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LOCAL AMISH SHRUG OFF TRENDY MEDIA ATTENTION

Life goes on.

That's the sentiment of many Amish families who live in eastern Niagara and western Orleans counties, as television audiences around the country tune into the latest "reality" series, "Amish in the City," which premiered Wednesday on WNLO-TV.

"There are a lot of variations in Amish (communities)," said 23-year-old Caleb Schlabach, of Ridgeway. "What you see on television may be portrayed as real, but you have to consider many things and not say this portrays all Amish."

Schlabach was in Holmes County, Ohio, earlier in the year when he said the community was approached by people saying they were from Hollywood and they wanted to learn more about the Amish way of life. He said they got a rather chilly reception because Amish, who don't watch television, feel that they aren't portrayed accurately by Hollywood.

"Those who see us every day learn who we are," said his father, David Schlabach. "If you want to really know us, you need to spend some time with us and learn from us."

In the show, five Amish teenagers spend time in Hollywood Hills for the 10-hour series during a period called "rumspringa." It's a time where some Amish teens are permitted to leave their homes to experience the "ways of the world" before deciding whether or not to commit to the Amish lifestyle. The lifestyle is based on strong Christian belief and working with your hands. There is no universal time limit for the phase, nor in fact is the phase a staple of all Amish life.

The local Amish, for example, don't practice a period of rumspringa.

"We don't observe such a thing because we don't believe it's necessary to send our youth into the world where sin is present to prepare them to live a life of service to god," said Alvin Beachly, 74.

The Amish lifestyle, said Beachly, is based on the premise that man is a fallen being from God, and they must be "born again" spiritually to make it to heaven. From birth, children live a life close to the earth, without such things as television, movies and automobiles in an effort to keep the family unit close together.

When a child reaches the "age of accountability," which differs from person to person, but generally falls between 15 to 18 years of age, a choice must be made. The decision they face is whether they wish to continue in the Amish lifestyle, which includes service to God, or to make their own way in the world.

While some of the Amish cultures in rural America may exercise rumspringa, the local Amish do not.

Johnny Miller, 48, an Amish cabinet maker who lives in Somerset, said the reason for not having such an opportunity is simple, since the object of the Christian Amish lifestyle is to combat sin in their lives, inviting it isn't such a wise decision.

He also said that while he has heard of the show "Amish in the City," he doesn't hold animosity toward its creators.

"Some people may not really know who we are, but we do," he said, adding that the reason for living the Amish lifestyle is simple and two-fold.

"We know the only way to heaven is to serve God," he said, while patting the head of his son, 2-year-old Phillip, and smiling. "We also live an Amish lifestyle to leave something for the future generations."

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