April 6, 2006 in Nation/World

No insurance, but lots of good neighbors

Rose French Associated Press

CHINA GROVE, Tenn. – Hours after the winds died down, a crowd of volunteers – men in plain shirts and suspenders, women in bonnets and ankle-length dresses – arrived in this farming community to help fellow Mennonites whose homes and barns were ravaged by tornadoes.

Most of the local Mennonites do not have insurance; they say it goes against their religious beliefs. Instead, families rely on each other to rebuild after disasters.

The 75 Mennonite volunteers brought canned fruit, generators and tools to assist about 22 families hit hard by Sunday’s storms, which killed two non-Mennonite residents of China Grove and 22 other people in Tennessee, as well as four people in other states.

Oscar Yoder, his wife and six children lost the roof to their two-story brick home in the tornado.

“It’s been overwhelming,” Yoder said of the help, fighting back tears. “It’s been a real blessing.”

In other tornado-stricken areas, the click of cameras shooting pictures for insurance claims has been as much a part of the background noise as buzzing chain saws and rumbling utility trucks. But at Yoder’s farm, the sound of hammering and sawing filled the air.

Buying insurance “takes away from helping each other,” said Yoder, 45. “I don’t condemn it. But we choose not to. It draws us closer together. We believe God will provide and not to depend on insurance.”

The Mennonites are similar to the Amish in their attire, and both groups embrace self-sustaining, rural living. But the Mennonites accept more technology, including cars, telephones, electricity and computers for business purposes.

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