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'The nine' stories of freedom

September 6, 2013
Bryce Berginski - Tribune Reporter , Pierce County Tribune

The truth shall set you free.

For nine former Hutterites, that was one of several reasons for leaving their colonies, and for writing a tell-all book "The Nine: Our Story to Freedom",based on their experiences.

The nine are Glenda Maendel, Jason and Titus Waldner (who came from the Forest River Colony near Fordville, N.D.), and Cindy, Rodney, Junia, Karen, Darlene and Sheryl Waldner (who came from the Hillside Colony in Manitoba, Canada). Each of them are related in a fashion. Jason and Titus are brothers, and their wives are Karen and Darlene, respectively. Rodney, Darlene and Sheryl are siblings, as are Cindy, Junia and Karen. Each of them left their colonies in the latter months of 2006 and early 2007, or within months of each other.

Article Photos

Submitted photo
Pictured are the nine former Hutterites who wrote the book. BACK ROW (from the left): Rodney Waldner, Jason Waldner, Karen Waldner, Glenda Maendel and Titus Waldner. FRONT ROW (from the left): Cindy Waldner, Junia Waldner, Darlene Waldner and Sheryl Waldner.

Added together, they have 190 years of experiences in the Hutterite colonies.

For the nine, life in the colonies versus life outside of the colonies were vastly different worlds. Hutterites are a people, of about 40,000 in number, who live in secluded communes, of which there are three sects: the Schmiedeleut, Dariusleut, and Lehrerleut sects. They live in over 480 colonies that are in parts of Canada and the Upper Midwest, including in North and South Dakota. Since they are cut from the same Anabaptist cloth, which is descended from the reformation movement of the 16th century, and adhere to similar religious doctrines, they are spiritual cousins to the Amish and the Mennonites.

The Hutterites have their own unwritten language, "Hutterisch", which is based on a German dialect. They are also taught basic English in school. Church services are conducted in High German rather than in Hutterisch, which the populace may not understand. Those who are not from a Hutterite colony are referred to as the "English".

The Hutterites have a strict adherence to tradition, and they believe this is a key to salvation. Because of their communal living, money and property belong to the colony, and, as such, they don't evangelize. The notion of being a "born again" Christian isn't common-some consider it strange or foreign.

For the nine, the joy and freedom of being born again, and freedom from a suppressive religious structure was a common denominator in their decision to leave behind the Hutterite life. Some of them had been excommunicated, excluded from participation from the colony, for their beliefs. Since leaving, adjusting to life outside of the colony was a challenge. The group had to figure out how to deal with language barriers, financial issues, letting go of the mindsets with which they grew up, the opportunities that were available to them and how to take advantage, leaving their friends, family and a culture in which they were born and grew up, and how to think for and be themselves, rather than what someone else wanted them to be.

After leaving their respective colonies, the nine were brought together by a minister in Rolla. The minister was the one who helped them get on their feet and learn about living in American society. To this day they are still close, living in the U.S. and Canada within a relatively short drive from each other. They also have jobs, hobbies and enjoy life.

The nine suspect that leaders of the Hutterite colonies won't like what they have written, but it is the truth. They have written the book without being against the people in the communities. As of yet they are not sure if the book has inspired others to leave the colonies.

However, the book isn't just for Hutterites. The book is also for those who feel depressed, oppressed and/or are struggling, and the nine say it is a means for those who feel this way to know there is hope and a way out.

In the short time that the book has been out, the nine have been busy. Articles about them have surfaced in various newspapers, including the Bismarck Tribune and the Turtle Mountain Star. There have also been requests of them for TV and radio appearances. However, the book wasn't written with fame or profit in mind.

Interested persons can buy the book in various places and media. It is available in electronic form through Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and other digital avenues. It is also available at the Hub and at Rockin' Relics in Rugby, at the Westside C Store and Cottage Charm in Rolla, the book store on the Dakota College at Bottineau campus, at Home Sweet Home in Minot, and other places. It is over 120 pages long, with chapters from each of the nine and a brief setup about the Hutterites' way of life. Interested persons can also get the book or find out more about it at www.thenine9.com.

 
 

 

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