Amish church planting for converts?

New Amish groups are being established in non-traditional ways outside of the faith’s heartland in Pennsylvania and the Midwest, according to an article in the Washington Post (June 25). Two small South American settlements were both founded last fall after longstanding Mennonite communities in those countries reached out to North American Amish to explore affiliation, according to Steven Nolt, a researcher on Anabaptist and Mennonite groups. In recent years, their members in Bolivia and Argentina have faced financial problems and isolation, so they wrote to an Amish publisher in Canada and eventually got in touch with a New Order Amish group in Ohio that permits its members, under certain circumstances, to make airplane trips.
After ministers with the Ohio Amish visited these South American inquirers, they sent two families to settle the area and plant communities the Mennonites can join. The Associated Press-based article points out that North American Amish generally do not proselytize or do mission work. The Bolivian community, known as Colonia Naranjita, is about 75 miles southwest of Santa Cruz, while the settlement in rural northwestern Argentina is located east of Catamarca. “This is kind of a new and different thing and illustrates (an) unusually—even among the New Order Amish—Amish approach to taking in new members,” Nolt said. He added that Mennonite men in those areas have begun to grow Amish-type beards, and an Ohio Amish woman has made bonnet head coverings for the women.