Fall Farm & Family Update

Here is a little update on a few of our farm and family activities from the past 2+ months. These pictures have been sitting in our blog drafts folder for a very long time. =)

Bible Bee study filled our September & October days. Those of us who weren't competing spent hours upon hours listening to our five national contestants quote their hundreds of verses everyday. And the ones that were preparing to compete (Josh, Denver, Taylor, Liz, & Hudson) spent almost all of their time studying + memorizing.

All of our contestants had various places and positions they liked for reciting scripture. Hudson preferred the swing. I think it helped him release energy and focus. =)
We had so much going on that sometimes we had to double-task. Here, I made soup and listened to Joshua's verses at the same time.

This was back in September...Allison spent hours making the flower beds so beautiful.
If you look all the way at the top of the silo...you might spot that little red dot that represents Carson who was up there fixing something, bless his heart.
Well, what do you know...the photographer got a wave!
We were blessed with a very bountiful harvest. Amongst other things, there were some record-breaking red beets.
This carrot from Denver's garden came in with an extra long tail. =)
Here is part of this year's smiling canning crew!
As always we love little people and enjoy having them in our home as often as possible!
This is a typical sight when you live on a farm and have six brothers. =) 
And trust me, this was only a BIT of the laundry for the day!
Our main harvest crew for this year consisted of Dad on the combine, and Josh hauling the grain to town. Carson filled in driving the combine one day for Dad, and we had a few other people that helped with the grain hauling a few times. And then as usual Mom, Allison, & I packed ??? lunches, took the little ones for turns riding with Dad, and ran hither and yon over the countryside picking up and delivering various belts, bolts, and other parts. Ah, the life of a farmer! 
We had our first snow!! There were some very excited Bontragers that day!
Most eighteen year old boys play video games in their spare time. Carson is a little different. He spent his "free" time in September (which mostly consisted of after dinner & late into the nights) working on this tractor. He searched and found it online, bought it, brought it home, and proceeded to take it apart. As in, separate it in two pieces. I know this sounds impossible, but see the pictures!
This is talent. I would be SO LOST in there with all those millions of nuts and bolts.
The end of the story is that he finished and put it all back together and it works like a charm! He listed it online and has had multiple offers already. So far the problem is that he is hardly ever home so one of these days hopefully he will be home long enough for a potential buyer to come look at it.
Here we have Rebecca joining Dad for an afternoon in the combine.
For much of October and November, Mitch and Carson were working jobs several hours away from home, emptying out pits for big hog farmers. (this is what they do every fall)
Some days they ran 18 hours straight and made lots of progress.
And then other days, this happens.
And when the whole tank is full, it's not just as simple as pushing it out of the way. More farmer joys. =)
Carson fixing a hose on the spreader.
A nighttime shot of some of the boys' equipment on a job site.
Denver is our trapper & outdoorsman extraordinaire. He has been running his trap line again this fall. In this picture, the sweet little coon caught in Denver's trap is about to, um, expire. 
Note Denver's expression. =)
(but please do NOT note his rag-tag coveralls. =) He has gotten new ones since this picture)

And that's a little recap of the farm life this fall. 

"If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorifed through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
1 Peter 4:11

{posted by Chelsy}


Bible Bee Nationals Recap

 Several months before the competition, we started brainstorming about the possibility of us "older kids" going down to Orlando to experience the Bible Bee.  It had never worked out for us to go, but we had wanted to, especially after hearing so much about it from the rest of the family!  After some prayers and more brainstorming, we found a great deal on tickets and made plans to fly to Orlando!  The rest of the family left on Monday, and we were able to work a few more days before heading out (via air:) to join them Thursday.  
Chels, Mitch, Carson, and I had a fabulous trip, by the way.:)  The four of us had road-tripped together before, but not flown, and our first time flying together was great fun.  It definitely beats flying alone, in my opinion!
Thusday evening we met up with our family and a bunch of friends at the Sweet Tomato Restaurant.  It was great to see them again and catch up on all the news since they had left at the beginning of the week.:)  They were having a great time reciting the Word of God and hanging out with wonderful friends, and we were thrilled to join the party!
Some of our friends rode with us in the bus for the ride back to the hotel.
This is "we the spectators"!  It was a THRILL to watch our siblings compete!  We loved getting to be there to cheer them on.:)
the Junior Division
Here are Taylor and Denver, rejoicing together after learning that they were advancing to the Semi-Final Round.
the Primary Division
We enjoyed hearing a few songs from the "Glad" quartet.
"Oh, how I love Thy law!  It is my meditation all the day." -Psalm 119:97
Liz, Denver, Hudson, and Taylor with some of their friends.
This is so typical of Denver and Taylor- Denver so chill and confident, and Taylor all intense and focused.  They balance each other out really well, and throughout their studies and competitions this year, they have constantly been encouraging and pushing one another.  Of course their was some brotherly competition going on, too, since they were competing against each other in the Junior Division.:)
There may or may not have been some wild screaming and yelling when the Senior Finalists were announced and Joshua's name was called!!!
 Only the second time in Bible Bee history that siblings have competed against each other in the FINALS. We were pretty proud of them. =)
Everret Chew (2nd place), Denver Bontrager (3rd place), Taylor Bontrager (4th place), Carrie-Grace McConkey (5th place), Noah Farley (1st place)
"Neither have I gone back from the commandment of His lips; I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food." -Job 23:12
Brittany Schlichter (2nd place), Rionna Flynn (3rd place), Daniel Fierer (1st place), Joshua Bontrager (4th place), and Caleb Hoverson (5th place)
The competition was a beautiful, God-honoring event.  Josh, Denver, Taylor, Elizabeth, and Hudson worked hard and competed well, but more than their scores (which were fantastic, and of course, make me quite proud) I am thrilled with the discipline that my siblings have built into their lives.  They love the Word of God intensely, and the hundreds of hours spent in His Word continue to change them and impact the lives of countless others.  This is the reward that cannot be measured by scores, ribbons, or cash prizes.  The Bible is the most important thing in their lives- the first book they read every day, the place they go when they are seeking Truth about an issue, and the words they engraft in their hearts so they might not sin against their Savior (Ps. 119:11).

I close with these words from Jeremiah 15:16:
"Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mind heart: for I am called by Thy Name, O Lord God of hosts."

{posted by Allison}


Live Animal Christmas Play 2015!

Save the date! The annual Marion Avenue Live Animal Christmas Play is free and open to the public. Our whole family is participating along with our entire church as actors and crew. We would love to see some of y'all there!

Learn more + book your reservation now (for groups the size of ten or more)

Hope to see you there! More info to come!
Also feel free to email with any questions, info@bontragerfamilysingers.com


Bible Bee Nationals Update #2

Joshua, Denver, & Taylor have all qualified for finals. (they were in the top five winners out of their semi finals divisions of fifteen contestants)
 They are advancing tomorrow to the final National rounds---Joshua in the Senior Division, and Denver & Taylor in the Junior Division.
This is only the second time in Bible Bee history that two siblings have been in the same final round together! We are so proud of them, and also Hudson & Elizabeth, and all their hard work in studying GOD'S WORD.

Once again, you can tune in here to watch the free livestream webcast.

the Junior Division (Denver & Taylor) will be at 11am EST.
the Senior Division (Joshua) will be at 2pm EST.


Bible Bee Nationals Update

Thank-you so so much to all of you who have commented, texted, and emailed to let us know that you are praying for Michael's family, and also for us, during this time. We appreciate it more than we can ever say.

This afternoon, Mitchell, Allison, Carson, & I flew down to Orlando Florida to join our family for final competition rounds of the weekend. For years we have wanted to do this but it has just never worked out with schedules and such before, for all of us to be here. God orchestrated everything so perfectly for this wkend (everything from way cheap plane tickets to a short, direct flight...it was such a blessing) Especially as it has been a very difficult week already, just realizing how short life is and in light of all that, just really wanting to be back with all our family again.

It is bittersweet to be here. The Bible Bee is a time of excitement, rejoicing, and fun. And to be experiencing all that with our cousin's recent death is difficult. We do rejoice for our siblings and how hard they have worked, but its just difficult as we are also grieving. But as Allison told me the other day, "Chelsy, you know Michael was always the life of the party. I can just hear him saying "Come on guys, celebrate at that Bible Bee! Have a great time! After all, I'm celebrating at the biggest, grandest celebration of ALL TIME anyway, so don't be grieving about me"!" 
I had to smile, even amidst the grief, because that is so true, that is so how Michael always was.

So we are here, grieving the loss of a beloved cousin and yet rejoicing that he is with Jesus.

And we also rejoice with Joshua, Denver, Taylor, Elizabeth, & Hudson, who have worked so hard and are qualifiers at this 2014 National Bible Bee competition.

Today they had their first oral round and also their written tests. The four of us oldest flew in tonight just in time to attend the evening announcement ceremony. It was the first time our entire family has been at nationals. Just in these few short hours, it has already been such a blessing to see all of these young people working so hard to memorize God's Word, and hide it in their hearts. The spirit of God is just so present. People have come up to us and let us know they saw the blog post about Michael and are praying for us. One lady came up and told my mom she is praying for her-she had no idea about Michael but another lady had told her that she saw my mom crying during the oral rounds this morning and so she just felt impressed to be praying for her. It is so wonderful to be together at an event with so many people of God.

The announcement ceremony was full of stirring music and lots of anticipation building up to the actual announcements of the top fifteen semi-finalists in each division. We are excited to announce that Joshua, Denver, Taylor, & Hudson are semi-finalists and will be advancing to the next round tomorrow! All four boys also qualified as eligible future participants in the new Bible Bee Game Show.

(Just a little rundown for those of you who are not familiar with how the Nationals work: from the thousands of 7-18yr olds who participated in the summer Bible Bee, the top 120 from each category advanced to Nationals. Here at Nationals, there are about 70-110 of those 120 in each division that have come to compete. Today was the first round---based on their oral and written test combined scores, the top fifteen from each category are going on to compete in the second round (semi finals round) tomorrow. Then, the top 5 who win from each category tomorrow will go onto the finals round. The competition for today is unbelievably tight!

If you would like to watch the boys competing in the semi final rounds tomorrow, please visit here to signup for the FREE webcast!! (once you click on the link and are redirected to the webcast page, be sure to scroll down all the way to the bottom of the webcast page. The webcast is free this year, so all you will need to do is enter your name and email address and the webcast will pop up!)
The Primary Round (Hudson) will be competing at 9am EST
The Junior Round (Denver & Taylor) will be competing at 12:30pm EST
The Senior Round (Joshua) will be competing at 3:30pm EST

{posted by chelsy}


Michael is with Jesus

Early this morning,  Michael passed away peacefully. My six youngest siblings and parents were on their way to the Bible Bee Nationals in Orlando Florida. They had stopped by Macon Georgia (which is where Michael was) and were going to spend a little time with my uncle and aunt there this morning. Around 2am they came to the bus to get my mom and tell her that Michael had died. She called me soon after 2am this morning and told me amid tears that she was in Michael's hospital room and that Michael had just died. She said the whole place was just flooded with peace and the presence of God.
All of your prayers over the past month have been so appreciated. Thank-you all so much. Although the pain is raw and we are all grieving, we REJOICE that we know beyond a shadow of a doubt where Michael is this morning-in heaven, rejoicing with Jesus and the angels!
Please continue to be in prayer especially for Michael's family, Sam & Ruth, & Brad, Patty, Jared, Lyndsi, Stephen, Josiah, & Beka, as they go through this extremely difficult time of loss.

{the below was taken from the Facebook page this morning}
"Michael passed away early this morning. The ventilator needed to be replaced, and because of his low oxygen levels, the procedure was very risky. 
Sam & Ruth were able to communicate with Michael prior to the procedure. They told him if he's ready to go, its okay. 
Michael left peacefully during the procedure.
Thank you so much for your prayers, words of encouragement, and loving support for the Stoltzfus family.

(The following is the chorus of a song I was listening to last night. It applies so much to this time.)
"But if not...I will choose to love Him anyways.
But if not....He still be worthy of my praise.
His great glory I'll proclaim, if He delivers from the flame
And I will serve Him just the same....if not."

(posted by chelsy)


Booking Summer 2015!

We are working on our 2015 summer schedule and have a few dates to fill in the following areas:

British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, &  Ontario Canada
Michigan, Minnesota, & New York

We are booking for these areas in June/July/August 2015.

Please email or call if you are interested in booking a concert in your area!