when I’m married some day.” And, guess what? Our three children are adopted.
The books I devoured as a child have influenced my life and my decision making, I believe, and put a hunger in me to write wholesome and inspiring fiction. Evil is so enticing—why can’t goodness be equally appealing?
What message would you like your readers to take from “The Revelation?
There are multiple layers of messages—our intense yearning for simplicity, and the tender tug toward our Creator God, as well as the rich community of family. I also think many have lost touch with the joy friendships can bring. To me, friendship is an essential aspect of living on this planet. We need to be connected not only with like-minded people, in Christian fellowship, but with unbelievers, too. Our Lord was a friend to the sinner. I think it’s essential to share the light and the love of Christ, to nurture the friendships next door, right on our street…to take a meal to a sick neighbor or invite him or her to lunch…to help out with their little children. All those practical kinds of things that are the components of true friendship. There are many open doors for friendship, extending oneself for another; one more important theme of my books.
|What is your favorite Bible verse?
There are too many to recite. But Matthew 5:16 (NIV) is so much a part of my life:
…”let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
What is your goal or mission as a writer of inspiration fiction?
Imparting the unconditional love of Jesus Christ and allowing His light of grace and mercy shine from the pages of my book, is my hope and prayer…on whatever level the reader may bring to it, whether they are churchgoers or if they have no clue who Christ is. I trust that each reader will glean something of goodness and eternal hope, whether a life-changing direction or a spiritual truth. I want my books to be a wholesome option to the line-up of books on any bookstore shelf. And, from what my readers are saying, I believe my books tend to be instructional, due to the intense intrigue into the Anabaptist culture, my own heritage. The inner-woven aspects of grace are also important to me, the gentle weaving of this into the storyline.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
I find the process of first- draft writing to be quite difficult…each book seems harder to write than the one before. If I have a good day and things flow beautifully, well, that’s not really the norm. I think of myself as a re-writer…constantly reworking, polishing, tweaking.
This question also ties in with the earlier one with regard to our sponsoring overseas children, coupled with the fact that two of our children are young adults, but they are developmentally disabled. One of my big priorities in life is to be a perpetual mom, to meet the special needs of our household on a day to day basis—to be continually patient, to “be Jesus” to our children.
There are times when it is difficult to keep on top of my writing schedule, because my first calling is to our “kids.” Other challenges are the whole process of juggling what I need to do in the house, like laundry, cooking (which I love) etc…and getting the hours in that it requires to pull off the book deadlines. Another challenge I want to fulfill is answering my email from readers. Dave and I still view this to be a big part of my ministry. It’s an essential part of the whole.