The babies are here at last!!!!! The excitement is miles high, and we feel blessed beyond measure!
We are beyond thrilled! Those of us currently on tour are so excited to meet these precious little cherubs in just a few weeks. 
Babies are truly a miracle. The Lord has been so kind and we can never thank Him enough for these gifts. 
The deliveries went well and the happy little families are each enjoying the blissful first hours with their new baby.
Name:  Jubilee Katherine Bontrager
Weight:  6lb 12oz
Arrived:  6:20pm Sunday, July 15th
Proud Parents:  Carson and Carolina
Name:  Wallace Bradford Bontrager
Weight:  8lb 1 oz
Arrived:  6:00am Monday, July 16
Proud Parents:  Joshua and Cassidy 
"The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad." Psalm 126:3


2018 Turning Hearts Celebration

We are excited to invite you to the 16th Annual Turning Hearts Celebration!

Last year, we began plans for our usual Labor Day Event, but decided to cancel to have two weddings that weekend instead. We definitely thought it was worth it to change our usual event to weddings! 

This year, though, we are looking forward to welcoming all of you to our farm once again for a day of family encouragement. The Celebration will feature guest speaker Flip Benham, father of David and Jason Benham.

Join us for a day of fellowship, fun, and encouragement for the entire family.

"And He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." Malachi 4:6


Summer Tour 2018//Week 4

Week 4 of the Summer Tour found us going between Canada and the United States. We sang at an Old Fashioned Camp Meeting, a large Conference Center, several churches, and a few town halls.
This week saw us doing the last few concerts with Joshua and Cassidy before they left for home. We are grateful for every opportunity we had to sing and share, and the many new friends we met.
The middle of the week, Joe joined us and we spent many hours practicing and preparing for the changes to our concert. 
Denver did a fantastic job leading the practices and organizing all the new parts we needed to learn.  Joe has been an incredible blessing, and brings not only tremendous skill, but great enthusiasm and energy to our group. 
Concert at the Ukranian Hall
Elizabeth and Rebecca reading backstage. 
Hudson and a friend packing up after the evening concert.
Smiles with a friend!
We have been blessed by so much kind hospitality along the way!
And this was a momentous day on the bus- this time an adventure involving a rather sharp corner....in which the crockpot filled with baked potatoes careened to an untimely end. After a few hearty laughs, we started extricating many hundreds of glass shards from the far corners of the kitchen. We also came up with Plan B for supper, since no one thought Glass Crusted Potatoes sounded very appetizing.


Answering the Mommy Questions, #1

Today I am launching the “Answers to Your Mommy Questions”.  Wow, there were over 40 comments with some of you asking 2-4 questions but my goal is to write one post a week until the questions are answered.  Thanks for your patience!!

Today’s topic is “Sibling Relationships” and addresses the following nine comments:  “helping siblings get along”, “fostering family togetherness”, “keeping siblings’ love for each other strong throughout their lives”, “fostering and strengthening sibling relationships”, “building a family that is full of love for each other”, “helping children get along better”, “encouraging positive relationships and responses in children”, “raising godly children to be best friends”, and “parenting with purposeful, persistent actions that build strong sibling relationships”.

1. Train for Character

The foundation that will enable you to develop loving, positive, strong relationships and that will equip your children to be best friends for life is to teach character, not just proper responses. When I had a houseful of naturally selfish children, I had to remind myself that the goal was not just to train for the responses that would make our home a happy, peaceful abode, but to teach them to live a life that would bring honor and glory to God. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31).

It is truly easier to “train” for the wanted behavior than it is to take the time to teach your children why they should share their toys or not hit their sibling, or tease a little sister, or be selfish. But if you want children who will grow up to serve God, not just “look good”, you must make instilling good character your goal instead of training children who don’t fight. Kind, thoughtful, unselfish children will most likely get along with each other as they grow up, and remain friends for all their lives.

A good character quality to begin with is kindness. Regarding this truth, Ephesian 4:32 states, “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” The Merriam-Webster definition of kind is “a sympathetic or helpful nature, affectionate, loving”.  There are many applications for this virtue—reading a story to a younger sibling, sharing a special treat, rocking a tired baby, helping an older sibling fold laundry, washing dishes for the family, etc., Additionally, kindness is displayed by speech—saying thank-you & please, speaking in gentle tones, etc., giving encouraging notes, putting other's needs before your own, giving physical affection, taking a sibling on a coffee date, or going on a walk/run.

2. Teach Love and Respect

Once you’ve laid the foundation of kindness, you must teach your children to respect and love each other in order for them to become best friends. Following are a few ways we found that helps  us to do this. First, have zero tolerance for mocking, belittling, or name calling. Second, train younger children to sweetly obey older siblings. Third, teach older siblings to be reasonable in their commands, not to exasperate the toddler in what he/she asks them to do, and not to be bossy.  Fourth, celebrate strengths. What this looked like in our family was to have the girls, (who excelled in grammar and writing but not so much in Math), rejoice when their brothers, (who were math whizzes like their daddy!!),  were a grade ahead in Math.  This was also seen in areas like music, sports, cooking, mechanics, farming, and more.  Teach your children to build each other up and compliment the strengths.  Guard against jealousy when a sibling has talents in different areas than they do.

3. Celebrate Family

After laying the foundation of kindness, love, and respect, celebrate family to nurture positive family relationships. To this end, plan specific, special events in your home for just your family so that they know that family culture is a priority.

Winter picnics in the living room, running through the sprinkler in the yard after helping each other pull weeds in the garden for a few hours, going on a family bike ride, listening to an audio drama while doing a canning project, preparing an ethnic dinner from a country that you studied in your history class, and cooking around a campfire are all ways that you can strengthen family bonds.

Teach your children that special foods, beautiful china, candlelight, elaborate events, and fun times don’t happen only when guests come over or when you go on an expensive vacation. Let them know that they are worth the extra time and effort it takes to make a memorable event. Making happy memories together will give you a history that is foundational for strong, healthy relationships.

4. Plan Family Activities 

Limiting outside influences is important in teaching your children to have strong, sibling relationships. Whoever they spend the most time with will most likely become some of their best friends. Prayerfully consider how many activities you will participate in with other people. You may want to do a weekly schedule in which you pencil in some family times before you fill the week with outside activities.

Our family finds it restful to have some unplanned evenings at home in which we can have a relaxed family dinner with time afterwards for board games, reading, working on projects, or going on a walk. When we are on the road are goal is to have one day each week in which we don’t have a concert or spend time with other families. This gives us time to nurture individual relationships and have family meals.

When you do have guests over to your house, encourage children of all ages to play together.  Board games, yard games, singing hymns, and intentional conversation around the table after dinner are a few ways to stimulate group activities.

We are in the beginning  stage of “keeping their love for each strong throughout their lives”. A few years ago, we began the tradition of an annual family vacation at a ranch where we talk, read, play games, cook, eat good food, have long family devotions, and relax for 4 days. We also have a “Big, Happy, Bontrager Family” group phone chat where we post pics and daily happenings in order keep up with each others lives.

We are still figuring out how to do holidays with in-laws but our goal is to have one or two days over Christmas and Thanksgiving in which we can be together for a family dinner. Our family has learned to make the celebration special, not the actual day.  For example, we celebrate birthdays when it fits in our schedule, not necessarily on the birthdate. We also enjoy occasional Sunday lunches after church together or a meal around the campfire or dinner at one of the children’s home.

It’s Worth The Effort!

As in all of life, the most precious things usually take the most work. If you desire strong, healthy relationships, you must invest lots of hard work, love, grace, and forgiveness. Make family a priority, ask God for wisdom, and know that it won’t happen automatically.

Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.”


Summer Changes

As many of you know, this sweet couple is expecting their baby to arrive VERY SOON!  Joshua and Cassidy came along for the first part of the trip, but they recently traveled home to Iowa to await the arrival of the little one.:) Although they will technically be on "maternity leave" from the band, Joshua will be working on the farm full time.
We have received a lot of comments about how amazing it is that Cassidy traveled while in her last stages of pregnancy. We agree- this girl is tough!  
We've been so blessed to have Josh and Cass on the road with us much of the pregnancy, and their tenacity and joyful outlook is an inspiration to us all! Cassidy's grateful, happy, adventure-loving heart is so sweet. Their little baby can someday say he's been to Canada, Mexico, and 15+ states before birth!
While traveling this summer, they've taken every possible minute to spend time together, enjoying walks, movie dates, and even a canoe ride. 
Of course much of their time was taken up with family band responsibilities: In addition to being our Stage Manager, Joshua manages our website and correspondance, preaches most Sunday morning services, and plays guitar + dobro and sings for our concerts. Cassidy has brought to the band her skills on the violin and guitar, as well as her beautiful voice. They have also loved interacting with the many people we meet, and have especially enjoyed the opportunities to encourage young people and soon-to-be married couples.
Mitchell and Bryn met up with us to take Joshua and Cassidy home to Iowa. Of course, we absolutely loved getting to see them for a bit in the middle of our tour! We sure appreciated the milk and meat they brought from the farm, too, as well as other miscellaneous "forgotten" articles from home.:)
With the departure of Joshua and Cassidy, we are thrilled to announce that we are gaining a brand-new band member for the remainder of the summer!
Joe Xiques is a long-time friend who we met through the National Bible Bee years ago. Over the years, our families have become friends and we've enjoyed much wonderful fellowship during visits and at the Bible Bee.
Joe plays a large variety of instruments, including dobro and guitar, and he also sings. We are excited for this new adventure!
(You can watch a You Tube of Joe playing and singing with his sister here.)
These guys are serious about practicing! Denver is our interim Stage Manager, and, I might add, he is doing a fabulous job! He schedules and leads practices, makes the song lists for our concerts, leads set-up and tear-down, and overall takes responsibility for the musical quality and musician morale. 
"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth; make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise." Psalm 98:4


Life on the Road

The past few weeks have found us singing in four states and three Canadian provinces. 
Our fourth concert of the the trip was at an old museum in Wolford, ND.
Somewhere along the highway we lost this tire. 
Thankfully, we were able to replace it without cancelling any services.
 We enjoyed our time spent with our Hutterite friends in Manitoba.
Hudson is in his element as the king in foursquare.

Here are Joshua and Peter discussing the finer points of life.
This fantastic foursome is continually diligent.
 Playing in Saskatchewan.
 We spent one morning touring the CNH factory, where Case IH planters are built. Our tour guide explained the fascinating processes and systems that produce the planters we use to plant our corn and soybeans in Iowa.
We also sang at the Thousand Oaks Gospel Sing in Winkler, Manitoba.
 While there, we connected with many incredible people. We also got to catch up with some of the singing groups. Denver, Taylor, and Hudson enjoyed a Bible study with these friends from Iowa who were also singing at the festival.
At the Gospel Sing, Joshua spoke to the young people about loving God's Word and 
Making the Most of Their Youth. He also recently released a free ebook entitled,
A Christian's Practical Guide to Time Management. You can get it here.
Wifi is often a scarce commodity. We drove into this parking lot to obtain wifi, only to 
discover that we had to back out by the same way we had driven in!
While in Ontario, we visited our cousin's family.
This adorable little tyke loves being pushed on the swing or trike.
 Canoe rides are great opportunities for building strong sibling relationships.
 Conversation by the lake.
 Meanwhile, back home, the rest of the clan is holding down the fort.
The vibrant Iowa corn is growing strong and tall.
  Thanks to all of you who have prayed for us on our journey! The Lord has truly been good in so many ways. He has given us many opportunities to speak into individual lives, to share the gospel, and to praise His name. 

"O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever." --Psalm 136:1


Upcoming Summer Tour Dates!

The past 2 1/2 weeks have found us traveling through Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario. We will be in the eastern United States the next 5 1/2 weeks and would love to see you at one of our concerts!

27..The Legion, Sioux Lookout, ON, 7pm
29...Faith Baptist Church, Mount Forrest, ON, 7pm
30...Mapleview Mennonite Church, Wellesley, ON, 7pm

1...Chesly Community Church, Chesley, ON, 10:45am
1...Carrick Camp, Mildmay, ON, 6pm
2...Pigeon Mennonite Church, Pigeon, MI, 7pm
4...Christian Reformed Conference Grounds, Grand Haven, MI, 7pm
5...Berean Baptist Church, Grand Blanc, MI, 7pm
6...Lebanese Club, Leamington, ON, 7pm
7...Springfield Hall, Springfield ON, 6:30pm
8...Beacon Bible Chapel, Tillsonburg, ON, 10:30am
8...Word of Life Church, Milverton ON, 7pm
9...First Baptist Church, Eden, NY, 7pm
12...Grace Christian Fellowship, Bainbridge, NY, 7pm
13...Christian Church of Rural Grove, Rural Grove, NY, 7pm
14...Sacandaga Bible Conference, Broadalbin, NY, 7pm
15...Naumburg Mennonite Church, Naumburg, NY, 7:30pm
19...Yates County Fairgrounds, Penn Yan, NY, 7pm
21...Scotland Avenue Church of God, Punksutawney, PA, 7pm
22...Hinkletown Mennonite Church, Ephrata, PA, 7pm
25...Lebanon Valley Bible Church, Lebanon, PA, 7pm
26...Locust Grove Mennonite Church, Bellville, PA, 7pm
27...Walnut Cheese Nook, Miflin, PA, 6pm
28...Walnut Cheese Nook, Miflin, PA, 6pm
29...Strasburg Mennonite Church, Strasburg, PA, 9am
29...Chambersburg Mennonite Church, Chambersburg, PA, 7pm
31...New Hope Christian Fellowship, Grantsville, MD, 7pm

1...Mountain View Mennonite Church, Lyndhurst, VA, 7pm
2...Heritage Baptist Church, Farmville, VAa, 6:30pm
4...Greenwood Mennonite School, Greenwood, DE, 7pm
5...Shore Haven Baptist Church, Sudlersvile, MD, 9:30am
5...Franconia Mennonite Church, Franconia, PA, 6pm