While driving through Holmes County in eastern Ohio, it isn't uncommon to see beautiful rolling hills dotted with cattle, sheep, and even llamas. But to tourists, the most intriguing sight of all may be the Amish people, traveling along in their horse-drawn buggies, plowing the fields, or selling their furniture and crafts. They are everywhere. In fact, Holmes County has the largest settlement of Amish in the United States.
The Amish are a people who hold to the traditions of their forefathers, including pacifism. And so, one would think that this rural part of the United States would be largely disconnected from the turmoil of the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001, and the ensuing war in Afghanistan against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. This, however, is not the case.
Set in the heart of Amish country is a 500-member nondenominational church called Berlin Christian Fellowship, which is filled with a group of enterprising women who are eager to share their faith and love with the women of Afghanistan. And they're doing it in the form of a book—a cookbook, to be exact. Their colorful tome, A Well-Watered Garden Cookbook, is the culmination of more than a year of prayers, hard work, and God's surprises.
Behind the Veil
In the summer and fall of 2000, when the Taliban's persecution of the women of Afghanistan was becoming more apparent to the outside world, a handful of Berlin Christian Fellowship women gathered to pray and fast for their upcoming women's conference. During that period, one of the women, Naomi Gingerich, had a dream. She dreamed of an Afghan woman clothed in a dark, full-length veil—only her eyes were exposed, and there were hordes of other veiled women behind her.
"As I looked into the woman's eyes, I saw tremendous sorrow, despair, and hopelessness," Gingerich recalls. The bleak look on the woman's face pierced her heart so much that she could almost feel the despair herself. In the dream, she asked the woman, "Why don't you take the veils off and be free?" But she received no answer, just a blank stare of sadness. This dream inspired Gingerich to research the plight of women in Afghanistan and to later suggest that a time of prayer for them be included at the women's conference.
During the conference, Gingerich told the assembled women about the dream and spoke about some of the persecution the Afghan women were suffering. Then they prayed.
As Erma Yoder listened to Gingerich, something profound stirred deep within her. "It broke my heart to hear about the bondage those women were in," she says. "I wanted to help set them free." She continued to pray for the women of Afghanistan after the conference, longing for a way to reach out to them.