When siblings Rodney and Darlene Waldner made a decision to leave their Hutterite colony several years ago, they did it to pursue religious freedom.
“None of us left the colony because we wanted to live as we wanted to; we left because we wanted freedom of religion,” Rodney Waldner said. “I knew that I had to do what I could for my survival. I had Jesus inside and he needed to get out.”
Rodney and Darlene Waldner, along with seven other former Hutterites who left their colonies, have dubbed themselves “The Nine.” In 2013, as a group, they wrote about their personal experiences in “Hutterites: Our Story of Freedom.” The book chronicled their decisions and how they choose life outside the colony.
Rodney said after the first book came out, the nine still felt there were issues and questions left unanswered.
“We felt that there were many things left to be said,” Rodney Waldner said. “There are so many issues and things we are facing in this country and Canada. Our nation is going downhill. The Lord gave us insight to write about these issues.”
The second book, “Since We Told the Truth: Our Life Can Never Be the Same” came out on July 4. Some of the nine are on a book tour throughout the United States and Canada. The tour includes a stop in Billings at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Barnes & Noble, 530 S. 24th St. W.
The second book adds to the topics in the first book and highlights issues the nine believe the nation is facing.
“A lot of people want change in the country and each one of us can help change the issues present,” Darlene Waldner said. “The book doesn’t just talk about these issues. It gives solutions. The solution is the word of God.”
Hutterite colonies exist throughout the upper Midwest and Northwest in the United States and in middle and western Canada. The religious tradition comes from the same Anabaptist movement similar to that of the Amish and Mennonites.
The nine now live in different parts of North Dakota and Canada. After leaving the colony, they set up businesses that include construction and cleaning. They also own and run Risen Son Publishing, which allowed the group to publish their first two books.
The profits have gone back into teaching and ministry, Rodney said. Some of the nine have gone to Liberia to volunteer and serve. Some of the funds to do so came from their first book.
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Darlene Waldner said that after leaving the colony the differences in lifestyle was drastic.
“There was a night-and-day difference after leaving the colony,” she said. “I was shy and quiet. I felt like I didn’t really have any important things to say. I learned that I can serve God and be creative in any way I want.”
When he was living at the colony, Rodney Waldner questioned what legacy he was leaving behind.
“In the Hutterite colony, I had no purpose,” he said. “God has given me a vision. I don’t consider myself to be more special than anyone else, but I know now that I can try my best to change the world.”
After “Hutterites” was published, the Waldners said they encountered both positive and negative feedback.
“People sometimes don’t want to hear our side of the story,” Rodney Waldner said. “Some people’s first response may be negative, but they may come around eventually and support our message. Hutterite colonies are not happy-go-lucky places. If we don’t tell the truth, how is anyone ever going to tell the truth?”
He felt the same way with some of the issues presented in the new book.
“We have chosen to call things that used to be wrong, right. And now right has become wrong,” he said. “And if that is the way things are now, then something has to change. If we don’t speak out about these issues, then who will?”
Darlene hopes that people who come out to support their cause and attend events can learn something.
“I want people to know that they can be bold and speak the truth no matter what the cost,” Darlene said. “It’s so important to say and see what is true, even if it offends people. Be bold as Christians.”
For more information about the books and events, go to www.thenine9.com.