What do the Amish, little ones with special needs, two nonprofits, four adoptions, two one-room schoolhouses from the 1800s, and a monthly print magazine have to do with homesteading in 2023? It is the story of our family, and it is a joy to share how the Lord has pieced it together over the last twenty years. My name is Marlin Miller, and here we go!
I was raised Amish in Ohio, with family and community playing a huge role in my youth. In fact, I think I have more than a hundred first cousins with around half still Amish. My dad’s youngest sister, Alma, had Down syndrome. My dad would cross the most packed-out room to meet families who had a child with special needs and make new friends. Today, my own family has many opportunities to do the same, and every chance I have, I share the line he exuded in those conversations… “it doesn’t take a great family, it makes a great family.” Pop, that’s what I called my dad, passed away while he was driving truck 11 years ago. He was only 55. We can hardly wait to see him again and introduce him to his two youngest grandsons.
After we had been married for several years, my wife, Lisa, and I walked the road from infertility to adoption. Our prayers changed from “Lord, please bless us with a child” to “Lord, please bring us the children You want us to have and equip us to meet their needs.” Our oldest son was placed with us just two weeks after our home study was approved. He was almost four years old, and at the time, it had not yet been determined that he is on the Autism spectrum.
Lisa taught first grade in a public school where all her students were Amish. But two years after we adopted our first son, she felt a change was coming and it soon did. Our adoption agency called us about a baby girl with Down syndrome who would soon be born. We were one of the few families who were open to adopting a child with Down syndrome, and after meeting her birth family, we soon met our new daughter. She was in the NICU for seven weeks and had multiple surgeries. In fact, we almost lost her a few times. Adelaide finally came home with a feeding tube and a steep learning curve. Lisa put aside her teaching career to care for our baby’s needs. Two years later, we felt called to adopt another baby with Down syndrome. The NDSAN [National Down Syndrome Adoption Network] matched us with our third child. The sweetest little boy, Bennett, was born prematurely and 18 hours away. After another NICU stay and a month out of state, Bennett was able to be free of the oxygen tank and apnea monitor he had worn since his birth, and we made the long drive back home, now a family of five. While we were certain our family was complete, the Lord had other plans. Nearly five years ago, we adopted our youngest son, Miles, who has Mosaic Down syndrome, in a most unexpected but most welcome surprise adoption.
Twelve years ago, I began praying for a special combination: an income that provided for the family while allowing the time we needed to care for our children. The answer lay in my heritage… and my job. I was a sales representative with a local newspaper (at the time). Because I grew up Amish, I can talk Pennsylvania Dutch, the language of the Amish community. Our magazine’s inspiration came through a very simple conversation; what if we could build a print magazine expressly for Amish folks? After putting a few bigger pieces together, we ran two pilot issues as a test with promising results. I told Lisa that I thought this idea was going to hold water, but we must retool it. And so, we spent time thinking and praying through what the content and focus could be.
Together, we came up with three pillars for the type of content we wanted this new magazine to rest on. The first two pillars drew from our own experiences—the dignity of children with special needs and the beauty of adoption. I personally believe adoption is why God created the entire universe. There is no better manifestation of His adoption of us (vertically) than the adoption of a child into a family (horizontally) right here and now!
As we worked through all this, I told Lisa the ONE thing, that huge bucket list thing I wanted to see the Lord do, was to use our work to bring a child with Down syndrome home to his or her forever family. I didn’t care how big a role we played. I just wanted to see that happen someday; after that, the rest can burn to the ground. Thankfully, our work hasn’t burned down yet, and in the last 10 years, the Lord has used Plain Values and our team in some form to help with more than 20 adoptions of little ones with Down syndrome and other special needs. Praise the Lord! A few years back, we began a nonprofit, Room to Bloom, to highlight and advocate for those exact kids with special needs that are so often forgotten. The story of Room to Bloom will be an upcoming post all to itself.
The third pillar of the magazine’s content was to highlight the Lord’s work being done at home and around the world, especially in situations where people doing that work needed prayers, donations, or volunteer assistance. Our hope was to share these organizations’ stories and be a stepping stone for people who may not have a smartphone to connect with the causes they care about. The results of that hope have been nothing short of incredible. We have shared stories of need on the field in which readers have sent tens of thousands of dollars, boots, blankets, and even themselves and their youngsters! At times, vanloads of volunteers have shown up to help distribute lovingkindness.
As I write this, I almost have to pinch myself in wonder of all the Lord has accomplished through a goofball like me. Today, Plain Values is read by hundreds of thousands every month, and our numbers are growing fast. We will always maintain the three foundational pillars. Still, over the last couple of years, we have added a fourth pillar, homesteading, because it has played such an important role in our family. Both Lisa and I grew up helping in a big garden, canning and putting food by, raising chickens, and working as a family together at home. We have continued those traditions with our own family and enjoy working together on outdoor projects to add to our garden space, plant trees, build chicken coops, and continue to learn new skills. We’ve added lots of content about the homesteading lifestyle to Plain Values through monthly columns written by Joel Salatin, Rory Feek, Shawn and Beth Dougherty, and Melissa Norris. They bring years of experience and wisdom inside the homesteading and farming arena.
As non-Amish folks have learned of Plain Values and subscribed, we have been reminded of today’s massive desire to read and learn about how the Amish live and mimic that simplicity. To help with that, a few months ago, we began a monthly roundtable written by Amish farmers, preachers, and even an Amish farmer’s wife, who joins in occasionally. Ivan, Jerry, Daniel, and Emily discuss topics on everyone’s mind, such as the impacts of technology on our families from the Amish lens. It has quickly become a favorite column. Readers continually send questions and topics on which they would like the panel’s perspectives in a future issue.
We believe it is time for the American church to engage within communities and really be the hands and feet of Christ. Plain Values is all about living in authentic community with those around us. From the farm and homestead life to educating our children with Biblical framework and worldviews, Plain Values aims to bring common sense and old-school wisdom back to life once again.
We are doing our best to enjoy the simple things in life, to stay connected to our community, and to slow down, so we don’t miss what’s truly important. If you are looking for a monthly print magazine with heart, we humbly ask you to consider joining the Plain Values family. When you subscribe, you automatically help bring hope and a family to an orphaned child with special needs. How does that work, you might ask… every time a family joins the PV family, we give a chunk of that money straight to Room to Bloom to help bring a family and their son or daughter closer to each other and ultimately home together.
Since I can’t give you a hug through these screens and say thanks personally, please use the code GAB23 at checkout for a special savings and a hearty “thank you” for your support. Visit plainvalues.com to learn more and subscribe. While you are there, you just might catch a glimpse of what is in the works with the two one-room schoolhouses and a second nonprofit.
Till next time, may you find joy in the simple things.
Marlin Miller, publisher of Plain Values Magazine. Always looking for more friends.