COLUMBIA — Television personality Mose Gingerich is a sales professional at Joe Machens Toyota, the former owner of a construction business and father of three.
He is also an ex-Amish television star.
Gingerich's latest project, a 10-part series called "Amish: Out of Order," premiered on the National Geographic Channel last month. The show centers on a group of mid-Missouri residents who've left the Amish order, making them ex-Amish. Gingerich, who left his Amish family in 2002, said he tries to provide a support system for teens who also decide to join the outside world.
"I want to be there for them," he said. "I had to make the leap on my own."
The show, which airs at 9 p.m. Tuesdays, was filmed from March 2011 to March 2012. The producers faced their fair share of challenges during filming, said Daniel Laikind, co-founder of Stick Figure Productions.
"It's really different than any other kind of show," said Laikind, who produced the series with Gingerich and two others. "It's not easy for people to be filmed, especially those who are not used to being on camera."
The problem goes deeper than simply being uncomfortable in front of the camera, however. The Amish community is very strict when it comes to such exposure.
"The Amish believe in staying modest and humble," Gingerich said. "Anything in the way of photos, videos or newspaper articles is forbidden."
The issues covered in the show complicated filming, too.
"We're dealing with difficult subject matter," Laikind said. "We're dealing with questions of faith, and some of these people have been shunned by their families."
Gingerich's involvement with the project, combined with Laikind's 15 years of experience making programs about the Amish, brought the show to life.
"We had access that almost no other producer has gotten before," Laikind said. "There's a little bit of trust. Mose is a huge benefit — he's respected in the community and people know that he wouldn't participate in something exploitative."
Gingerich made his first foray into television in 2004, when he was part of the cast of "Amish in the City." That reality show followed five Amish and six American teenagers who lived together in a house in Hollywood.
It was through this experience that he met Laikind, and together they have produced two specials for National Geographic Channel — a 2009 documentary, "Amish: Out of the Order," and a 2010 special, "Amish at the Altar."
Laikind said the success of these two projects led to the creation of the current series.
Gingerich's reputation has not kept people from finding fault with him, however.
"The misconception is that I go into the Amish community on a regular basis and act as an ex-Amish underground railroad, which is untrue," he said. "Whether I agree or disagree (with the Amish) is irrelevant here. I just remember how miserable I was and how there was nobody to help."
Despite facing criticism from both Amish and ex-Amish, Gingerich said he has no regrets about living his life on camera for a year. His initial hesitance was quelled by both Laikind's persistence and the support of Dan Kellar, his manager at Joe Machens Toyota, and his colleagues.
"I sat down with my manager to discuss filming, and he challenged me," Gingerich said. "He said, 'If you can prove to me that you can juggle these two and still be successful in sales, I have no problem with it.'"
Managing all these responsibilities, however, proved more difficult than Gingerich imagined. He worked 14-hour days, then filmed when he got home. He was also responsible for helping generate ideas for the show and had to keep up with his duties as husband and father.
"Mentally, that year was the hardest I've ever worked in my life," he said.
Despite the challenge, Gingerich said he believes wholeheartedly in the work he has done.
"It's absolutely been positive," he said. "I do like filming. I think I can be an inspiration to people at that point in their life like I was when I left."
Laikind has equally positive feelings about Gingerich.
"I consider him a friend," Laikind said. "We were lucky to find him. He's trying to find his place in the world and help other people find that, too."