photo from Auntie Anne's website
Have you ever enjoyed one of those amazing cinnamon sugar pretzels from Auntie Anne's while browsing through your favorite mall? I love the one with the raisins and I always get the sugar frosting "dip" to go with it, find a bench and eat my pretzel with a cup of coffee and sit and "people watch" for a while. YUM!
For 17 years, from 1988, when Anne first started selling soft pretzels at a local farmer's market, until 2005 when the Beilers decided to sell the Company, the business grew and grew beyond all imaginable expectations. Today there are 300 franchises in 20 countries, and over 950 locations worldwide.
I'd actually met Anne two other times before hearing her tell her life story last Friday night. Once was about 10 years ago when she spoke at a women's event at our church. That time she talked about how God had blessed her business. Then a year ago I met her at the annual Emerge Ministries Banquet. She has been on their Board for years, and my brother, a Christian psychologist at Emerge, introduced me to her. But until the other night I had no knowledge of her personal life~~all I knew was that she was "famous" and I sure liked Auntie Anne's pretzels. I also never knew Anne's connection with Emerge Ministries, other than that she served on the Board. I had no idea that she feels the counseling she received there saved her sanity, her marriage, her family, and her very life.
Nothing could have prepared me for the story I was about to hear. Talk about a "twisted" life~~that was Anne Beiler's. Anne and her seven siblings grew up in the Amish/Mennonite community in Lancaster County, PA. Her formal education was complete with the 8th grade. She married young, and lost her first child in a tragic farm accident. Her life then went into a tailspin that was out of control for years.
At her most vulnerable moment, she fell victim to the paralyzing abuse of spiritual power perpetrated by one who should have been the hands, feet, and voice of God's comfort and healing. Instead, she stayed in the clutches of that evil one for six long years. Many other personal issues surfaced and things just kept going from bad to worse.
Through it all, her husband Jonas stayed with her and miraculously they eventually found solid Christian counseling. In her book, Twist of Faith, Anne tells the whole story~~many things she kept secret for too many long years. She learned that the key to healing was in confession, forgiveness, and in the undeserved grace of God.
Today, Anne and Jonas Beiler are in a position to "give back" and that is exactly what they do. They have several companies and organizations which you can read about by clicking the tabs at their website. And they go around the country telling their story, firmly believing they can do no less after they have been blessed so much, both in their personal lives and with the business.
I feel so blessed to have heard this story from Anne personally. It is a testimony of the power of the love of God. I spent the past weekend reading her book, and you can buy it from Amazon.com if you are interested. When she autographed my copy, she wrote the words that have become her motto: "free indeed". The Scripture verse she shared that has stuck with me is this one:
"...confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed" James 5:16
My hubby Bob and me with Anne Beiler, and our good friends Dick and Carol Heasley in the background
November 5, 2010