Building a Cultural Bridge in Lancaster

Photo by Saloma Furlong

Several weeks ago, I started a part-time volunteer job at Safe Communities. I wrote about the restorative experience here on this blog of being a participant at the retreat led by Linda Crockett and Mark Harris in the spring. I was already in awe of Linda and her leadership skills, and at the retreat I realized what a lantern-bearer she is. I felt a pull in the direction of adding my efforts to hers to advocate for those who are looking for support in changing or leaving an abusive situation, and to support survivors in their quest to thrive. This was one of the reasons for moving here, as I outlined in this earlier post.

Linda and I had talked earlier about the significant opposition that those who report child sexual abuse face within the Plain Communities. Since I left my Amish family and community when I was twenty to escape from abuse, I’ve find myself being an interpreter of the very culture I left. I thought why not use what I know to help Safe Communities with the work they’re doing within Plain Communities.

Weeks after we moved here, Mark Harris, Director at Safe Communities called me with the news of Linda’s significant illness. Being the vibrant person she is, it was a shock to hear what a brush with death she had. She has made a remarkable recovery, and everyone is grateful that she is still helping to guide the ship of Safe Communities. However, she is stepping down in her role as Executive Director. I’m helping out during this transition.

It is astounding to see the huge impact such a small organization is having in Lancaster County, not only among the Plain communities, but among other groups as well. The projects they take on are designed to make systemic changes. One example is their Pennsylvania Dutch Interpreter Project. Linda recently wrote about this:

The opportunity to develop this project came when I spoke at a PA Court conference in November of 2022 about Amish culture and the justice system, emphasizing that language barriers too often blocked young children from access to justice. Court officials contacted us post-conference, saying it was a great source of frustration that despite efforts, they did not have any native PA Dutch speakers in a state with the largest Amish population in the nation. All their outreach had failed, and the few Amish women who took the certification examination did not pass. Given the exam is written at a two-year college degree level and most Amish woman only have an 8th grade education, this was not surprising. They asked for the help of Safe Communities. This is a systemic cultural change with potential benefit to abused Amish children and their mothers, so we agreed.

Leveraging our relationships with Amish communities, we held an introductory workshop at a historic one-room school to introduce the program, attended by about 25 Amish. From that pool, we recruited a group of people to apply for certification in 2023. We worked with The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts to simplify the process and get waivers for requirements such as photo identification, which Amish generally do not possess. We set up study circles in Amish homes for applicants to improve their English proficiency, become familiar with the basics of the justice system, practice interpretation, and prepare for the test, developing the curriculum as we progressed through 40 hours of classes, with Safe Communities staff and some volunteers teaching. History was made when ten Amish applicants passed the examination on October 18.

In September, I had the privilege of attending one of the Study Groups led by Mark. I was awed by the courage of the participants to take on this challenge, knowing that at least some of them were facing opposition within their communities. Part of the class included participants reading passages from my memoir, Liberating Lomie, and having them interpreted into their native language. This gave the publishing of my book a whole new meaning. It was an honor to have it used in this way.

I am making connections within the Amish community with those who have been inspired by Linda’s leadership to stand up and resist how abuse is handled in their congregations. Knowing how much courage it takes for Amish women to speak up, this is incredible. Linda has been accused of helping women find their voices. I’d say she is doing her job. I will gladly be accused of being her accomplice.

When I left my community forty-some years ago, I didn’t think I’d ever look back. However as I get older, I find myself circling back around to my roots. There are some good aspects of living in an Amish community. There is a sense of belonging that comes from being surrounded by people who you’ve known all your life, and to know your place in the community. It is comforting to have the centuries-old traditions carry you from the cradle to the grave. However, this tight-knit society can also be stifling, especially in abusive situation. What I see happening here in Lancaster, is that there are now women advocating from within for abused children. Normally anyone who dares to stand up to their leaders are on their way out of the community, but some in this community are saying, “We don’t want to leave, we want you to do better.” I want to hold hands with these Amish women in sisterhood and support them in their quest to seek justice from within. It is a worthy goal to build this bridge between my two cultures in the New Year.

Search this blog

Hi there! It's wonderful to see you here! Sign up to receive a notice in your inbox when I post to my blog.

Recent Posts

To order a signed copy of my book(s), click on an image below. You will be taken to the books page of my author website to purchase.

Posted in

Saloma Furlong


  1. Michele Larson on December 30, 2023 at 11:07 pm

    Hi Saloma, I relate to what you said in your last paragraph about belonging to a community. I was raised in Barre VT and when I married my husband who was from East Longmeadow MA, we lived in Springfield MA and I was excited to be away from Barre. I liked living in Springfield and it seemed to me to have so much more to offer in many ways than Barre did. When Bob lost his job (in the 70s) in the printing job in Springfield that he had for about 10 years we moved to Barre and he worked for a press there for over 29 years. At first I did not want to move back but it turned out to be a good decision. I would walk downtown and people recognized me and it didn’t take me long to feel I was where I belonged, among people who knew me most of my life. I was among places and things that were a part of my life from childhood. Now having lived in Central PA for over 15 years I miss Vermont more and more. I miss that sense of belonging but I don’t have many relatives in Barre anymore.

    I don’t drive much here in PA because I can’t deal with the amount of traffic and big trucks and roads with many lanes of traffic to navigate. When I went back to VT about 2 years ago for my grandson’s wedding to a girl from the Woodstock area I was nervous about driving from Georgia VT where my son lives to go to the rehearsal dinner but it was like I had never been away — driving the interstate was so easy, just like I remembered and not stressful.

    I enjoy your blogs.
    Thank you,
    Michele Larson

    • Saloma Furlong on January 2, 2024 at 1:48 pm

      Michele, it is so good to see you here! Somehow I missed approving your comments until now. Sorry about that.

      I so relate to your comments about a sense of community in Vermont. If we were to move back there (as David would like), we would have an instant community in Chittenden County. I miss Vermont too, but not as much in the winter. (enter winking smiley face). There is something about Vermont…

      I also relate to what you wrote about driving in this area. It is one of our biggest challenges. Besides the fast, rude, impatient drivers, we have buggies, little pony carts, bikes, scooters, and farm equipment to watch out for. The combination of the rude car and truck drivers along with the slow-moving vehicles can be deadly. Driving in Vermont is a breeze in comparison, even with the increased traffic up there.

      We have so much in common. It’s always a pleasure to hear from you.

      Have a blessed new year!

      • Michele Larson on January 5, 2024 at 6:38 pm


        I agree that we have so much in common. We have met once and corresponded through your blog posts and each and every time I have felt like I have known you forever. We do have much in common, even the Ody vans we each owned were the same color (grey/silver}, year (2008) and had about the same number of miles, if I am remembering correctly. My son Eric in VT got mine after Bob died and I wasn’t ready to give it up but he talked me into it.

        I wish I felt more comfortable driving in the PA traffic, because I would go to visit you. I have a son who lives in Oley, PA, about 30 miles from you. I don’t get there very often because of the traffic between York and Oley. If I could find a route on less traveled roads I would be tempted to try it. I remember going to Clay Book Store in Ephrata a few times with my daughter several years ago. I loved it there because they had used books!

        Barre had 2 floods this year and the one in June or July was the worse one they have ever had. Thankfully the more resent one wasn’t as bad. I don’t really miss the winters in VT but it would be nice to have one tiny snow fall here.

        Oh and I loved your post about the Amish in Lancaster county. I have always been curious about the Amish.

        Thanks for answering my post. I love hearing from you.
        God Bless —

  2. Celia Crotteau on December 31, 2023 at 5:27 am

    What a beautiful and moving testimony you have delivered! God is using you in ways you least expected, which is so often the case. Thank you for your efforts thus far to help abuse victims in the Amish community, and, moving into the New Year, may you see even more positivity. I wish you and your family, friends, and fellow volunteers a happy 2024.

    • Saloma Furlong on December 31, 2023 at 3:34 pm

      Celia, thank you for your kind thoughts and words. Supporting those who wish to change oppressive situations gives me energy and meaning. I’m grateful to you and others for supporting us in our endeavors.

      May you have a Healthy and Happy New Year!

  3. Katie Troyer on December 31, 2023 at 9:09 am

    Wow is about all I can say at the moment. Blessings be upon you as you work among our people.

    • Saloma Furlong on December 31, 2023 at 3:35 pm

      Katie, your blessings mean so much. Thank you. May you have a wonderful New Year!

  4. Erma Horst Taylor on January 1, 2024 at 10:28 am

    👏👏👏 ….for using something bad in your past to bring about “good” in the lives of others.
    I feel privileged to be involved in your journey. I remember gratefully that you blessed my friend/teacher Ruth Heatwole before her death when you willingly visited her w me; her husband Ken was reading your memoir to her and she delighted in your visit.

    • Saloma Furlong on January 1, 2024 at 1:05 pm

      Erma, it is wonderful to see you here. Thank you for your kind thoughts and words. Blessings upon you in 2024!

  5. Esther Yoder Stenson on January 1, 2024 at 10:32 am

    Way to go Saloma! I am so glad you have found a truly meaningful way to plug into your new community so quickly.
    May the Lord bless you and continue to give you strength and wisdom as you continue to help other women find their voices and the humanity God meant for them to experience.

  6. Saloma Furlong on January 1, 2024 at 1:09 pm

    Esther, thank you for your thoughts and blessings. That is a wonderful way to put it, “women find their voices and the humanity God meant for them to experience.”

    Many Blessings to you and David in the New Year!

  7. Johanna Ruth on January 2, 2024 at 6:58 pm

    There’s a book I found in my early recovery: Strong at the broken places : overcoming the trauma of childhood abuse (c1990.)
    Sanford, Linda Tschirhart. You mentioned Linda Crockett talking about this concept in an earlier post. I haven’t thought about it for some time, but it was pretty important to me in my early recovery. So good to read about the work Safe Communities is doing! I love that some of the Amish women are saying they don’t want to leave. They want their community to do better.

  8. Bruce Stambaugh on January 27, 2024 at 6:08 pm

    This is the kind of “trouble” I had hoped you would get into. Good for you!

  9. Ruthie on February 15, 2024 at 2:11 pm


    While I’m not Amish, this resonated with me: “However as I get older, I find myself circling back around to my roots. There are some good aspects of living in an Amish community. There is a sense of belonging that comes from being surrounded by people who you’ve known all your life, and to know your place in the community (Although, I never knew my place). It is comforting to have the centuries-old traditions carry you from the cradle to the grave. However, this tight-knit society can also be stifling, especially in abusive situation.”

Leave a Comment