You get boxed in. I was stuck in a chicken barn and that's not my life calling - to work for fifty years in a chicken barn.
—Jason Waldner, co-author
Imagine leaving your home where you were born, the neighbourhood where you grew up, everything familiar to you, even your family.
That's what nine members of Hutterite colonies in North Dakota and Manitoba did, back in 2006 and 2007.
They've each written a chapter in a new book that launches on Saturday September 14. It's called Hutterites: Our Story to Freedom.
Jason Waldner, as Colony member then former Colony member (J. Waldner)
Jason Waldner, one of the writers, remembers the day he decided to leave his colony in North Dakota, seven years ago. "I was sitting in a church service and listening to a lot of rules - restrictions on every area of your life, from how you're supposed to live to who you can associate with.....I was fed up. This was not working for me."
Jason says it's easier for single people to leave. He was 22 when his brother drove him to a nearby town early one morning. "I basically had a duffle bag with some clothes in it and I took off. I had maybe a hundred bucks in my pocket but I had some people who said they'd take me in."
Karen Waldner, as Colony member then former Colony member (K. Waldner)
Karen Waldner was 20 years old when she left her colony near Brandon. She remembers the sharp learning curve, finding work and getting an apartment. "I had to learn how to write cheques, even buy groceries. At age 20 you'd think I should know how to do some of those things but I felt like I was 13 years old."
It was on the outside that Karen met Jason. The married couple are now happily settled in North Dakota. Karen works in interior design and Jason is a carpenter.
Jason says that he knows others whose struggle to leave was not as successful. "They don't know how to function on the outside. They don't know how to relate socially. And spiritually, if they have it hanging over their head that they're on a slippery slope where they might end up in hell, that it's evil out there, they'll come back."
"Hutterites: Our Story to Freedom" (Risen Son)
As to the future, the Waldners would like to help others. "It would be selfish of me not to help others, to just enjoy my freedom," says Karen. "Because I know there are so many my age who are struggling and I know they haven't gotten the help."
The last word goes to Jason. "Life can be good on the outside. It's not what you think. God looks more at the heart rather than having to do everything so perfect on the outside."
Listen to an interview about"The Nine" on the Weekend Morning Show with host Terry MacLeod, Saturday September 14 at 6:45 a.m. on CBC Radio One 89.3 FM/990 AM/97.9 FM in Brandon.
Hutterites: Our Story to Freedom launches on Saturday September 14 at 11 a.m. at McNally Robinson and Saturday September 21 from 11 - 2 at Abby Rose Gift Shop in Brandon.