Say "Amish," and many Western New Yorkers might think of the Southern Tier, with its simple-living, plain-dressing Christians, but the Amish way of life is very much alive in eastern Niagara County, as well.
Norman Miller, 33, is among the Amish who worship in Niagara County homes on Sundays, as is their custom. Miller, who started Medina's Ridgeway Publishing, has recently released "Out of Deception," an expose on excommunicated -- and now-imprisoned -- former Amish man Wilber Lee Eash.
How does one tell true believers from people like Eash, who was sentenced in Michigan to up to 15 years in prison in 2003 for sexual assault?
"Be careful with man's interpretation of the Bible," Miller said. "If it doesn't correspond with the clear teachings of Scripture, then look out. We believe in being a church who believes the Bible for what it says and puts it in everyday practice."
More than 10,000 copies of "Out of Deception" have been sold since the book's September release date. Published by Miller, the book was written by his identical twin brother, Nathan, and is about a young Amish teen -- Nathan's Indiana brother-in-law, Wil Hochstetler -- who was "lured into the clutches of smooth-talking cult leader [Eash]," Norman Miller said.
The book is just one of 20 titles that Norman Miller has published since purchasing an existing book business in 2004.
"It's a great opportunity, and mission, to reach people with biblical literature," he said. "To bring people a message of hope and direction for their lives by pointing them to God is immensely satisfying. The need for good, solid books that do not compromise the word of God has never been greater.
"Some of our titles are printed in-house, with our own printing and bindery equipment, while some of the other books are printed at printing companies elsewhere in the U.S. or Canada."
His latest offering "gives a rare glimpse of typical Amish life and faith, while also giving a glimpse of what can happen to people who are traditionally devout in their beliefs, but search for answers in the wrong places," he said.
"Our goal is to create an awareness of the dangers of cults and the potential of becoming thoroughly deceived, when one is searching and looks in the wrong places. We also hope readers can learn to help those who may be ensnared," he said.
"Also, this book shows the mighty power of God's grace and deliverance, and provides basic direction for people who find themselves in a cult, or who have loved ones caught in a similar situation."
Norman Miller and his wife, Marlena, are parents of two toddlers, Janelle and Jayden.
As far as his own Amish life is concerned, he said he is "part of the local Amish community which consists of around 30 families who live within a 10-mile area in Niagara County and Orleans County. As is typical for Amish, all our local transportation is with horse-and-buggy. We meet every Sunday for church services in our homes and enjoy having visitors attend."
He doesn't worry about the price of gas. Instead, he has a horse named "Doc."
Amish church fellowships began hundreds of years ago in Europe and arrived in Pennsylvania in the 1700s. Church districts average between 20 and 40 families, like Miller's, with strong focus on church and family relationships.
"Technology's allowed to a certain extent where it is necessary to operate a business," Miller said. "Certain technology, like the Internet, is unacceptable because of the inherent dangers that accompany it."
The Amish shy away from getting their photographs taken. "It's a long tradition," Miller said.
They celebrate Christmas -- minus the tree.
"We are interested in seeing people come to God and find forgiveness for their sins and salvation for their souls," Miller said. "We believe salvation comes through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ and not through our own works. Our works must be seen as simple obedience and an outworking of the power of God in our life. We believe the Bible commands us to be faithful followers of Jesus, if we are to inherit eternal life after we die."
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