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!

Michael Update

Words really cannot express our thankfulness for the prayers of the Body of Christ during this time. It is such a blessing to know that so many people + churches are lifting Michael up to the Lord in prayer.

His condition has actually gone backwards this past week. He is back on the respirator and heavily sedated again. It is hard to believe that just a little more than a week ago he was texting my mom, and now he is back to what seems like the beginning again-sedated and in extremely critical condition.

The current urgent prayer request is that he has a slight fever which is very dangerous in his condition and we are praying for that fever to break!

An open Facebook page has been started to keep everyone updated on a regular basis. Please continue to pray + follow the updates over at www.facebook.com/prayforev

(Evan is Michael's middle name + lots of his friends and family call him "Ev", his nickname)

Memories From Our Last Tour of 2014!!

We enjoyed participating in our community's Fall Festival to kick off our fall tour.  
For Rebecca's birthday activity, she wanted to go to the zoo.  Although this ended up being a few weeks after her birthday, the parents and littles had a great time visiting the Columbus Zoo on an off day.
They loved the variety of fascinating animals!
Liz, Rebecca, Taylor, and Hudson
We loved enjoying some major yumminess at "The Hitching Post" yogurt shop in Shipshewanna, IN.
sister love
oh yeah!!!
Time with far-away friends is always a treat.
We enjoyed hearing the other families singing at the Bluegate Theater venue with us.
in concert at the Bluegate Theater
The Bontragers in Bible Bee (pictured above) loved getting to spend time with some Bible Bee staff when we were at the Bible Baptist Church.  
We sang at "Family Day" and it was such a neat fall event!
In between the morning service and the afternoon concert, dinner was served, and the children enjoyed fun activities.
Caramel apples were the perfect treat for a fall party!
This sweet couple invited us over one evening, and we had a wonderful time at their home!  They work for the Bible Bee, and it was a special treat to get their perspective on all things Bible Bee.:)
"Serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing.  Know ye that the Lord He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves." (Ps. 100:2-3a)

-posted by Allison


Birthdays//Our Traditions

We love "birthday season" around here!  In the fall/winter, we have 8 Bontrager birthdays in 5 months.  And we party, I'm tellin' ya!
We have some pretty fun birthday traditions around here:
//birthday tradition #1: food//
 The food is always a yummy affair, with a menu planned by the birthday person.  Some of the "most requested" birthday menus are pizza, Mexican stacks, enchiladas, and fajitas (yes, we have a thing for Mexican:).  Dessert is usually chocolate cake and home-made ice-cream.
The little Hudson-man is growing up so fast.  I love to watch him live life with such zest!  He is such a little gentleman, always watching out for his sisters.  He throws himself wholeheartedly into whatever he is doing- schoolwork, chores on the farm, Bible memory, or football.:)  And he gives the best hugs and kisses!
My dear mother.  She is rather ageless, I believe, both in her youthful beauty, and in her lovely heart.  She is best friend, counselor, role model, and teacher to so many (all her children included).  We had a delightful time celebrating her birthday on a recent Sunday afternoon.
//birthday tradition #2: family activity//
The birthday person gets to choose an activity for the family to do together.  Mother chose a walk for her activity.  It was a perfect day, one of those last mild fall days in which you can feel the change to cold just beyond the horizon.
We walked back the woods lane, laughing, talking, enjoying the togetherness.  
Mother and Father
the siblings
having a bit of fun:)
Back in the woods, we sat at the picnic table and sang hymns in God's cathedral.
walking home through fallen leaves
crimson color of fall
And one day, a little Miss turned 7!
putting candles on the cake
Oh Rebecca!  When did she get old enough to be loosing teeth?  Just yesterday we held her in our arms, in awe of this baby girl.  And now she is 7?!  
//birthday tradition #3: affirming words//
After enjoying the birthday meal, we sit around the table and share affirmation and blessing with the birthday person.  It is a precious time of celebrating their strengths, an opportunity to share with them the things we most admire in them.  
Ahh.....there's nothin' like a bowl of home-made ice-cream!
//birthday tradition #4: gifts//
 We wrap up all manner of wonderful things- books, clothes, tools, games, etc.  With a big family like ours, there are a lot of people giving gifts, so there does end up being quite the pile sometimes.:)
feeling the gift......what could it be?
A rousing game of Swat was enjoyed by all at Rebecca's party.  Truly, this game can be downright dangerous in a ultra-competitive, high-energy family!  
I love these words from Ecclesiastes 3:1&11:
"To every things there is a season, and a time to every perpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die.............He hath made everything beautiful in His time."

(posted by Allison)