Nine former Hutterites from Canada and the United States will make a stop in Red Deer next week as part of their book tour.
Cindy Waldner, Rodney Waldner, Junia Waldner, Karen Waldner, Darlene Waldner, and Sheryl Waldner were once part of the Hillside Colony in Manitoba. They all left the colony in 2006 with the exception of Cindy who left in 2007.
Glenda Maendel, Jason Waldner and Titus Waldner were part of the Forest River Colony in North Dakota and left that colony in 2006 as well.
Together the group, who calls themselves ‘The Nine’, has co-written the book Hutterites: Our Story To Freedom.
This is a story of nine young people who left their Hutterite colonies to follow Jesus Christ. They have said their motivation for writing this book is to help people in similar situations, Hutterites and non-Hutterites alike.
The group will be in Red Deer on Nov. 11 between 6:30-7:30 p.m. at Chapters for a meet and greet and to sign books as well.
As for their reasoning to leave colony life, Sheryl said she was miserable living in the colony.
“We grew depressed because we started to see the hypocrisy in the colony that they say they are Christians and yet there wasn’t the freedom to follow Jesus. We wanted something different. We were dying inside,” she said. “There were people that came from the outside – ex-Hutterites and non-Hutterites and they were preaching Jesus Christ and that salvation is a personal thing and that you could individually pray to receive Jesus and your life will be different. We had never heard that news in the colony. Jesus was just mentioned but it wasn’t a personal thing.
“When we heard that, we wanted that.”
Glenda said after she made the decision to leave, telling her family and friends was the hardest part.
“I for myself said this was enough. I’m tired of being miserable and going through all of the struggles – the same struggles that go day-by-day and just get worse and there’s nobody there to help you,” she said. “When I told my mom and dad that I was leaving – my dad was the minister of the Hutterite colony where I am from – he did not like it and he worried about what people would think about him.”
Glenda, who left the colony when she was 25-years-old, added she will never go back. “I am now married to someone who is not a Hutterite so I would have to divorce him and because I am a baptized Hutterite member I would have to go through two weeks of punishment before they would accept me back. But now that we have wrote the book, I think we’ve burned all of our bridges.”
Life for the two women immediately after they left the colony was somewhat of a shock, they said.
“The first day I was out, it felt like my life was totally different and I felt 40 years younger actually – even though I was only 17. It was such a weight lifted off me. There was a sense of freedom – I cannot describe it, it was incredible – just to learn basic things like getting a driver’s license and even going out to eat in a restaurant and shopping. I could not go back,” said Sheryl. “Now we all have our own businesses and associate with people (outside of the colony). We were not made to just stick to ourselves. We have met so many people, especially now with writing the book.”
Glenda added in the colony she thought being a good Christian was to not have any fun or experience any joy.
“Now after we’ve left the peace that we have is daily. Now we have the opportunity to serve the Lord. Just to have the freedom to express ourselves is a totally different lifestyle.”
She said one of the biggest shocks of leaving the colony was communicating with others.
“The Hutterites speak Hutterish and it’s a language that cannot be read or written,” said Glenda. “For me to come out and to speak English – the Hutterish language was something that was comfortable for me – but it was hard because I’m not going to speak Hutterish around English people.”
Sheryl said she also struggled with the communication aspect after leaving the colony.
“In the colony there is very little communication. As a woman, your work is assigned for you. You wake up in the morning and your work is written on the bulletin board in the kitchen or you have your scheduled cook week and everything is on a schedule and you know what you have to do. There is not much where you share your personal feelings or what you wanted to do or what you liked to do.”
Meanwhile, as for their newly released book, it took the group seven years to write it.
“There was a lot of stuff to deal with – physically, emotionally, mentally,” said Glenda. “As for us writing the book – we love the Hutterite people but the system is wrong. We know the struggles that we went through, there are other people in the colony that struggle with the same thing. We want them to know there is freedom beyond the walls of the Hutterite colony.”
Sheryl added she hopes to reach out to other Hutterites as well.
“It would have been selfish for us to not speak up because of the freedom we have found. There was a time in the colony that we did not know there is a different way. We thought that we have to live like that for the rest of our lives. I know the hopelessness I was in and I don’t want anyone to go through that.”
Sheryl said people are also interested in what the Hutterites do and how they live their lives.
“Many people are curious to know who the Hutterites are and what they do so we felt responsibility to write the book,” she said. “The feedback we’ve gotten has been incredible. Some Hutterites have not liked the book, but a lot of people that have spoken against the book have never actually read it. But there have been Hutterites that have read it and they have said everything is true, there are good points in there and for everyone who tries to discourage us, there are a lot more people that come to encourage us. It’s been great.”
For more information about the book or the group visit www.thenine9.com.