The Nine: Misrepresentation of the Whole

Written by: Carol Maendel on Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

My name is Carol Maendel. I am a 26-year-old wife and mother who lives at Forest River Colony near Fordville, North Dakota with 100+ other people. I am a Hutterite. I was married a year ago and moved from my colony to my husband’s, as is our custom. Growing up at my small mother colony in Montana, I attended a public school in town, got a driver’s license when I was 15 and graduated in 2006 from Roundup High School.  I worked at the colony and spent time with my family until I was baptized. I then married and moved to Forest River.

I live, work, and enjoy my new family and friends here at my home. This is my response to the book Hutterites: Our Story to Freedom,  written by “The Nine”, a group of Hutterites who left their colonies and have written a book about their experiences.

Many people have never heard of Hutterites and have never visited a  colony. It saddens me that people would be so naive as to base their opinion of such an incredibly complex culture on the word of nine people who say they’ve “escaped” and have now written a book about it.  While their 83-page book may contain some truth, it is also filled with straight-faced lies, omissions and inaccurate information about the Hutterites, our way of life and the Nine’s stories. If you tell a story, and you deliberately leave things out, then you have essentially told a lie. This is what they have done. When people read this book, they will be deceived by what they now believe to be the truth about the Hutterites.

There are nearly 50,000 Hutterites living in about 500 colonies all over western North America. The Hutterite faith is Anabaptist, meaning we do not believe in infant baptism, and we broke away from the Catholic Church in the 1500s in Moravia (now the Czech Republic). We are also pacifists, and wear a traditional dress that sets us apart from the non-Hutterite world. We are spiritual cousins to the Amish and Mennonites, but one thing that is unique to our faith is that we believe in living together communally and sharing all goods together

“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” -Acts 2:42-47

We eat three meals together every day, work every day except Sunday and worship together daily in evening church services and a morning service on Sunday. We believe in the Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and only through Him are we saved. Hutterite life is a quiet, well-ordered way of life. We believe in dying to self and serving our fellow man. What better way to do that than in community, where, ideally, the sick and elderly are cared for, you pick your brother up when he falls down, and you are encouraged and uplifted by the Word, family, and friends on a daily basis.

Not all colonies are the same. There are four different branches of Hutterites, each with the same principles of communal living and Anabaptist faith. However, within these four branches are differences in management of the colonies, style of dress and certain rules. Here are some examples of how different life can be from colony to colony:

  • Some colonies are strict, while others allow more liberties, such as women having driver’s licenses or young people being able to play sports.
  • Some colonies have more interaction with the outside world, and as a result may sometimes be exposed to worldy things which they would otherwise not experience in the colony; other colonies are very sheltered.
  • Some colonies are not financially sound, while others have many thriving businesses.
  • Some colonies embrace technology, like having wifi, while others restrict the use of internet to their agricultural operations.
  • Some colonies are ‘religious’ while others keep a Christ-centered doctrine.
  • In some colonies, the leaders do take advantage of the power they have been given; in others, they are just, doing their jobs with compassion and fairness.
  • Some colonies live with strife and discord, other colonies are havens of tranquility and peaceful living
  • If there is a problem in the colony, some colonies will ignore it, while others deal with it head-on

I could go on and on, but the point I’m trying to make is that you cannot cram 500 years of history into one chapter of an 83-page book.

Forest River Colony in North Dakota and Hillside Colony in Manitoba are two very different places. Forest River Colony is to me a model of what real colony life should be like, whilst in Hillside Colony, they have a history of tension and discord among their members. And yes, many people leave Hutterite colonies. They leave for all sorts of reasons. But the Nine neglected to mention that people also come back.

The colony at which I now reside–Forest River–is the same one from which three of “The Nine” left. They still have parents, brothers, sisters, cousins and many other family members here who are still at odds with their new-found ‘freedom’. The Nine left many things out of their book, including the fact that the ‘outside source’ that came to minister to them was a man by the name of Fred Phillips. He is now Glenda Maendel’s husband. He only visited Forest River a few times before he had a handful of young people entangled in his web. I have never met him, but he must be a man of great charisma and persuasion. He could recite Bible verses without glancing at a Bible, and from a few who visited him but weren’t drawn in, we heard that he made colony life sound very bleak and oppressive.  He is never once mentioned in the book by name. Fred Phillips claims to be the minister for the Nine at a small non-denominational church. We have heard strange rumors about his ‘ministry’. Being former Hutterites, the Nine knew that Hutterites tend to try and stay out of the limelight, either on air or on TV, and thus they probably think that no one would speak out against them if they wrote this book. They are wrong. Many Hutterites have responded, including a young ex-Hutterite man who was with their group for a short time but then chose to leave. It would be worth reading to gain perspective and to evaluate the Nine and their story.
The Nine say that they knew nothing of a personal relationship with Jesus before they left the colony and that they were taught that if they did leave, they would go to hell. This is not true. The entire idea of our faith is based on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, beginning with the fact that our culture exists because our
forefathers did not believe in infant baptism, but rather the baptism of an adult who has confessed their belief in Jesus Christ and is baptized into the body of believers (the Church) in His Name.

Unfortunately, there are Hutterites who believe that living in the colony and wearing our traditional dress will earn them a place in heaven. I have known my entire life that is a false belief. They cannot discern between faith and religion. In the 400-year old sermons our ministers preach from (they were written at a time when early Hutterites were being persecuted, tortured and killed in Europe for their faith), they stress to us that “just because you live in community and wear your traditional clothes doesn’t mean that you are saved from hell. Salvation can only be found through the blood of Jesus Christ.” I have never been taught that if I leave the colony I will go to hell. I have also never been taught that anyone who is not a Hutterite will go to hell. I have many non-Hutterite friends who are Christians and who are living their lives right in Christ in the outside world. The ‘evil world’ that the Nine speak of in their book is not the world outside the colony, full of non-Hutterites, but rather, the actual evils in the world that every Christian today should be teaching their children to avoid–sin.
You won’t understand the complexity of the Hutterite culture and the simplicity of our faith until you actually visit a colony and spend some time there. I invite you to visit Forest River Colony. The Hutterite culture is not immune to the troubles of the world. If the Hutterite Church was perfect, how would God strengthen our faith and bring us closer to Him? “Smooth seas do not make a skillful sailor” (African proverb).

I consider it a privilege and a blessing to be able to live the way I do…growing in my faith as I care for my family, and working and fellowshipping with people I have come to love and cherish here at my new home. Earlier I mentioned that I attended a public school–I probably had more experience with the outside world than any of the Nine before I was baptized, both good and bad, and yet I was not torn when I made my decision to follow Christ. That, in my mind, is what I call ‘freedom’.

Many people get their only information from overly-dramatized and scripted tv shows like “Meet the Hutterites”. It would be nice if they were encouraged to get to know the real thing. Thank you and God bless you,

~Carol Maendel

Our address is:
Forest River Colony
4068 35th Ave. NE
Fordville, ND

Showing 78 comments

Darius Hofer said:
On: 12th Nov, 2013 at 13:15


I bought the book, read a few pages; it seems like children in Kindergarden, when they get into an argument, one minute and come back to play with each other the next minute. Also not once does it say any colony names where they are from, … hello .. where are you from ? ?

Sie haben ihren eigenen freien beschissen Willen

Darius Hofer – Holden Alberta

    Mike James said:
    On: 16th Nov, 2013 at 05:18

    I can say some positive things about “Hutterites, the nine our story to freedom” book: It has the ring of honesty and It makes good use of scripture.

    But it’s also true that a spiritual Hutterite does not trust anything but God’s grace for his or her salvation. I have known Hutterites who are spiritual, and I could not dismiss them with a one-size-fits-all critique as this Book seem to do. Almost all of the critiques that the nine makes of the Hutterite community as they had known it could be made to some degree of almost any Christian group – Catholic, Protestant, Mennonite. The wisest response might be to accept whatever in their protest that is true, and necessary of correction, while at the same time not giving up on the valid Christian truth that still lives in the Hutterite community.

    I have not found that Hutterites think they’ll be the only ones in Heaven. I feel certain that God has nothing against a people that tries to preserve the best in culture, as long as they keep in mind that God should stay central, rather than tradition and culture. Then, if need be, God will adjust and change cultural modes so that they line up with His Word. God should be given full chance to gradually – sometimes even radically – change, mold and shape culture into the likeness of his Son Jesus.

    But in order to make ourselves more available so that God can change us, we must familiarize ourselves thoroughly with God’s Word (Holy Scripture, as interpreted Christ centrically, that is, from the perspective of the living Christ Himself – including his mind, spirit, message, and life) and not place tradition and culture above biblical teachings. The challenge for the Church of God is to live in ways that are consistent with the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ as articulated in the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes. How do we succeed? By seeking and accepting God’s grace, His Holy Spirit, which gives us the power required to live a holy life as Jesus teaches and commands us. 2 Tim 1:9.

    To the accusation that Hutterites don’t believe in Jesus has to do with how they interpret and understand the Bible.

    Here are my observations-The Hutterites understand the Bible differently. In contrast with the Hutterian Brethren some folks practices tend to emphasize the sinfulness of man and his inability to live the Christian life. Their emphasis is on the atonement Christ made on the cross for you. Hence through this sacrifice, God overlooks the sins of man from the past, present and future, and accepts these people in spite of their sin. The Hutterite believe in the forgiveness of sin too, but they believe that once a person has the Holy Spirit in his life he will begin living a new kind of life in Christian Community where Jesus is Lord and they are his disciples following in His footsteps.

    Another important difference between the Hutterites and easy believism has to do with how seriously the Bible is taken. For example, the Hutterites believe that if Christ said it in his Sermon on the Mount, he meant his followers to live it. The Jesus that some false prophet preach is definitely different that the Jesus that the Hutterites follow. Their lightly considered lip confession falls far short of being the true faith. Let us remember that even the devils believe in God, and tremble (See James 2:19), but they are not repentant or born again; hence their faith does not save them.

    Some people wants to travel the easy path to the kingdom; they shy away from denying themselves and taking up their cross. After all, we are ‘saved’, aren’t we? Why do we have to then suffer needlessly? This is what the false preachers will tell them; this is what the evil one will whisper in their ears. They will tell them that Jesus is our savior but they will be reluctant to tell them that Jesus is also your teacher and that you must obey him.

    The Jesus that the Hutterites believe in as follows; truly believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is not a simple, nod-of-the-head sort of thing. It is passing from darkness into light, making complete about-face, to turn around and go in a different direction. True believing is to surrender our life to God and to destroy all selfish and earthly ties that would hinder fellowship with Him. But in the House of God it is commanded: “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.

    The Hutterian Brethren’s vision is to live a meaningful Community life as Christ did with his disciples, attempting to live out our lives being forgiving and tolerant towards our fellow man, something that they live towards, but not always achievable. I’d like to say that they too are human and an imperfect people who from time to time make mistakes and they certainly don’t claim to be Utopians.

    The challenge is for all mankind to examine their values and how well they match up to the lifestyle they lead. This very same challenge exists on the colony

      carolmaendel said:
      On: 16th Nov, 2013 at 23:28

      Dear Mike, thank you for your wonderful prospective. I’m going to assume you have read Jerald Hiebert’s book, “The Hutterite Story of a Pure Church”. Some of what you said jogged my memory after reading a little bit of the book a while back. If you haven’t read it, it is an excellent source for a non-Hutterite to use to delve deeper into the history and inner workings of the Hutterite culture. Max Stanton and Rod Jansen’s book, “The Hutterites in North America”, is also a nice take on Hutterite life, but one thing I will say is that it seemed when it came time to give examples of certain things the authors were trying to explain, they could have chosen much better examples than they did. You bring up excellent points in your comment, it is worth sharing.

      Frans Baatenburg de J said:
      On: 8th Nov, 2014 at 23:54

      Mike thank you for your sincere comment! I think community life is meant to be a good training for young individuals, since we often could not learn the ideal from our parents, who, after all, also were born in sin.
      Eventually we have to form good Familes in freedom though that can be a symbol of hope in this suffering world.

Rachel hofer said:
On: 12th Nov, 2013 at 19:38

It saddens me greatly that these nine tell the world they are Christians. Where in all of christ’s teachings is there room for slandering or airing your brother (of even your enemy’s) wrong doing? Jesus teaches us to forgive even when no one asks for forgiveness. How can I say I love God and write a book about all the faults of my fellow man? May they find freedom and forgiveness in Christ. I will be praying that they may one day see the real light.

    Darius Hofer said:
    On: 14th Nov, 2013 at 00:35

    Thanks Carol

ben said:
On: 13th Nov, 2013 at 16:13

Carol, you hit the nail on the head.

    carolmaendel said:
    On: 16th Nov, 2013 at 23:17

    Thank you.

Laurie Lind said:
On: 13th Nov, 2013 at 18:48

This is an excellent article, Carol. I am fascinated by Hutterites and appreciate your honest response to “the Nine.” I myself am a Christian and I agree with everything you’ve said here about your faith and its outworking. I have visited the Spring Prairie Hutterite Colony, north of Moorhead, and had a fascinating tour with a precious older man named Valentine.
But, I do have some questions:
Do your worship services include only repeated sermons, written 400 years ago? Why is that?
Are Hutterites taught to read and study the Bible themselves, to spend time in personal study and in discussion with one another about spiritual truths?

Finally, I just have to say, I find it almost ironic that a Hutterite website exists, complete with blogs and everything. Simple lifestyle, yes, but still, as you said, Carol, some colonies allow more involvement with technology and the outside world than others.

This website is beautifully done. Thank you for providing it.
And thank you for faithfully serving and following our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

    carolmaendel said:
    On: 18th Nov, 2013 at 17:34

    Dear Laurie, thank you for your uplifting comments. Sorry it has taken me so long to reply. I wanted to give an educated answer to your questions, so I asked one of our ministers about our sermons. He says we have about 300 sermons that we use throughout the year. There are not quite that many ‘forredd’ sermons, which are sermons that are different from but often correspond with the main sermons, and are read in the first part of our Sunday church service as a preamble to the main service. There are also about 30 different funeral sermons, but the wedding sermon is always the same. There are two different ‘prediger aufsitz’ sermons, which is the sermon that is held when a new minister is chosen for the colony. Some of these sermons have been translated into English, and it is mostly the 2 Schmiedleut groups that use these sermons, the Lehreleut and Dariusleut do not. Our minister pointed out that the people who translated these sermons into English sometimes left things out, mainly things that they did not like or agree with. The German sermons are very sharply written, and I have often heard older people say that what was written in these sermons 400 years ago applies very much to the problems that Christians face today.
    To answer your second question, this is kind of a nature vs. nuture scenerio. The nature of man is sinful, and usually sinful people don’t want to read the Bible or submit their will to the will of God. We are all sinners and need God’s refining fire to make us holy and clean. Part of that journey is studying His holy Word and applying it to our lives. In the colony, it is the parents, minister, Sunday school teacher, and peers who play all play a part in whether a person is brought up with the knowledge that Bible study is one of the best ways to gain wisdom and understanding from the Lord. If this young person is nutured in the right conditions, he or she should be well-equipped to make good habits of studying the Bible, to lean on the Holy Spirit for guidance, and to question the morality of everything he or she does so that it is to the honor and glory of God. Living on a colony with 100 other people gives me many opportunities to discuss spiritual truths, which I very much enjoy.
    Unfortunately, there are less ideal situations in some colonies where many of these authority figures fail to make that impact on a young person’s life and they choose the wrong path. With these people it is important to be compassionate. It is easy to say, “Oh I would do this or this if I was in that situation”, but often we have no idea what it’s like to go through the things that these people are experiencing. There are success stories where the person rose above their circumstances and did something great with their life in their colony, and then there are some stories where the person chooses to wallow in self-pity or denial and give up hope and leave. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all summary, but it is often the case. It is sad when someone leave the colony, but every situation is different. I like to think on the words of Proverbs 22:6–“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
    I did not design the website, but I’m sure the administrators appreciate your compliments on its setup. I have always thought that technology is just a tool, it’s the people who abuse it. Just like the Nine are abusing their fame with the mainstream media to spread lies about Hutterite life. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.” So far I see none of these fruits from the Nine. Their situation causes me to hold my daughter a little tighter every time I see her, and send up my prayers of thankfulness that I know what I stand for, because I am leaning on the Cross.

Tom Tschetter said:
On: 16th Nov, 2013 at 20:49

This is very true. Could you please send me this by email

    carolmaendel said:
    On: 16th Nov, 2013 at 23:16

    You could just copy and paste the letter from the website.

Andrew said:
On: 24th Nov, 2013 at 07:48

So what are faithful, Bible and Grace believing colonies doing to set those that are religious and works based back on the right path?

Andrew said:
On: 1st Dec, 2013 at 01:31

I read the whole book. There are some parts with odd theology (in my opinion) but I think the main purpose is to show the reasons these 9 have left and the spiritual vacuum they felt that was their reason for leaving. I don’t think that anyone can call what a person felt in their heart ‘slander.’ They articulated what they were taught (or what they understood). If it is wrong from an Orthodox Hutterite perspective, it should have been corrected long before they left and wrote and published a book.

The real question regarding Carol’s entry is this. If the above bulleted list is true (and from what I have seen and heard from local colonies it is), then has the Hutterite experiment failed? The above list could almost be directly applied to the Roman Catholic Church that Jacob Hutter was reacting to in the 1500s (other than wifi, of course!).

So, if the greater Hutterite community has become (all at the same time) as diverse, worldly, spiritual, corrupt, religious, well managed, liberal, and conservative as the Visible Church Universal is (and has been since Constantine), is the only thing different about Hutteritism the fact that it doesn’t value personal property?

    carolmaendel said:
    On: 30th Jan, 2014 at 20:16

    Hello Andrew, no, I do not believe the ‘Hutterite experiment’ in its entirety, has failed. If it had, wouldn’t the colonies be vacant ghost towns, with all the Hutterites having left and no one to stay and hold up the fort? And yet we are still here, persevering. Many ex-Hutterites believe we do so out of ignorance. That is hurtful. Every church has some degree of religiosity or corruption, there is no perfect ‘earthly church’. Colony life is not always just, but who’s life is? To me, the good always outweighs the bad. One of my favorite verses is Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

    There is always a choice. My family and I have been through many hardships–health issues, accidents, drama, and the like—but it has only strengthened my faith in the choice I have made to follow Christ. The Hutterite Church is not for everyone who was born a Hutterite. Hutterites who leave are leaving for many different reasons, some are justified, some are not. The Hutterite church has just as many struggles and problems as many other denominations of true, Christ-following churches. We could debate the pros and cons of living in the colony versus living in the world for hours, but at the end of the day, your Christian life will be defined be how you answer the question asked of you by God: “What have you done with my Son?”

Dana P said:
On: 4th Dec, 2013 at 01:14

You mentioned that there are 4 branches of Hutterites. Please enlighten me as I am only familiar with 3.

    carolmaendel said:
    On: 27th Jan, 2014 at 21:40

    Hi Dana, you are partially correct, there are three branches of Hutterites–the Dariusleut, Lehreleut and the Schmiedleut. The Schmiedleut branch split into two separate groups about 22 years ago–Group 1 and Group 2. There was disagreement about the direction of the church and thus there was a split (see I married from the Dariusleut group into the Schmiedleut group, and am not familiar with the entire story, though I hope to be one day. But you don’t need to know the whole story to see that this split cause a lot of bad blood, sadness and even more problems for the Schmiedleut sect of the Hutterites. They are the largest group of the Hutterites.

Patricia Speikhout said:
On: 11th Dec, 2013 at 04:48

I have never met a true Hutterite and the only experience I have had is seeing the show “Meet the Hutterites” and I knew just by watching that these people could not be portraying true Hutterite life..I want to thank you for posting your blog and for letting me get a glimpse of a true Hutterite Christian..I have so enjoyed going over the website and reading the blogs. Thank you so much for this beautiful insight…

Fr. James said:
On: 19th Dec, 2013 at 21:43

As a Catholic priest I know how it feels to have ones faith portrayed inaccurately and negatively. Oftentimes ex-Catholics do exactly the same thing. Every church is made up of people and people can commit any and all kinds of sins. I am not Catholic because every member of the Church is perfect. I certainly am not myself. While I don’t agree with some Hutterite beliefs I recognize them as Christians who worship the same God that I do. They try to have a relationship with the Lord Jesus as their Savior just as Catholics do. I respect their understanding that Christianity is not just an individual endeavor, but also has a profound communal dimension. All of us need to be truthful not only about what we believe, but about what others believe. God bless.

    Frans Baatenburg de J said:
    On: 10th Nov, 2014 at 00:43

    Father James, thank you for your comment. We cannot just be satisfied though with a conclusion that we are all sinful, even if true. Paul recommend us to pray without cease, meaning that sin needs to be overcome. Otherwise God`s Kingdom cannot arise, even though this is what Jesus prayed about in the Lord`s prayer. I live in Korea, and I see that through exchange with other cultures, centred on God, based on a new vision for the Family, many sins can indeed be overcome.

Brother Stan France said:
On: 20th Dec, 2013 at 13:21

Greetings in Jesus Name Sister Maendel, I really enjoyed your article about the book the nine, although i never have read the book but could only imagine. For the life of me i will never understand why people have to put others down to justify their unhappiness in life.
I have only watched the Hutterite TV show twice, and am very disappointed, so now all who view will come away with a false view of the Hutterites. As for me though i am not Hutterite i believe you folks have a precious way of life and are truly blessed by God. One day i would really love to visit a colony like Forest River. May the good Lord continue to bless you and your colony with his Grace. Brother France Hobbs, NM. USA

    carolmaendel said:
    On: 27th Jan, 2014 at 22:10

    Dear Brother Stan, thank you for your comment. You hit the nail on the head by saying that certain people will always put others down to justify their lot in life. This is what I have found with lots of Hutterites who leave the colony. Every situation is different and I will in no way try to throw them all in the same boat, but many of them speak of their new-found faith and love for Jesus, yes they cannot forgive the wrongs done to them by other Hutterites or our way of life. Of course the colony is not perfect, but like so many, they cannot move past this when they leave the colony. The colony has rules and customs, just like any other church out there, and many who say they left to find their ‘freedom’, were simply just following what we say in German, their ‘eigneh shctinketah villn’, or, their own selfish will.

      Robert Waldner. said:
      On: 30th Jan, 2014 at 04:33

      Greetings Carole
      good article , have not read the nine .
      Ex hut , 30 plus years of exile.
      born again Christian
      Happy to hear a community living member confess to being a born again Christian , tho in many colonies that would get you ex communicated.
      our hope and prayer is that god would have his way in all Hutterite Colonies and there wouldn’t,t be this need for divisions and ( ondra glouban ) as they call it.
      I h ave an issue with the comment you made ( English translation ) ( own stinking will ) is why people leave the Colonies , that is very critical , and actually haughty comment. An apology would be exceptable .
      you are no more guarantied salvation , living in the colony that I am , of course you know that . Lest we surrender to Christ ?I look forward to hearing from you , a brother in Christ .

        carolmaendel said:
        On: 30th Jan, 2014 at 19:30

        Dear Robert, thank you for your humbling comment. I do apologize for putting this stereotype on all ex-Hutterites, it is not true. I was thinking of the Nine and a few others when I wrote it, because I do apply it to them. They followed their own will by letting their now infamous church leader Fred Phillips onto their colony, who turned them against the community, family and faith that raised them, and subsequently broke their will so they would always do HIS will, as is evident by the writings in their book and their chosen continual alienation from their families. Is that freedom? No.
        Communal living does not come with a free ticket to Heaven. It is also not essential for salvation, it is just a part of the way Hutterites live out their interpretation of Christ’s teachings. I have many English friends who are part of many different churches, but if you want to know if a Christian denomination is living a sincere Christian life in accordance with the Bible, all you have to do is ask what they believe about Jesus. If their beliefs in any way goes against what the Bible teaches about Jesus, then it is not correct. “Lest we surrender to Christ.” A church and the believer must surrender to Christ, and yes, in some ways, the Hutterite Church has not done this. But there are so many colonies and so many leaders who do things differently, that you have to take each individual case, colony by colony. That is one point I don’t think I stressed enough in my letter, but I think if the letter did not do its job the first time around, then it never will. There will always be naysayers against the Hutterite church, ex-Hutterite or otherwise. I have accepted this. But I cannot accept outright lies and questionable applications of the Holy Scripture to justify a means to an end, such as what happened in the Nine’s book. Thank you for writing, and may the Lord bless you on your Christian path. ~Carol

          Robert Waldner. said:
          On: 4th Feb, 2014 at 23:32

          Hi Carol,
          Thanks for your response, most of my family lives in Hutterite Colonies, so there is nothing we haven,t heard and seen in some form or another .
          incidentally you now have a family member of ours living in your Colony.
          I fellowship with an ex member of your Colony, Bro. Terry Miller , who has many friends in your Colony and area ,speaks fondly of Forest River and does not support the nine or their claims .
          We hope all the best for our family and friends still living in the Colonies.
          After 30 years , I still enjoy my visits.
          Of course I have many thoughts on the Church and it,s purpose , but will not burden you with that .like Bro. Miller would say , the best is yet to come! Blessings

Kristin Clouston said:
On: 29th Dec, 2013 at 03:23

I read “The Nine” but also read a book by Lisa Marie Stahl called “My Hutterite Life.” I was wondering if you know what happened to her or how she is doing. Since you’re from the same part of Montana I thought you might know her. It’s been 10 years since it was published and it would be nice to hear how her life has progressed over the past decade. I’m guessing she probably has children by now and hope she still writes. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    carolmaendel said:
    On: 27th Jan, 2014 at 22:20

    Hi Kristin, I also kept up with Lisa’s articles when she was writing for the Great Falls Tribune. She was married in 2003 and has 4 children so far. She now lives on a colony in Alberta. I did not know her personally, but I did have people suggest to me that I should continue her column after she got married, but my Father did not like the idea so I didn’t. I do not know if Lisa still writes.

Gary and zahra Orozco said:
On: 3rd Jan, 2014 at 07:08

What a joy to have a guaranteed job and be free of financial concerns. How do you handle medical care? I am a dialysis patient. Are there jobs that disabled people can contribute to? Do elderly people ever retire or are their skills used even in old age? Do individual homes have food in them?

    carolmaendel said:
    On: 30th Jan, 2014 at 20:27

    Hello Gary and Zahra! Medical care on the colony is handled differently by every colony, some have insurance, and some do not. Disabled people in the colony are cared for by others until the end of their days, it is one thing that I love about our culture, I have heard too many stories of older people being shipped off to nursing homes and forgotten, it saddens me greatly that the older generations could be so carelessly discarded after all they have done for the new ones. Disabled people in the colony who are not completely dependent on another person’s care can indeed lend a hand in every day colony work, such as tending to the lawns or helping to cut up vegetables for the summer canning jobs. Most elderly people work until they feel they are no longer able to, as many Hutterites have great work ethics and do not like to be sedentary. Most Hutterite homes have a refrigerator and a pantry, where food can be stored. At the end of the year, many colonies distribute goodies and snacks to each family, but it varies greatly as to what is given. Hutterites eat three square meals a day but also enjoy break time between meals to have coffee, tea and a chocolate or perhaps dried fruits or chips.

Gary Schotel said:
On: 4th Jan, 2014 at 19:12

Good piece. Thanks for posting.
I visited a colony once in Alberta, Canada.

Elias said:
On: 9th Jan, 2014 at 00:38


Sorry, I do not speak very well Inglês

I’m from Brazil, we share the same hope in Christ Jesus
Their problems, disputes, harassment are the same here in Brazil
We are similar in some points of Christian doctrine
Looking at his doctrine, observe that we seek the things of God first, the others are vanities
Our community is Christian Congregation in Brazil
Visit On page C3% A7% C3% A3o_Crist% C3% A3_no_Brasil

Joe Pavone said:
On: 9th Jan, 2014 at 19:20

A wonderful testimony-Hebrews 6:10 to you my dear sister in Christ-as one living in this modern day sodom and gomorah called america i can assure you that your lifestyle lends itself to Godly living as opposed to being polluted every day by ads, tv etc etc

God bless

Joe Pavone

Aaron said:
On: 10th Jan, 2014 at 19:26

I only came across this site today and am simply baffled…
Thanks for clarifying a few things. Jesus is the One and ONLY way to salvation. It’s good to know this is a core belief of the Hutterite church. This issues within the colonies are similar to issues within the non-hutterite churches. I admire the Biblical based community example that the Hutterites have.
Oh, the stories we’ll will hear in heaven…

    carolmaendel said:
    On: 30th Jan, 2014 at 20:36

    Hello Aaron, thank you for your uplifting comment. Unfortunately, like many other churches in the world today, there are some Hutterite leaders who have tacked on extra credentials for entering the Kingdom of Heaven, such as living in the colony is a must, or wearing our traditional dress. Jesus is the only Way. These leaders will be responsible for their iniquities when the day of reckoning comes.

    Frans Baatenburg de J said:
    On: 10th Nov, 2014 at 00:54

    Jesus is the only way for Christians, that is until He comes back; then He will work in spirit with someone on earth, who will have a New Name, only known to the one who bears it – Aaron, will you be able to recognize Him then, when you only think of the name Jesus?

carolmaendel said:
On: 30th Jan, 2014 at 21:14

An ‘indwelling of the Spirit of God’, you say? When I read your comment, I thought immediately of Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” I’m sorry, but I did not feel the indwelling of any of these things while reading your comment, or should I say, your rant. I am not going to argue with you. It seems that ever since I wrote this letter, I have read quite a few comments just like yours. And you know what? I have found that it is pointless to argue with people of this mindset. I do hope that you find peace concerning your issues with your family.

Thomas said:
On: 6th Feb, 2014 at 17:47

You are indeed very lucky and special people. When the time comes that the evil of the outside world becomes so great that it will seek to invade and steal your lands and way of life or make impossible demands or levies, you will need to know the true nature and depths of that evil. As your colonies are currently configured, this will be impossible unless you come to understand your spiritual enemy. Perhaps those who have “escaped” will be in a better position to understand and know “the world”, and maybe they will communicate and educate the colonies when the time comes. That time, by the way, may not be long in coming.

While I am sure your colonies’ “escapees” are a source of great sorrow for you, try and think of them as your gift to the outside world. The world desperately needs people like you, a few of them anyway. You have no idea how much.

God bless you!

Rose Olson said:
On: 9th Feb, 2014 at 22:29

I very much appreciate your willingness to share your beliefs. I wanted to understand more about your way of life and it appears that I was taught well.

john creurer said:
On: 1st Apr, 2014 at 05:14

when I was a youngster I would visit some colonies with my father in alberta ; he sold john deere tractors etc; I made some nice friends at the time and have fond memories; that was 45 years ago

Betty-Jean Checkley said:
On: 2nd Apr, 2014 at 18:41

Carol I enjoyed reading this. I feel very blessed to teach on a colony, it is the second one I’ve taught at, as well as public school.
While driving, I heard some of “the nine” speaking on CBC, it was their story and life experience, I guess. I know the life style doesn’t work for all, and I imagine if people are truly unhappy they won’t be spiritually, emotionally or intellectually engaged in the community.
I find each colony unique, and I would never want to say “all Hutterites do this, or believe this. It is best to get to truly know the people. In my personal experience I find hard working people, who truly treasure their children, and try to the best of their ability, to live by their beliefs, and will help others.
Are you aware of the ICHE Conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba August 2014? Check it out!

David Luck said:
On: 8th Apr, 2014 at 02:01

Very good article.

Rodney G SMith said:
On: 11th Apr, 2014 at 19:03

I have not read The Nine but have been encouraged to read it by several people. I have taught at our Cyber School here in South Dakota since it started nine years ago. I have spent many days on the various colonies and have seen some of the differences you speak of. I also know that in nine years I have learned only a thimble full about your culture. I also try to read as much as I can and to visit with as many adults as I can. I am glad I found this blog as it is very informative and I appreciate your perspective. Keep helping us to understand more about your culture so we can embrace you for what you are and not what is whispered by those who don’t know.

Mark Friehe said:
On: 17th Apr, 2014 at 22:41

I came across Carol Maendel’s article by accident and found it to be interesting as I have recently met some members of her colony. Martin Maendel, his son David and a nephew of Martin were doing some demolition work for the company I work for in SW Nebraska in April of 2013. I was very impressed with these three men and feel I got to know them pretty well in the short time spent with them. They were very personable, sincere, hardworking, honest and of good character. I had a very open and candid discussion with Martin as he was willing to share with me many details of the Hutterite Colony at Forest River. I do recall him telling me that the younger members are free to leave the colony as they please and are welcome back at any time. I also remember Martin mentioning to me that either Dave or his nephew were to be married soon and I wonder if his bride to be could have been Carol. I certainly can’t speak for the entire colony, but as for the those three members I have met, they are fine upstanding individuals that I felt honored to have met.

    Frans Baatenburg de J said:
    On: 10th Nov, 2014 at 01:02

    I wonder how old the younger people who could leave were; if it means before 21, it may not be good, as really at 21 we are only beginning to mature, but need a lot of freedom to develop and choose for ourselves. Before that, our patents, elders and relatives had better share all the wisdom of live, centred on the True Love of God

Peter Fish said:
On: 19th Apr, 2014 at 18:16

Thank you Carol for your incite, into your life.

We’re visiting Montana this year and I just came across the Hutterites for the first time; I’ve known of the other groups from Germany/Austria but never yours.

Just spent some 3 hours reading about you history, and where you are today.

I’m not in support of Eastern European style of life, due to corruption. But overall it reads like most (maybe not all) of your communities work.

Congratulations, and god bless all of you.

Thank you.

Leonard Lundby said:
On: 10th May, 2014 at 14:46

Wow, well written! Your views mirror what I know to be true at colonies that surround us. I know many Hutterites ……. those that have left and those that remain at the colony. Some are excellent people and some not so much ……. just like society outside of the colony! I enjoyed your reply. Thank you for writing it! God bless.

luanne russell said:
On: 12th May, 2014 at 16:08

Your writing is educational and a joy to read.

stela pertea said:
On: 12th May, 2014 at 20:21

I think this is the most beautiful way of life.GOD BLESS YOU ALL.I learned a lot.

Liam Kimbro said:
On: 24th Jun, 2014 at 23:24

Greetings. I live in Minneapolis and stayed with people at Woodcrest in the Bruderhof for about a year. That was in 1985 when they were still part of the Hutterian church. That is 30 years ago and since then, I have always longed to live the Hutterian way of life. I worked in Germany for a number of years and taught German and English as second languages. Professionally, I was an English teacher and a social worker. I wonder if it would be possible to come to your colony for a serious visit. It would be a privelege to live, work and worship with you in the hopes of discerning a longer commitment and, of course, my deepest hope would be to become a member of the Hutterian Brethren. I lived with an Amish family for a year…in southeast Ohio. I’m familiar with the writings of the Hutterian church fathers…in German and have even translated a few of these writings for friends…into English.

Could you please email me and let me know the possibilities? If any of the brothers are in Minneapolis, perhaps I could even get a ride to the colony?

In God’s joy,

Liam Kimbro

Heather Brown said:
On: 2nd Jul, 2014 at 05:51

My husband and I live in Minot, ND and would love to visit your colony. I am a Lutheran pastor and he is a librarian at Minot State University. We would be happy to volunteer in some way while we were with you. Please let me know if this is possible. Thank you for your love blog reflection about your Christian faith and way of life. God bless!

    carolmaendel said:
    On: 3rd Aug, 2014 at 00:42

    Hello, I am sorry it has taken me so long to reply, it has been a busy summer! I will send you an email directly and we will work out a visit if you are still interested. Let me know if you get it.

Pete Hofer three forks montana said:
On: 5th Jul, 2014 at 23:43

After listening to the nine, I thought that they did notunderstand the difference between justification by faith in Jesus Christ, and sanctification by and through the working of the Holy Spirit . You seem tounderstand the difference, I think that ”the nine” have been decieved as many other hutterities who leave the colonies. You did a good job with your artical. God bless you, keep trusting, and thank you for speaking up. I to love the Hutterites, even though my father left the coloney when I was only nine years old. I still speak the German, and love to visit colonies here in Montana. Thanks again for speak in up.
Pete Hofer

Jennifer Spoke said:
On: 16th Jul, 2014 at 19:28

Well written! Like everything in life, it only takes a few to misrepresent those who are doing God’s work.

leo walter said:
On: 9th Aug, 2014 at 02:29

Dear carol : I just want to say that, you’re article was well written. Truly is a blessing in this day and age, to hear or read about people so closely connected to our Lord. May his spirit guide you farther in life. Thank you.

Leonard M Waldner said:
On: 14th Oct, 2014 at 16:06

Carol Maendel, your explanation of Hutterite life is very well written.
Thank you for doing that.
Some friends & I started a FB group: Hutterites & Friends Network, with the purpose of showing the good, & blessing our Hutterite heritage. I encourage you to join our group & contribute too.

Leonard M Waldner

David Dunn said:
On: 19th Oct, 2014 at 09:59

Dear Carol and others,
I am glad to have found this website. I visited FW ranch/colony in the early 1990s with my sister. At that time I was a teacher in Helena. It was a memorable experience, and I have always wondered what life experiences I would have to tell if I took the brothers’ invitation and returned to hunt or help out.
Since that weekend, I have taught school in Virginia, Alaska, China and the United Arab Emirates. I’ve always wondered if my family and I would be welcome back to teacher at the colony school.
I remember Eli S was teaching that year. The other members I remember were my sister’s friend Tess H and her family. Occasionally, I do a web search of the colony just to see if there is any news. Last week I discovered that Eli never married and is now with our Heavenly Father. I know you must miss him.
Last, as we were leaving the colony that cold Sunday afternoon twenty years ago, I remember Eli turning to me and calling out, “The next time you see a Hutterite, don’t just buy his potatoes. Share the Good News of Jesus with him!” This encounter has never been far from my mind.
Blessings to you all.

    carolmaendel said:
    On: 19th Oct, 2014 at 17:13

    Hello David! Thank you for your encouraging words. By “FW” I assume you mean Flatwillow colony, my home colony is about 30 miles from there and we have visited from time to time. I have met Eli S. and Tess but I did not know them very well, I attended Eli’s funeral when he passed away in 2011. The people who came to honor his life had such wonderful things to say about him, he seemed like a modern-day Paul–preaching the Good Word wherever he went and working with troubled young people in Billings. I am glad he touched your life. Many Hutterites are too dependent on traditions and do not take the time to actually read the Bible and ponder their spirituality. Of course, it’s not the same everywhere, but I do encourage you not to be afraid to approach Hutterites and fellowship with them, they are people too. 🙂

Jesse Baker said:
On: 21st Oct, 2014 at 13:52

I wouldn’t worry too much about the 83-page book. I probably won’t read it, because I can imagine what it says – about problems that are common in small, close communities, and how someone who has a negative experience will feel. I can’t get around much; colonies in Alberta are too far away to visit. All information, yours, mine, or that found in the 83-page book, is biased in one way or another, since only Christ & God are eternally true. But outsiders can plainly see that Hutterite towns don’t look like Jonestown, Guyana, which was indeed a dangerous place to go in 1978. I tend to think that in communal living, some can do it, and some can’t. Your description above seems honest and admits the limitations of religion or lifestyle, as opposed to the limitless promise of Christ. May God’s blessings go with you everywhere.

Tom Heppner said:
On: 4th Nov, 2014 at 01:25

Enjoyed the read, Thank you for your testimony! I just received some sausage and ham from Forest River…Your colony I am assuming. Was trying to find out if you sell dry curd cottage cheese. Thinking some vereniki would go really good with that ham. By the way, yes I am a Christian, I go to Woodland Bible Church in Warroad, MN. This used to be a Mennonite church (my heritage) But through the years, people of non-Mennonite heritage joined our church. 1. We preached the Gospel and 2. We are a friendly bunch who realizes that we all need to be saved. At a point in time, it became evident that we should part with the Mennonite affiliation for a number of reasons. As I look back I believe it is God who has placed us where we are now. I am proud of my heritage and the struggles our fore fathers went through defending their faith.

Donna said:
On: 5th Nov, 2014 at 02:11

Thank you for this blog post. I saw The Nine interviewed on morning tv when the book first came out and, while my heart went out to their desire for a closer walk with Christ, I was immediately suspect of their condemnation of entire faith tradition. I am from a part of Canada that is unfamiliar with Hutterite traditions. My first exposure has been these past two years since moving to Manitoba. I meet many Hutterites through my job with a local faith-based charity and have come to appreciate their deep compassion, their humour, and their positive spirits. I am a Baptist and made the choice to declare my faith through baptism when I was 13. So many of the tenements you talk about are familiar and sensible to me. And as to the very human interpersonal relationships you mention within colonies – well, that is an honest reflection of our frailty and imperfection as humans. God’s love lifts us up and every community finds its own personality as a group. I so much appreciate having stumbled upon your blog. Thank you. I will keep you in my prayers.

Frans Baatenburg de J said:
On: 8th Nov, 2014 at 23:48

Dear Carol!

It is wonderful how you defend your faith, your community and friends.
Actually to turn away from the faith and convictions of your (fore)Fathers is unwise, as the 9 did.
However, my impression though is that it is extremely hard for individuals to develop their God given individuality in Freedom in the Hutterite communities.
Freedom is something that man has always yearned for, and it is part of the Original Nature of man.
Communal living is extremely good training for a number of years your youngsters, but it cannot be a lifestyle forever, as it may become oppressive and be-littleling.
As grown-ups we have to be willing to take the step and make a family, and as a Family try to bring joy to God, and an example of hope for the multitudes of hopeless people in the world. Even though this is much harder than staying in a community forever.
This is the vision of the Family Federation for Worldpeace and Unification, which started in the great Christian and otherwise religious nation of Korea – so, no Moravia this time, but Korea ….

Frans Baatenburg de J said:
On: 10th Nov, 2014 at 01:34

Besides the fact that Hutterites are hardworking, good people, like many folks with German origin by the way, the fact that the Anabaptists left the Reformed faith based on a human doctrine of the time of Baptism in a person`s life, is a very, very sad fact in itself. It has caused a lot of suffering for countless people of faith in history. The Reformation itself, though it was unavoidable, laid a base for never ending divisions of Churches and groups, so that now Christianity is so divided that it has lost power and influence, even in many traditional Christian nations. Can this bring joy to Jesus? I don`t think so. The division of the Anabaptist denomination was based on the time of Baptism. Well, of course, as a mature individual we can really make a responsible choice to serve God or not, but child baptism was a much for the Parents as for the child – during the Child Baptism ceremony the Parents promise to take care of the spiritual needs of their baby, which in the end in essential for the child itself ….. later on in life, indeed there is the `confirmation` ceremony, when the mature individual now makes a mature choice. There was no real need for separation, just like there is no real need for divisions within the Hutterite Faith; yes, it is a reality, until God can reveal the real cause of conflict, the explanation of the Fall of man, and the way to unity and harmony. This is the present work of the Family Federation for World peace!

Wald said:
On: 23rd Nov, 2014 at 18:48

Hi Carol
Just wondering if you could help me out Just come across this site a couple days ago and love it !!! My question Do lehrerleut group believe in being born again ?I am from the lehrerleut group, left for 5 yrs, but wanting to return to my colony. If done right what a GOOD way to live out a Christian life!!!! In the colony

PS. Your knowledge is impressive And it seems to me your using it for the right reasons

Tony Thorn said:
On: 16th Dec, 2014 at 21:06

I often visiy a community near where I ive in South East England
They are a peaceful hard working people with a wonderful outlook on life.
Having just been to their Christmas Carol Service, your blog made me believe you held the same beliefs.
I wish you health and Happiness.
Tony Thorn

Don and Carolyn Groat said:
On: 12th Jan, 2015 at 02:13

Thank you for this insightful article.
I as a follower of Christ have been blessed to meet and interact with 4 different Hutterite Colonies.
The people of all these colonies have treated me with love, kindness, and respect.
It does take a special people to be able to live in a communal setting, living and working together 365 days a year can be extremely challenging if you don’t have a servants attitude.
Please don’t judge others, this is for Christ to do.I know I am not perfect, that I have sinned, but I pray that Christ will forgive and welcome me into His Kingdom when it is my time.

Hoss Lors said:
On: 13th Jan, 2015 at 04:17

I really enjoyed this explanation – I live next door to the 40 Mile Colony and what wonderful people. Thank you for breaking down your faith and giving me a concise understanding. I finally understand what distinguishes you from the outside world. Growing up in a Baptist home many things did not make sense to me according to my understanding. Funny but communal living was one major point I always questioned. This is the first time in my life that I truly know that a group of believers lives according to what I understood as young boy. Thank you – It is so refreshing to know that I was not “crazy” when I used to question as a boy.
with respect,

Alan Wolf said:
On: 27th Jan, 2015 at 06:15

Interesting your blog and of how you attended public school. I am viewing some of the history of the Brethern. My mother was from German decent from Ukraine area.
I am becoming a more active believer in our LORD having learnt of the 4 Blood Moons that are now occurring during Passover and the Fall Feast of Tabernacles
I believe we are being called to walk in the LIGHT and TRUTH in Season with what our LORD is showing us.
Not everyone is the same. Not everyone who says Lord Lord. Beware, decern. Be lead by HIS Spirit the Spirit of TRUTH and HIS WORD is the TRUTH

Darlene Thomson said:
On: 29th Jan, 2015 at 04:25

Hi Carol, what a lovely, truthful note of explanation. I have the book and certainly did not believe all the information as written. I have some very good Hutterite friends at Boundary Lane colony in MB. The Colony is what you describe; living in brotherly love. I am out there enough to see how they share, care and support one another. I am a strong believer and we enjoy our discussions. Leigh Hanna is the head gardener and her husband is the “meat man” – lovely, honest people. They enjoy coming into to our house often and we in theirs. I buy a lot of garden products for our Church suppers and they have provided food and meat for weddings for friends, so they are meeting more of my friends which did not know much about Hutterites (other than not so pleasant) and have certainly changed their minds after meeting some of the Colony members.
You wrote a nice story and thank you for hopefully setting the story right.

Ed Mandel said:
On: 22nd Feb, 2015 at 10:01

Thank you for speaking up and you are appreciated for your work, from an ex hutterite of 29 years, god bless us all

Terri Keith said:
On: 22nd Feb, 2015 at 22:14

Hello from beautiful Arkansas,

My husband (of 28 years) and I have been very intrigued to know that some Hutterites have truly come to know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and have truly been born again!

Can you please tell me if the original preacher who came and had tent meetings for that week were considered from the ‘assemblies’ of Christians?? They don’t take on a name other than Christian. They are gathered in usually what they might call a Gospel Hall, or name like this, but the name is mostly for tax purposes…

Thank you,


Danny M Reed said:
On: 27th Feb, 2015 at 10:33

I have gotten up early to meet “the nine” young “ex Hutterites” at their second book signing event at Book World near hear in Rhinelander, WI and have read with interest your Blog entry about them and others who may have departed for other reasons. It is with interest that you have stated that some if not all have been drawn away by a charismatic preacher of the name Fred Phillips and joined his non denominational church. I am very much relieved that you have stated they may return if they wish and that the Hutterites are not averse to the use of the internet, if only for agricultural and other interests. I am about to introduce a community of Bible believers online called representing the only official site of my faith. If one were to search for Jehovah’s Witnesses Online you will find it impoverished with many “ex Winesses” with various serious complaints and at many levels of organization and publication. including one of a governing body member from New York. Tragically, they began and ended with serious unresolved personal problems. I have not read the books by “the nine” but I assume it is of similar qualities. I feel in each case their personal problems could have been worked out over time. Is this not failure on the part of BOTH parties to have neglected the richness of having availed themselves of more help? I am Disfellowshipped myself for over a year for unreported alcohol abuse.