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Amish School Shooting 2006

UPDATE - October 2007 --- One Year Later

The West Nickel Mines School tragedy of October 2, 2006 was something unthinkable. Right after the shooting of these innocent little girls, calls came into us from CBC Toronto, FOX-TV, CNN London, ABC Nightline, BBC Radio Scotland, Inside Edition, Larry King Live, and various newspapers and radio stations. We declined any interviews, and referred them to our local visitors bureau. They handled the situation with sensitivity, and found an appropriate spokesman within the Anabaptist community. We also immediately received emails from people wanting to get messages of condolence to the Amish. Several hundred came in, and they were delivered to the families through an Amish minister.

During all this, people learned some things about the Amish other than their plain clothes and horse and buggy transportation. For example, the strong support system that a close-knit family and community provide, the power of their faith, and their belief in forgiveness. (One Amishman told me his first very human reaction was anger, but now he was struggling to forgive.) Many people were not aware of the close interaction between the Amish and non-Amish here, where many Amish serve in volunteer fire departments. The actions of officials, volunteers, medical teams, police and local government showed understanding and respect. One year later the healing, both physical and emotional, continues.

Many of us seemed preoccupied for an explanation of why this happened. There really was no way to make sense of this senseless act. As an Amish mother once said, "All the time the question 'Why?' comes to our minds. But we should not expect to be able to understand everything in this life, and should never put a question mark where God has put a period." Little children were promised the kingdom of heaven.

One Amishman said that the first shock was the act itself, something they could never have expected. The second shock was the support of so many people the Amish did not even know. Thousands of letters poured into the community, including over $4,000,000 in donations from individuals and corporations. (A third of this has been used for surgeries, physical therapy, transportation, and counseling, with some of the funds also given to the family of the shooter.) The Amish had, inadvertently, sent quite a message to our "outside world" by the way they handled this tragedy, with great compassion and amazing grace.

The original school is gone, demolished on October 12, 2006. After the funerals were over and the media attention died down, the pupils were encouraged to come to informal school sessions at an Amish property. The five girls who died were buried in a small cemetery near Nickel Mines.

Now a new school stands in a new location. Appropriately named the New Hope Amish School, it opened on April 2, 2007, exactly six months after the shooting. The Amish tried to make it as "different" as possible, even down to the flooring. The new school was visited by some of those related to the tragedy, including State troopers and the shooter's widow, who has re-married and still lives in the county with her three children.

Local news media reported that four of the five surviving girls have returned to school, while the fifth girl has not, and is still confined to a wheelchair. Three of the families who lost daughters have had new babies, and the family that lost two girls had a baby boy in September. It will remain, of course, a difficult road ahead for all, but it is a new beginning.

At least three books about the tragedy have been published recently. The best is AMISH GRACE. The book looks at the response of the world to the "forgiveness" shown by the Amish. We English were often stunned to see the compassion shown by them to the widow and her children. The Amish were doing what they believed their faith told them to do, but it did not seem "normal" to many onlookers in the often violent world around them. As the authors of AMISH GRACE conclude....

"...one message rings clear: religion was not used to justify rage and revenge but to inspire goodness, forgiveness, and grace. And that is the big lesson for the rest of us regardless of our faith or nationality."

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Since the tragic incident of October 2, 2006, we have received requests to send emails to the Amish community in the aftermath of the tragic school shootings here in Lancaster County. (Selected ones of the hundreds received are re-printed below.) From now on, we encourage you to send cards or letters for the families to: Bart Township Fire Company, P.O. Box 72, 11 Furnace Road, Bart, PA 17503.

DONATIONS

Some of our readers have asked about making a donation of some kind. Information as we receive it will be posted below.....

1) Because of the overwhelming response in donations, the Amish "Nickel Mines Accountability Committee" appointed a group of community leaders to administrate this fund. A website was set up, and donations may be made online: www.afweb.org/foundation/nmsvictimsfund/

According to their website, checks also can be mailed directly to:

Anabaptist Foundation, Nickel Mines School Victims Fund
Anabaptist Foundation
PO Box 27
Mifflinburg, PA 17844

For further information about how to make a contribution, call Anabaptist Foundation's accounting office at 814-531-1023. For further information on the Anabaptist Foundation, call the Foundation Director at 276-733-9947.

2) Two funds have been established through Coatesville Savings Bank at 1082 Georgetown Road, Paradise, PA 17562. One fund is the "Nickle Mines Children's Fund." The other is the "Roberts Family Fund, for Children of the Roberts Family." www.coatesvillesavings.com

3) A fund was also set up by the Mennonite Central Committee, and may be sent to: Amish School recovery Fund, Mennonite Central Committee, 21 S. 12th Street, P.O. Box 500, Akron, PA 17501-0500.  717-859-1151 or 888-563-4676. www.mds.mennonite.net

4) Another fund is the Nickel Mines School Victims Fund, Hometowne Heritage Bank, 100 Historic Drive, P.O. Box 337, Strasburg, PA 17579.

Capital Blue Cross has also set up a $500,000 medical fund to help care for the victims and their medical expenses.

You might also consider  a donation to the Clinic for Special Children, a non-profit medical and diagnostic service for children with inherited metabolic disorders in Lancaster County. They do wonderful work that helps many Amish children (and others) to live and extend their lives. 

www.clinicforspecialchildren.org    

Clinic for Special Children, 535 Bunker Hill Road, Strasburg, PA 17579 

The kindness and consideration many of you have shown is both touching and consoling to all of us. Your prayers are surely the most important gift.                                                                       (10-18-06)

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MESSAGES FROM READERS & FRIENDS:

Because we have received hundreds of emails, we will not be able to post all of them, but only selected ones which we feel appropriate. Please know, however, that all emails are printed out and will be given to our Amish minister friend for delivery.....

I just wanted to say that I'm so sorry this terror has reached your community. Lose of life is tragic, young people with their whole life ahead of them, is more so. You are in the thoughts of my family.

 Please pass on my condolences to the Amish community for their losses. Thank you.

I am a 63 years old Canadian lady and I have seen what has happened to your community and I wish to offer my deepest condolences to the families who have lost loved ones in this tragedy. I have four children of my own and I know that we can't afford to lose any of them. How can anyone do a thing like that is beyond my understanding. It really is scary to live in  this world nowadays. If there is a community who does not deserve such a thing, it's yours. You never do anything to hurt anybody. How can anyone take it out on innocent children. I wish I had an answer to that. But...life goes on and your wounds will heal and soon you will pick up the pieces and go about your business as usual. Thanks for reading. Take care! Please forward my condolences to the grieving families. God bless you all!

 I am so sorry for the Amish people’s loss. I’m writing this in tears. God bless you

 I saw the terrible story about the Amish school on TV yesterday. In 1989 my family and I visited Lancaster County and your centre. We were fascinated and awed by the Amish lifestyle and the quiet resilience and politesse of the people. Ever since we have all held a special place in our hearts for the area and the Amish Community. I am so sorry to hear about the shootings and deeply saddened that anyone could attack such a peaceful and lovely bunch of people. Please pass on my condolences to the community and let them know they have many friends overseas whose thoughts and prayers are with them. Many Thanks.

Sending our deepest sympathy to your whole community

I am shocked and horrified to hear of today's events in Lancaster County. Please pass along to the members of your community that that they are in my prayers, and to please not blame all "English" for the actions of this one deranged individual. I hope that this event does not change the Amish lifestyle in any way, as the purity and trustfulness of these people is what makes them so admirable. Tearfully…

Having just gotten the latest issue of Amish News, I was going to sit and read it, when I happened to put on the news and saw about the shooting of the children. I am deeply sorry for what has happened and my wife and I would like for you to extend our deepest sympathies to all of the brethren in your beautiful area, now tarnished somewhat but strong enough to survive. We have been coming to the area for the last 13 years and find peace and solitude among the gentle people in the area. We will keep coming back. please tell  your Amish neighbors and friend's that our heart's and prayers are with them in this time of sorrow. Thank you so much for letting me say my feelings.

We are saddened by the outrageous act of Charles Roberts. We wanted to send out our deepest sympathies to the families and the community rocked by this unconscionable evil act of violence. Please convey our deepest sympathies to your community. We will pray for your hurting hearts to be healed, though we know that your wound will never go away. We pray that you will feel God's love surround your families and communities. Please know that you are being prayed for and that we will continue to pray for you. We only wish that the tears that we cry could bring you more comfort, please know, you are loved and we are sorry for all the pain that you are going through.

My heart is so heavy for your entire community and the loss of your beautiful children, who now sit on God's lap watching over you.  I am ashamed that such a hateful act of violence could be wrought on such peaceful, God-loving people.  I am praying for you and will continue to pray for you and your families. God bless you and help you through your grief.

We may never understand God's purpose in taking the young lives in such a senseless and cruel act.  We can only trust in God and that His purpose will be revealed maybe not in this World but in the next.  We can only trust that that children no longer suffer and are safe in God's hands.  The prayers of our family are with you at this time and our tears flow for the profound sadness of your losses.  We live among the English but are German in heritage.  We will say the Lord's Prayer Das Gebet von Herrn to remind us to forgive for it is all the heart can do to seek comfort in the face of such a senseless act. We give the parents of those lost our love and respect.  Trust that there is a plan for each of you and a purpose for all things under Earth, Zweck für alle Dinge unter Himmel.

To the families and friends who have lost their precious little girls: Please know that America’s heart is aching for you. God’s Word is the comfort that will get you through this. Hold on to your faith and take care of each other the best way you can. I will be praying for you.

My family and I would like to send our deepest condolences to the entire Amish community. It is so sad to hear about anyone, let alone young children being targeted by anger. I hurt for the families of those children that were killed in this senseless act of violence. It is incomprehensible to us that anyone could so coldly and violently kill innocent children. We pray that the strength and love within your community will help these families cope with their enormous grief. And to the children and adults who survived this horror, we also pray that you will find the strength to get through your terrible experience. As a mother of 4, I can't imagine the tremendous void this has left in your hearts. I can only extend my heart in prayer and friendship that our Lord will help you get through.

Dear Amish people: I am Christian, with Baptist background, from Denmark writing my final paper at a University in in the small country of Denmark, in Northern Europe. I felt so sorry for what have happened in your community. And I pray to God that he may help you through. I was reading on the internet about you, and could see that your faith background, is my background, whereas I have attended a Baptist church. I could put myself into your situation. You have chosen the easy road. I am living in the world, trying to make a change which can be difficult. Then for you who are just peacemakers, not doing any harm to the environment, just living a non stress full life, serving each other and God, it is just not fair what you have experienced. You were the last people this should happen to. And I pray that God can use this situation to put the focus on him, who suffered for us all, and so the world can be so angry at the evil world, and the Devil, and turn to him. Your story, your suffering are around the world and people know your are just working for peace, which is such a light, and what the world need to heard. I pray that God may be close to you knowing you have family around you that are praying for you, and feeling with you.

We send our sincerest and heartfelt condolences to the families of those involved in the terrible incident on Monday, and to the Amish Community as a whole. Your pain is being felt all over the World, and we hope our thoughts and prayers will be of some comfort to you all. With all our love... (from the United Kingdom)

Hello & thank you for allowing us outsiders a contact site. Were I asked who would be the least likely people to come under attack, [even in this country, which is going down the sewer], I would promptly say "The Amish"; they never bother anyone, are highly respected, absolutely magnificent artisans, etc. & just really good people; Myself & my wife are shocked & dumbfounded about this totally senseless tragedy, & we pray for the wounded & those lost. I firmly believe that the saying "You're just not safe anywhere anymore." is indeed true. My next-door neighbors are from Lancaster Co. but aren't home at this time or I would ask them about the rules of firearms ownership in the Amish Community. Since your crime rate is virtually non-existent, I doubt if many families are armed for protection; that is, if they are even allowed to be. I find it hard to believe that this perpetrator could be so sick minded & nobody notices it!? I'm just a North Carolina "good ole country boy", so I hope you all will forgive me for my anger over this... but I hope this guy burns in hell forever! Sorry, but I couldn't hold back on that. Again, I, speaking for my family, wish to extend our deepest condolences & our sorrow for this evil, cowardly act. May those lost dwell in Valhalla.

We had just experienced our own school tragedy here in Colorado and now Nickel Mines suffers grief. The Amish families Stoltzfus and Miller and all others will be in my prayers. I have visited the Lancaster area many times and have always held Amish and Mennonite values in the highest regard.

I am a  50 year old Christian woman living in rural Texas.  I am saddened that the evils of this world has touched your homes.  I have been praying for the families of these children and the community as well.  One day we will understand why this happened. But not here, not in this lifetime.  God's ways are not our ways.  I don't understand why He allows tradegy any more than you do, but I know He will be with us, even when we don't feel like He is near - He will be - He has promised never to leave us or forsake us.  With your eyes looking above I pray you will find peace in your hearts.  Our church is praying for your community also.  God Bless you..........

Please send my love and prayers to the community. Seeing an elder speak of forgiveness so simply and deeply after this tragedy made me weep. If only we could all learn from this. They are all in my thoughts and prayers and I will join with them in praying for the Roberts family. With love...

I want to give my deepest apologies to the people of the Amish Country. I am embarrassed as an American for the sin cal acts which has taken place. I will keep your people in my prayers and bless the souls of the lost children. My heart is deeply saddened by these events and I wish there were more I could do. This should have never happened to you or your community. I am an African American woman and haven’t had many contacts with your people but I am familiar with your lifestyle and have actually purchased many of your food products. I am totally sorry for your people and will continue to pray for you. Love...

I am so sorry to hear of your loss.  Please be advised that all that happens in this world is not for us to comprehend.  I pray that your grief is eased by your faith in God, and the knowledge that your children are looking down at you from the Heavens Above. With all my Love and Faith, I pray for you and your community. Proverbs 3:5: Trust in the Lord with All of your Heart.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.

Words can hardly express my feelings. Innocence lost. . . my thoughts and prayers are with the families of these tiny victims. May the Lord and your faith provide strength and comfort during this most trying time. 

Thank you so much for this opportunity to reach the families of the Nickle Mine School. The Amish have long been respected by my family. While we live in North Carolina our family has been taking vacations to Lancaster County for 18 years. We feel very connected to the Amish community and we share their strong faith in God. Our hearts go out to the Miller, Fisher, Ebersole and Stoltzfus families. We pray for the remaining 5 children and their families as they are in serious condition in area trauma centers. We also pray for all those that fled to safety as their memories will forever be pierced by this horrific selfish act. God Welcomes into his kingdom those 5 precious, innocent girls, whose lives were so quickly taken from their families. God holds them in his arms and they bless us all with their now forever radiant smiles, they truly are God's children. I know the strong faith in God that each of these families share will certainly see them through this tragedy and in the end only make them stronger. We extend our heart, love, prayers and comfort to you all as you seek to accept this tragedy and find the strength to move in the direction God leads you. God Bless YOU ALL.

As a New Yorker who is now working in Moscow, Russia on business, I have never been more moved by any single event. It is senseless. It is a waste of life. It's done against a good and kind people. Please know that we- Americans, Russians and people from all over the world pray for you tonight. Bless you.

Dear Amish community --- my heartfelt condolences to you all. (Republic of Ireland)

I am writing from Superior, Wisconsin.  Just this week we had a bomb scare in our High School, and two air guns were recovered in the Middle School.  We pray that families here (and everywhere) will never experience the sadness you are working through right now.

Following the news in Holland about the terrible act I want to tell you that : I am with my thoughts with you. I am praying for you. I respect you.  May God be with you all the time and help you under these difficult circumstances. My condolences from my heart. (The Netherlands)

I am sitting here with tears running down my cheeks wondering what I could possibly say that would provide any comfort to your community, and especially to the families of the children who were killed or injured.  I know that even the children who were not physically harmed are experiencing deep emotional hurt.  My heart aches for each one of you, child or adult.  I simply do not have the language to express the depth of feeling my husband and I have for you. 

 

What happened to you was unimaginable to any people in any society in any country.  We all love our children and want them to be and feel safe.  I don’t think anyone can feel safe in these times where so much wickedness exists.   I understand why you want to live apart from the world outside your community.  I wish you had been able to.  I hope nothing like this ever happens again – to you or to anyone.  Our thoughts, prayers, and love are with you.  (Littleton, Colorado)

Dear Amish Community, How can I find the right words, I can’t. I send my heart which has gone out to you already, even all the way here to Australia we hear the news and cry for the pain. Peace to all. Bless you.

I'm not a religious person, but I'm still deeply shocked and feel great sadness at what has happened to your community.  I don't understand, children are the future of man kind, innocent and pure, why...........  My thoughts are with you all, United Kingdom.

I just wanted to let you know that people all over the country are thinking of and praying for you, your community, the girls and their families. What a terrible thing to happen and especially to sweet innocent children. We do all we can to keep our children safe and to protect them from accident, injury, evil.  We can only do so much and then we need to just let God take it from there. Best wishes in your time of sadness and loss.

 

Thank you so much for creating a central location where people can share their sympathies and grief with the families and the bereaved in this horrible tragedy. I am so sorry.  There are never any words good enough to respond to a tragedy, much less this tragedy.  You are all in my prayers -- that God may bring you comfort and peace, and in thanksgiving for the powerful grace you've already shown the world in the funds you've established not only for your own children, but for the children of the man who committed this violence.  I try -- probably with more failures than successes -- to live a life of that kind of compassion.  I am so sorry that anything happened to bring your courage and grace to my attention here on the west coast, and so grateful that your example exists in the world.  God be with each and all of you.

I am so sorry for your communities loss and will say a prayer for you all to be able to accept God's choices. The children are now in Heaven, what a wonderful place to be! God bless you all.

Dear Amish community... My deepest condolences to you all. I grieve for the early demise of the little ones and their loved ones who remain and must, somehow, carry on...My heart weeps for the lives of the most innocent of the innocents.... My thoughts are with you.... May God give you the strength and the courage to bear this irreparable loss....
God looked around his Garden and found some empty places.
He then looked down upon his earth and saw the loving faces....
He put his arms around the little ones and lifted them to rest.
His Garden must be beautiful because he always takes the best....

I am from Chicago, but have visited Lancaster County on several occasions.  The gentleness and integrity of the Amish people left a lasting impression on me. I just wanted to take a moment and say  a prayer for the innocent children and families who have who have tragically suffered through no fault of their own.  While they are gone, they will not be forgotten.  They will live on in our hearts and souls forever. May God bless them all and keep them safe within his arms. I believe that faith and prayer can bring us through the hardest of times and I will continue to pray for the entire Amish community.

I am so very sorry to hear about what has happened. My heart and prayers go out to you all who have endured this and who have kept steadfast in the belief of Jesus Christ in our lives. This world needs your influence, your discipline and holiness. The Lord is with you all.

I give you all my deepest condolences in this very difficult time.  I have prayed for all of those you have lost, and for you, the families and community, that you be filled with the Lord's grace, and move to healing.  Know that Friends will hold you all in the Light.

I am sorry and very sad about what has happened to your community and your families.  There is so much useless pain and suffering brought about by evil on innocent victims trying to go about their lives in peace.  I send my prayers of healing and love to those who lost those little ones.  Also, that the community as a whole can heal and somehow grow even closer through God's loving grace.  My heart goes out to all now and in the days and weeks to come.  May God Bless you.
 

God does answer prayer and he never leaves us or forsakes us.   Take comfort that those who Love Jesus are never alone.  He was with the children and he is still with the children.  I can say no other words as it is such a grievous thing to have happened, except I will be praying for all the families.  I will also be sending by mail a donation to help the families.

I want to send my heartfelt thoughts and prayers to all in your community right now. A tragedy like this should never happen to anyone, but it seems even more heartbreaking when it happens to a group so dedicated to peace. I wish I had the words to heal your hearts, but that is something that only our God can do. Please know that your community is in my prayers. Thank you also, for letting outsiders have a way to contact you all and let you know that we care for you. "Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance! "

My family and I would like to express our deepest sorrow for your lost. Your community is one that I thought would never be touched by such violence. I admire your faith and convictions and both of these will get you through this tragic ordeal.

Only our great God in Heaven knows why this horrific event occurred.  He will bless and keep all of you.  My prayers go out to all of the children and the families affected by this tragedy.  God Bless the Children!  In Christ's love 

Dear Amish Parents and community,
You have my very deep felt condolences at your recent tragic loss of your future members and the upsetting of your peaceful community. Having only been upset 2 weeks ago by the Dawson College shooting here in Montreal, they have said that this murder has been a ricochet result from the murderer here.  I work as a medical secretary in one of the clinics that deals with the students of this college.  It really has affected the community as a whole, not only for the students and staff but the parents, aunts, uncles, friends and people who are sensible and sensitive to the community at large.  Your recent tragic events has ruptured my soul.  I still believe that you live a better life than we do with all our modern "necessities".  You are on a correct path of life.  You do well at leaving the fast-past-city behind.  Please know that your community and the families who have lost their children, have my utmost and respectful sympathy.

Words escape me.  Shame for the ways of this cursed world assails me. My prayers will continually go forth for the families and loved ones and the entire Amish community.  And our nation; our world. Abba Father,  please - hold these hurting people close into Yourself, through this valley of shadow and grief.  Show yourself mighty to comfort and to heal, to bring Your Peace in the midst of indescribable suffering.  Bring blessing and joy once again into souls that cannot fathom such a thing now.  Thank You, Father God, for your faithfulness to hold the children safe in Your hand, in Your kingdom.  In Jesus' Name, Amen.

It breaks my heart that one individual can create such pain for so many.  I am so sorry that your community has suffered through this loss.  May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may you feel His presence of peace through this time.

With prayers and sorrow to all of you.  I am so sorry.  You are all in my prayers.  I cannot imagine the grieve you must feel.  Thank you for your respect and example of being a forgiving people.  You do what we should all do...trust God for the outcome...forgive...regardless...leaving the judgment to God.  With prayers and tears... "Praise be to God who DAILY bears our burdens".  Psalm 68: 19

To all the Amish people i was so sorry to here of your tragedy, living in England i have heard and read over the years the way you live your lives and your Christian beliefs. These beliefs i feel will help you to recover from this tragedy, and can only confirm that your way of life is the right way in this some times cruel world, from all of us in England except our sympathy.

Liebe Amish, es hat uns bis ins Herz weh getan zu hören was passiert ist in Paradise, Pennsylvania. Obwohl mein Mann Harmen und ich nicht religiös sind hoffen wir das Euer Glaube an Gott einen unterstützung bieten werd um diesen Tragödie zu verarbeiten; es gibt keine Wörter um Euer Leid zu lindern. Ihr seit in unseren Gedanken und in unseren Herzen. Leeuwarden, Niederlände

To the family of those who have lost their loved ones and to the Amish community: My colleagues, friends and I, am horrified by the senseless violence which has occurred on the 2nd of October 2006. My deepest condolences to you all in this challenging and tragic time. You are in our prayers in South Africa. Regards and prayers.

Until this week I had little knowledge of the Amish community, or your way of life, but I greatly admire the generous spirit you are showing in your choice of charitable recipients - to think of the Roberts family at this time (and from your perspective) is a truly charitable act. Of course those children are deserving and will have many struggles in the future, but there are few communities which could be so considerate so soon after such an horrific event - that you have shown such care and generosity has moved me to tears. I'm so very sorry for the awful events of October 2nd - the grieving family (indeed, your whole community) is in my thoughts.

I am secular, but see eye to eye with most Christians on most things and I see the beauty of Christianity and the Amish lifestyle. But I am still not able to figure out how such a thing can happen to such a beautiful people as you, the Amish, who choose to live an upright and moral life.  Nothing can explain it and  I do not believe something such as this is part of God's plan.  And I will not comment on your girls, because nobody knows for sure what happens after death.  Of course, you have faith that explains where the girls are, and I respect your faith.  Anyway, please know, that for those of you that remain here, on earth, the love that is expressed on earth is with you...please let me carry some of your sorrow and burden.  I send you my love in exchange. With warmest Love,

I was deeply shaken to hear of the tragedy that came upon your community. May the souls of the children rest in peace at God's side and may you feel His strength and comfort during this grief-filled time. Blessings thru Christ.

This is a message from England. I just want to say that we were all deeply shocked at the loss of your children. As a mother , I can only imagine the terrible time your community is going through and my heart goes out to all of you. I know that there is nothing that anyone can say at this terrible time, that will alleviate your pain . I just wanted to let you know that there are those from many miles away who are keeping you in their thoughts , and I hope that the obvious strength and love within your community will help you get through.
I also feel terribly sad for the family of the man who committed this act, as they are also left to deal with the shock of what he has done. It will not be an easy time for them, either now or in the future, as they try to come to terms with what has happened.  

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