Friday, November 22, 2013

Who can dine with Low German Mennonites?

LG Mennonites seem to always live by themselves shunning the material world and its influence. They appear as if they are completely self-sufficient in their own private world. LG Mennonites may not leave their darp (village/colony) very often, but they do let outsiders in.

LG Mennonites that did well with their farms would hire Mexican workers to help on the farm with jobs such as fence making, logging and herding cattle. They were paid relatively low wages but always served a hearty meal, cooked by the LG Mennonite women, who always invited workers into the home to eat; they was always meddach (lunch) at noon and faspa (coffee and pastries) a traditional Mennonite light meal between lunch and supper, around mid-afternoon.

It was a sin to eat at the same table with a Low German Mennonite person, who was shunned/excommunicated. They had to eat by themselves in the kumma (cold cellar) where the preserves were kept. It always smelled like sour milk down there.

I remember wondering why it was so sinful to wave at Mexican boys but it was okay to eat at the same table with them.  I was afraid to look them in the eyes; I would just look at their hands – they were so brown compared to ours.

I often wondered how the Mexicans were interviewed for work. “You will work the jobs I assign you, and you will eat with us,” our fathers might say. “But if I catch you acting inappropriately towards my daughters in any way, shape or form, you will get to know this Mennonite op oldiash!” – which means a weekday Mennonite, who was in a serious mood, as opposed to a sundiasha Mennonite, the more forgiving Sunday type neither the children nor the Mexicans ever really knew what would happen if we interacted. And in our darp (village/colony) we never found out.

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