Before Raymond Weaver was praying to know whom he should bring into the gospel of Jesus Christ next, Paul and Mary Hochstetler were looking for a new church.
Paul Hochstetler had begun reading books that caused him to question some Amish practices and beliefs. But when he brought these concerns to his Amish bishop, he remembers, “They said, ‘Well, it always was that way.’ And I said, ‘No, I need to know why.’”
Raymond Weaver’s sister happened to ask him, “Did you know the Hochstetlers are looking for a new Church?” Weaver knew that he needed to talk to the family, but the Spirit told him, “not yet.”
- When Raymond and Levi Troyer arrived at the Hochstetlers front door, they were anxious to hear about a church that believed in building strong leadership and modeling everything, from its organization to its covenants, after Christ’s teachings.
- As Mary and Paul read the Book of Mormon together, they constantly referenced the New Testament, studying the two side-by-side. “We wanted to make sure we knew that they coincided,” Mary says.
- Five weeks after being introduced to the gospel, the Hochstetlers were baptized on June 27, 2012.
- Six weeks after the Hochstetlers joined the Church, the converts felt prompted to approach another couple about the gospel, and the couple told the Amish leaders.
The shunning process started about six weeks afterward.
- The Hochstetlers, however, suffered the heartache of watching their family become divided. Though many of their older children were married with children of their own, the Hochstetlers had nine children under the age of 18 living in their home and were planning a wedding that September.
- But as the wedding day approached, Paul and Mary noticed that the community and their own children were not pitching in as expected. The Hochstetlers later learned that leaders within the community had told the Hochstetler children that since their parents were not listening to the Amish bishop and church leaders, they did not need to listen to or obey their parents.
- Mary remembers one sleepless night when the phrase, “You have to talk to the kids,” kept running through her mind. The next day, while the older children were away, Mary brought the younger children together and began asking them questions about how they felt about their parents’ new faith. Paul felt a prompting to return home that same morning and was there to share in the conversation.
- Paul and Mary discovered that their older children would often tell the younger children that their parents were sinners and that they should move away, outside of their parents’ influence. After that conversation, Paul and Mary kept their younger children close around the clock so that they could protect them from their own siblings.
- By that November, three of the Hochstetler’s teenaged children had moved out of their home. While Paul and Mary felt heartbroken, Mary remembers the question that helped her endure the separation: “Do you love them enough to let them go?”
Over the years the Hochstetlers have respected their nine older children’s choices to live the Amish faith and are careful not to cross any boundaries, which has helped build a bridge of common ground.