3.01.2017

Gospel Express Prison Crusade Recap

The Gospel Express Prison Crusade was, for us, different this year than any other. We have never experienced the amount of unrest, tension, and corruption that we saw firsthand in the prisons this year. It is quite understandable that as our culture gets worse and worse, and continues to slide further away from godliness, that the effects will be seen everywhere in the world, prisons included. But witnessing that transition, and seeing the change that occurred even in a year, was very sobering. Personally, I was reminded that each opportunity to enter prison is a gift, a privilege; not something that I deserve or should take for granted. We have no idea how much longer we may have the opportunity to be allowed ministry of this kind, and that really hit me this year more than ever as we saw all the change that has been taking place. 

Sadly the entire five days went by with literally only several pictures taken. Above, was our "bus pizza party" with fellow singers, the last night of the crusade. Our services were during the day, around noon/early afternoon this year, which meant that the days were full but the evenings were usually free. It was a totally different schedule from our normal music schedule but it was really good. We were blessed by the morning worship sessions with our "hub" group in Sumter, and the opportunity t interact with the other teams, evangelists, and volunteers. The bus party (as I was saying above) was the last night, and a great celebration of the week. 
*Not pictured are the parents, who went out to eat and were, most likely, enjoying a 
much less high-energy + high-volume night than all the kids. =)

Below are a few thoughts from several of my siblings, from the week:

Testimony from Taylor:
"This year as we sang in prison, God convicted me of taking my family for granted. Sadly, most of the men and women in prison did not experience a parent’s love because their father and mother were nominal or absent parents. For those of you who do have loving parents, I encourage you to be grateful for them, and never take God’s blessings for granted."

Testimony from Allison:
"Our time in the South Carolina prisons was different this year than previously, but one thing that was so clear to me was how very capable God is of working and moving despite any roadblock.  One particular day we had just gotten through security in the prison where our service was scheduled to be held.  Upon arriving in the visitation room, we were informed that there had just been a stabbing in the prison.  Usually, such an event would mean a speedy evacuation of all visitors and volunteers (us) from the prison.  In this case, they allowed us to stay, although we were told that the inmates may not be allowed to attend the service.  We set up all our equipment and spent time in prayer, praying for men to be allowed to attend the service.  Not only did they guards bring inmates to the service, but a special part of the compound called the Shock Unit- young men put into prison for 90 days as a warning/wake-up call- were allowed to attend.  The service turned out to be incredibly blessed and special and we saw the Lord mightily working, especially in the young men's hearts.  I was reminded that although "with man, it is impossible", "with God, NOTHING shall be impossible!"  Although there was great spiritual warfare with the stabbing and all, that day, we were still able to minister to men in that institution and see various ones encouraged, challenged, and even several born again!"
So many memories made on each other's buses! Best of times!
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"And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad 
in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."
-Romans 5:5

2.28.2017

March/April 2017 Tour Itinerary

To blog readers from Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Mexico, New Mexico, Oklahoma, + Missouri...the Bontrager Family Singers might be coming to a town near YOU in the next five weeks!
Take a look at our schedule below!

MARCH
1...New Life in Christ Church, Foley, AL, 7pm
2...Calvary Baptist Church, Summit, MS, 6:30pm
3...Welcome Home Baptist Church, Dodson, LA, 7pm
5...Calvary Baptist Church, Cuero, TX, 11am
5...Calvary Baptist Church, New Braunfels, TX, 6pm
10...Community Gym, Oasis, Chihuahua (Mexico)
11...Community Gym, S
chonfeld​, Chihuahua (Mexico)
12...Community Gym, Blumenort​, Chihuahua (Mexico)
13...Community Gym, Torr​eon. Coahuila (Mexico)
14...Community Gym, Nuevo Ideal, Durango (Mexico)
15...Community Gym, La Honda, Zacatecas (Mexico)
17...Community Gym, Santa Rita, Chihuahua (Mexico)
18...Community Gym, Los Jagueyes, Chihuahua (Mexico)
19...Community Gym, Suecos​, Chihuahua (Mexico)
21...Community Gym, El Valle, Chihuahua (Mexico)
22...Community Gym, Buenos Aires, Chihuahua (Mexico)
23...Community Gym, Buena Vista, Chihuahua (Mexico)
25...Summerfield Church, Seminole, TX, 7pm
26...Mennonite Evangelical Church, Seminole, TX, 10am
26...Highland Baptist Church, Hobbs, NM, 6pm
27...Mennonite Church, Muleshoe, TX, 7pm
29...Joyful Light Baptist Church, Bonham, TX, 7pm
30...Mennonite Evangelical Church, Tigertown, TX, 7:30pm
31...Galey Baptist Church, Galey, OK, 7pm
APRIL
1...Aydelotte Baptist Church, Aydolette, OK, 7pm,
2...Star Baptist Church, Keota, OK, 10am
2...First Freewill Baptist Church, Pryor, OK, 6pm
3...(Location TBA shortly), Fayettville, AR, 7pm
5...First Assembly of God, Bethany, MO, 7pm

2.25.2017

Amish Wedding Song!


Just wanted to give y'all a little humor for your day. =) This video probably won't be funny to you if you don't have Amish/Mennonite background...but if you do have any Mennonite in your blood, you really won't be able to get through watching this without a few chuckles! 
And actually you might just laugh too, even if you haven't ever been Amish or Mennonite!

A little background to the story of this song---our family met John Schmid (the writer of this song) a few years ago through prison ministry. Somewhere along the way, we acquired several of his cds, and our younger ones promptly proceeded to listen to them over and over again and memorize the songs on them, specifically the "funny ones". 

Now, it really only works to perform this song in a crowd of mostly Mennonites/Amish, because those are the people who "get" the song. =) Our recent concert in Birky Square, Sarasota, Florida, almost two weeks ago, with around 600 people in attendance (mostly Amish, Mennonite, or ex) was the perfect place for Hudson's "Amish Wedding" debut. =) 

Enjoy!

2.24.2017

Allison's Fall In Mexico || Recap

I (Allison) am going to share a short recap and a few photos of my time spent in Mexico, Fall 2016.  When the Lord first laid it on my heart to host retreats for girls in Mexico, I had no idea how all the details would come together, but I told Him I would go and trust Him to make it all happen.  As always, He was faithful, and this journey was an amazing time of seeing my Jesus answer very specific prayers and provide for every single need!  
The first prayer God answered was bringing this incredible young woman into my life!  She loves Jesus and has a heart to see young women grow and flourish in Him.  I was blessed beyond measure to not only live with Susy and her family during my six weeks in Mexico, but to co-lead two Young Women's Retreats with her.  
The Lord also brought together an incredible team of women to help with the retreats. 
Preparations for the Retreats were many, but making food was definitely a huge priority!  We cooked and baked all sorts of things before.....granola to artisan bread to multiple cheesecakes to homemade croutons + salad dressings to breakfast burritos and many more!
There is nothing quite as bonding as working + serving the Lord together!
  
We prepared a handwritten note and homemade gift for each of the girls attending the Retreats.  The Triple Chocolate Caramel Bark was a hit!
LOTS of grocery shopping and food prep was needed to for feeding 30+ ladies each weekend!!!!
God provided an incredible facility to host the Retreat at.  We decorated with a classic cream/gold/red color theme, and included LOTS of candles, roses, greenery, and gold jars!
As at every Young Women's Retreat, the Coffee Bar was a favorite gathering place.:)
Retreat #1
Retreat #2
The time both weekends was sweet, and filled with fellowship, laughter, tears, music, learning, making new friendships, and celebration of womanhood and our position as daughters of Christ.
The evening spent eating cheesecake and doing foot spa was definitely a highlight.:)
Chocolate Fountain 
My time in Mexico was a sweet opportunity to pour into the lives of girls there.  

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, the opening of the prison to them that are bound....to comfort all that mourn....to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of the praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified."
Isaiah 61: 1-3

{posted by Allison}

2.22.2017

ReNew Hope Prison Crusade 2017

The ReNew Hope Prison Crusade in Alabama is one of our family highlights of the year. We had to miss it last year due to our work with the campaign/caucus right around the same time, so its been two years since we've been there. It was amazing to be back again this year!

The crusade started out with the rally on Sunday. Our family sang a few songs as a part of the service for the day.

As usual, we are not able to get any pictures of the prisons or our time there. So here are a few pictures from other activities throughout the week! Scroll down to the bottom to read testimonies from several of our family members, about our actual time in the state prisons.
Our schedules during the days were open, and then early/mid afternoon we would head out to the various prisons we were scheduled for. A typical prison service would then take up a good portion of the day, usually from 3-9pm. (driving time, check in/security check, setup, sound check, service time, tear down, and check out)

During the days, we took advantage of the hotel lobby and set up our "offices" for school + office work. 

Above, Hudson enjoys a chess game with a friend, one the sons of another one of the family bands there.
Potluck lunch with these fun girls from two of the other bands. We loved meeting lots of new people at the crusade again this year! 
Mom + I enjoyed lunch together at Cracker Barrel one day before heading into our prison.
A few of the dads, exchanging stories and ideas!
Mom with a friend at the WeCare headquarters.
Late night hashing with these kindred spirits. (another one of the family bands) 
From theology, to music, to marketing, to relationships...you'd better believe we got it covered. =)

So thankful for the absolute GEMS of people that God has placed in our lives through our traveling.

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I will close with a few "prison stories" from family members. You can also read a little more here about my person thoughts from the crusade week. Come back soon for a recap of the Gospel Express crusade and more stories from other Bontragers!

Testimony from Josh (19):
At the beginning of our last prison service in Alabama, I sensed a spirit of heaviness among the inmates. Part way through the service, I recited Psalm 27. I don't know why I picked Psalm 27—I just felt like the Lord wanted me to recite that Psalm.
As I recited, the atmosphere in the room changed. Several of the inmates quoted along with me, and many of them smiled and shouted “Amen” during the recitation. Later, I found out that a group of the inmates were currently studying Psalm 27 together! That's why they were so excited!
After the service, one of the inmates shared his testimony with the group. He said, “Before I was saved I never cried. When I was sentenced to prison, my brother cried, yet I never shed a tear. When the Lord saved me, I asked Him to soften my heart and give me tears. And tonight when Psalm 27 was recited, I wept. This evening, the Lord gave me tears. Praise the Lord".

Testimony from Marlin:
For me personally, God did a work in my life at the ReNew Hope crusade this year. I have never felt as much compassion for the men and women in prison as I did this year. I believe this is for two reasons.
1) I realized the huge blessing and foundation of being raised in a Christian home. Even though it was not perfect, I had role models of parents who did their best to apply Biblical principles in how they raised their family.
2) The crisis in America has never been more real to me. The breakdown of the family unit is unprecedented. I was speaking with one of the prison wardens who was also a believer, and he told me that for the men and women in prison, the grandparents used to take care of their (the inmates') children while they were incarcerated. Now, the warden said, the grandparent generation isn't even able or willing to care for the children because they are heavily involved in drugs and alcohol, too. It is as though there is no one left to stand in the gap for these children of the incarcerated. And so the cycle is being repeated again and again.
I was reminded through all this that in spite of all the negative effects of culture that we see in prison, God's ways still work. I think of a 65 year old inmate I talked to, who came to Christ a year ago. He told me that when he got saved, his life totally changed. He had already been incarcerated for forty years when he came to know the Lord, but he told me that he had a praying mama who never stopped praying for him. // I prayed with and talked to another guy, this one a 19-year old young man in the SHOCK unit. He told me, "The pressure in here is just so intense." I pointed him to Jesus and ached for the hurt and betrayal that he has gone through in his life.

"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

2.13.2017

January 2017 || On Tour

First concert of the year was January 13th in Indiana! The pastor + his wife took us out for mexican before the concert.
On the bus, its tough sometimes to find a quiet corner. This particular morning, the instruments had already been unloaded from their spot next to the laundry pile in one of the bays, so I just perched myself, Bible, + coffee in there and had some quiet time, whilst the rest of the family was buzzing about above. (in the bus) 
Hey, whatever works! =)
Building those muscles during tear down time. =)
This tour has had quite a few adjustments, as we are working on switching around various responsibilities to make things flow smoothly and get everything done. One of the more significant changes was Allison taking over the "on tour" laundry duties.
Occasionally she gets a little helper too. =)
Concert in Mississippi
Mitchell jamming with a fellow musician he met at a concert in Alabama.
We had an amazing time with this dear pastors' family in southern Alabama. Getting to know other families who love Jesus and want to serve Him, is one of the greatest gifts of our travels. 
And also, its not every day we meet another family who also has six sons and four daughters. =)
You are guessing correctly if you think this looks like a serious basketball game. It was! 
Pre-concert communication time, brought to you from the green room. =)
In action!
Cooking up an Italian storm a church kitchen.
Birthday celebration time! (this would be post-food, pre-gifts, as evidenced by the empty cake pan)

Our family loved our time with this church in Georgia. We spend several days there, doing two concerts and additional filming.The stories we heard there of what God is doing, around the world, were so inspiring, and our family is excited about this opportunity to share our music, through media, to those who have never heard!
Family hike on our off day, in the hills of northern Georgia.
So thankful for this guy + the many hours he has been putting in behind the wheel! 
Saturday morning brunch of champions, at MeMaw and Papaws house! (our "adopted grandparents" from the south) So many great memories made in this home-we've been here year after year for eight years now!

School/work/reading afternoon @ a Barnes + Noble/Starbucks while passing through Chattanooga. School and work happen daily on the bus, but sometimes (actually lots of times!) it gets pretty tight on there and finding a place to spread out is the perfect thing.

Next up, a few of us will be sharing about the ReNew Hope Prison Crusade we participated in the last week of January. Stay tuned!
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"As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him: 
Rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith, 
as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving."
Colossians 2:7