Beverly Lewis shares how her books have helped those struggling with church hurt

Novelist Beverly Lewis
Novelist Beverly Lewis | Courtesy of Beverly Lewis

For beloved novelist Beverly Lewis, writing isn’t just about entertainment, it’s a form of ministry and a way to encourage readers to see God’s faithfulness in their personal stories. 

“I’ve continued to write books for so long because I feel called to make a difference somehow,” the 73-year-old author told The Christian Post, adding she has “drawers full” of letters from people who share how her books have impacted their lives. 

“So many people would read my books and say, ‘You point me to the Word of God, I haven't been reading my Bible,’ or, from men, ‘You helped me know how to treat a woman in a better way.’ Things like that.”

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Lewis is one of the most successful authors in Christian fiction, with over 18 million books in print that have been published in 12 languages. She also regularly appears on The New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.

Born in the heart of Amish country — Lancaster, Pennsylvania — her first venture into adult fiction became an instant bestselling trilogy: The Heritage of Lancaster County. The series, which comprises The Shunning, The Confession and The Reckoning, follows Katie Lapp, a young Amish woman drawn to the modern world by secrets from her past. 

The stories are loosely based on the author's maternal grandmother, Ada Ranck Buchwalter, who left her Old Order Mennonite upbringing to marry a Bible College student and was shunned by her community as a result. 

“It was a heartbreaking situation,” Lewis said. “Her father wanted her to marry the Mennonite farmer down the road, but she had met a ministerial student who was studying to be a pastor with a Christian and Missionary Alliance Church and believed that God was calling her to marry him and be a pastor's wife. Her father really put the kibosh on this relationship, and the whole thing just blew out of proportion and ended up with a bishop excommunicating her."

"Her father said if she were to ever remove her hair cap, her head covering, and accepted a simple gold wedding band from her husband at the wedding that she could never darken the door of the community again.”

It was her grandmother’s story that sparked in Lewis a desire to learn more about the cloistered Amish and Mennonite communities and encourage those hurt by religious communities to rediscover a loving God.

“I'm so tender-hearted toward this particular story because I really truly believe that God would not have led me to write about this cloistered society of Amish or Mennonites had this not happened to my grandmother Ada,” the Colorado resident said. “Ada’s courage led me to where I am now, writing about the Amish culture. It has really influenced so many of us; I have cousins and aunts and uncles who are all serving the Lord in pastoral ministry, evangelists, deacons, deacons’ wives and lay workers, and Ada did it. She fully embraced the fullness of the Gospel and shared it.”

Lewis’ books were developed as a series for Hallmark TV. And a musical stage play of the trilogy, titled "The Confession," written for the stage by Emmy-nominated screenwriter Martha Bolton, toured the country. Now, it’s being developed as a theatrical film starring Chonda Pierce and John Schneider, debuting in theaters on Feb. 20. 

A description of the film reads: “Katie Lapp, a young Amish girl, discovers her parents have been keeping a secret from her… she is adopted. Katie decides to seek her birth mother, defying the rules of her Amish village and risking a shunning. Meanwhile, her wealthy birth mother, Laura Mayfield, battling an illness that might take her life, begins searching for her long-lost daughter to bequeath her inheritance before it is too late. Secretly plotting against her is the gold-digging husband Dylan (played by John Schneider), who is scheming to make sure he inherits her fortune. With the help and prayers of her Christian maidservant (played by Chonda Pierce), they try to foil Dylan’s plan and reunite Katie and Laura.”

Courtesy of Beverly Lewis
Courtesy of Beverly Lewis

Lewis, a former schoolteacher and musician, described seeing her work adapted to the big screen as “just so cool.”

“When the producer first contacted my husband and me about it, about 13 years ago, I said oh, that sounds incredible, because Katie's character feels gifted in music and yet it's forbidden in her community. I thought, ‘My two passions in life are going to come together; music and a great story.’”

Courtesy of Beverly Lewis
Courtesy of Beverly Lewis

“I've been so excited about the project going to the big screen; the musical has been so popular, I think 200,000 people now have seen it, but for it to be filmed professionally by a Hollywood studio and to the theaters is just so cool.”

Lewis said she’s heard from countless members of the Amish community who experienced shunning similar to her grandmother’s, and how her books helped them overcome the hurt stemming from their experience. 

“I think the best route is to look to the Holy Spirit for guidance and to get away from all the stricter rules and regulations and go try to find a place where people are focused on Christ and focused on the Great Commission,” she said. “That makes all the difference in the world.”

Now both a mother and grandmother, Lewis said she hopes to leave behind a legacy of hope and encouragement for future generations. She shared how, no matter how difficult parenting was in the early years, she wanted to instill in her children a sense of acceptance and love. 

And recently, she said, her adult daughter, Julie, told her, “Mom, no matter what I did wrong, you always loved me and accepted me.”

“She was a challenging child in her teen years, and she always knew that the Lord and mom and dad were there for her,” Lewis said. “What a blessing it was to know she always knew that.”

Though she has dozens of books under her belt, Lewis isn’t stopping anytime soon. She revealed she’s working on a book titled The Heirloom, which brings back one of her beloved characters, the Wise Woman of Hickory Hollow, Ella Mae Zook, and will release in September. Her latest released book, The Orchard, is set in Vietnam when Amish boys and men were either signing up to fight or to be conscientious objectors. 

“It’s pretty dramatic; it’s a sweeping novel,” Lewis said. 

Through her work, whether it’s brought to life in a book, on the stage or big screen, the author said she hopes to highlight God’s goodness and help those struggling with hurt to find a home through the Body of Christ. 

“I feel like everyone has a purpose and we're here on earth for a reason, and if we know the Lord, we want to share it,” she said. 

"The Confession Musical" is in theaters on Feb. 20 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. local time. Tickets are available here.

Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at:

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