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John Holdeman’s mother, Church of God in Christ, Mennonite church, fictionalized biography, Bible interpretation, Women’s roles in society and church, seeking God in hardship

Eat Honey, My Son
by Elizabeth M. Free

Imagine that you’re Nancy Holdeman, and the year is 1829. You’re traveling by wagon train from Pennsylvania to join a small Mennonite farm settlement in Ohio with your husband, Amos, and Liza, the first of your nine babies. Still nursing, you’re pregnant again.

Your family is depending on your skills for survival, so you packed the wagon with everything you’ll need to nurture them until the first harvest. From rough shelter you create a home, while cultivating your summer garden with urgent hopes. You feed, warm, clothe, and heal your family to the best that hardship, scarcity, and uncertainty will afford.

Hope, tenacity, and strength, borne by the quiet faith and rich cultural traditions of the Mennonite people, conditioned by a history of persecution and dissent to seek religious freedom at any cost—these are the treasures you bring to your story to share with generations to come and a future that’s yours to shape.

Only one thing is beyond your endurance …

The repressive zealotry and joyless convictions of your son, John Holdeman, the self-appointed reformer of the Mennonite religion, divides the family, the community, and the very faith itself. What does a mother do?

Eat Honey, My Son is the true story of Nancy Holdeman, an indomitable, pioneering woman who opposed her son by refusing to abandon her conscience. All proceeds from the sale of this book will go to Rescue Cambodia, originally called Place of Rescue, an orphanage and AIDS hospice that makes a difference. Visit their website at

Debut author Elizabeth M. Free was born into a devout Mennonite family that upheld the strict and unforgiving 19th century reforms of John Holdeman, founder of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, in 1859.

Free was uniquely inspired to write the story of Nancy Holdeman because she and her subject are bound together in spirit: they are both women who defied the authority of those claiming to speak God’s truth and dared to think for themselves.

As a young woman in the 1960s, Free rebelled against the austerity of her upbringing in the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite. She left her community, enduring inevitable shunning and excommunication. In later years, she reconciled her faith with the Mennonite religion, and by combining her knowledge and experience with her extensive historical and genealogical research, she has created this interesting and evocative work of historical fiction, based on real characters and events.

Free is a mother and grandmother, and has lived on the Canadian prairies most of her life.


Elizabeth M. Free

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