On Sunday night we set a new record for the biggest assembly of guests in our bus. We had....24 people in there eating at the same time.
Makes memories!
On Sunday night we drove to the home of our dear uncle, aunt, and cousins, and now the bus and most of the family is there to spend the week while Dad, Mitchell, & I (Chelsy) fly home for 4 days. 
Yesterday we were all able to be together. We went to a nearby park and had a very rousing game of Dare Base. Everyone got in on the action, except for Rebecca & Harrison, who stayed very happy playing in the big pile of leaves that was right next by.

 The homeschooled, "daughter-from-a-large-family" version of "laying out".
 The two very competitive and fiesty aunts/sisters also got in on the action.
They run the same, laugh the same, and even yell the same.
Stomachs were growling by the time supper rolled around. Lots of exercise gave everyone big appetites for the grilled hamburgers (& all the fixin's!) ranch potatoes, & salad.
Cousin smiles!

-posted by chelsy


South Carolina

My Father bought his dear wife roses for Valentines Day and took her out for dinner in the evening.

The boys thoroughly enjoyed releasing some energy by playing basketball with their friends Derek, Eugene, and Kyle Miller.

Grace, Elizabeth, and Rebecca had a lovely time playing doll, house and all things "girly" together.


Eating Adventures with Little Bear

This is rather late...but I had to post this picture of anyway, just because it deserved to be posted. :) 
While we were in San Antonio last month, we enjoyed spending an evening at the home of our friends, the Wheelers. Among other things...Little Bear Wheeler served chocolate & caramel covered crickets to several of the more adventurous Bontragers. :) 
And...I thought this apron was so fitting. :)

~posted by Chelsy


A Glimpse Inside the Prison Walls

Our days in prison for 2011 are now completed. Words really cannot describe what we have experienced during these prison services. Watching Jesus working in lives, setting captives free, and healing the broken hearted is.....absolutely awesome.
 I could say so much more-I could write for hours and not do justice to the power of God. He is so mighty...He alone could do such amazing things! 
I am reminded once again that I am no better than these inmates-that it is only by the grace of God that I am on this side of the fence and they are on the inside. 
He set me free from those heavy chains of sin, He set me free and He gave me peace within
Well He lifted all my burdens and took my fears away and now I praise and thank Him and I'm waiting for the day
When I shall see my blessed Savior face to face and hear Him say "I have prepared for you a place"
Until that day I'll watch and pray and thank my God for setting me free
I will close with some thoughts from Psalm 103.....these verses take on new meaning after seeing the Lord so mightily at work in setting people free!
"Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name...Who redeemeth thy life from destruction, Who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies.....The Lord is merciful and gracious.....As far as the east if from the west, so far hath He removed our trangressions from us...."
~posted by chelsy~~~*special thanks to Mike Strehlow from WeCare for all of the prison concert photographs


The "Sunshine State"

Our time in Florida was so blessed.  Most of the concerts we did were extremely challenging, as some of us were struggling with our voices, but we can testify that God is faithful and He used this trial for good!  We sang in various churches and, our last night in Florida, we were able to sing at an outreach for the homeless people of Sarasota.  It was a blessing to be there and share with the  people who came.  We continue to marvel at the opportunities God gives us to share the Gospel in so many different situations.  Something God has been challenging my father about is that no matter where we are, we need to be salt and light, sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We can do that on the street, at the mall, or at a mechanic shop.  Wherever you are today, remember:
"Ye (those who know Jesus Christ as their Savior) are the salt of the earth.
Ye are the light of the world."
~Matthew 5:13a & 14a~

Elizabeth read a story to Hudson and Rebecca beside this cute blue car in a WalMart parking lot where we parked for several hours.  Dad and the boys played football closeby.  

In spite of the chilliness, the boys enjoyed playing on the beach and building a {fort} in the sand.

Some healthy competition!

In Sarasota, we enjoyed spending some time with Mother's uncle Amos and Aunt Hannah.


San Antonio

As I mentioned in a previous post, our family had the unique opportunity to minister {through music} in downtown San Antonio.  The outreach had actually been planned for Saturday, but, due to rain, it was postponed for Monday.  The plan was for our family and some people from Living Water Fellowship to minister to people visiting the Alamo.  As it turned our, Monday was very cold.  But, despite the weather, we were able to share the Gospel and lift up the Name of Jesus.  God enable us to play, even though, at times, our fingers were so cold!  But it was worth it to see people, lots of people, standing and listening to the music and sharing.  We did several segments of music, and were blessed to be joined by a group of young people who shared in song and drama. 
 It was such a blessing to be able to proclaim the Gospel like that in the open air of a large city.  

We were able to walk through the Alamo.  It is a beautiful structure.  And not only the building, but the grounds, as well, are incredible!  The old, gnarled trees, the lovely landscaping, the old-time gates and walls- all contribute to the beauty of the old fort and its grounds.  


Daddy and Rebecca pose for a picture.

My crazy, amazing brothers.  What can I say?  I love them so much and can't imagine life without any one of them.  I think most people pity me because I have six brothers.  Just this morning, someone said, "So I have to ask, which of the brothers teases his sisters?!"  People ask often about our brothers.  They assume that our brothers tease, annoy, and generally terrorize us, because that's how it is in so many families.  I am grateful to have wonderful brothers who are not only some of my best friends, but who enrich my life with so much love, laughter, joy, and plain ol' fun!  We have so many memories........playing tricks on each other, going on trips togethers, planning crazy late-night rendezvous, getting birthday gifts for each other, and laughing with {and usually at} each other.  I take them for granted, but somehow writing this has reminded me of how very blessed I am by these amazing guys!  

The Riverwalk was beautiful, though chilly!  We enjoyed walking a little bit of it to at least see what it was all about.  It is such a neat place- a pretty little river flowing one level beneath downtown San Antonio.  There were all these cute little shops and restaurants along the river.  

"Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments." (Psalm 112:1)


::Life update::

Greetings from Florida!  I find myself with a few free minutes in which to update you all on our lives. I wish you could see the unique spot I have chosen.  You see, while we are traveling, we never know where we will end up with internet connection.  Sometimes it is a restaurant or motel, more often a church, and even a laundry mat has been known to meet our needs for wireless internet.  Today, I am sitting next to a tree, surrounded by plants, and several yards away from a highway.  I'm a little secluded, but that isn't exactly the goal.  While in the bus, we discovered that there were several internet connections but I wan't able to get a strong enough signal.  So I thought if I moved closer to a building, I might be able to connect.  Consequently, I am sitting here enjoying the ocean air while listening to the cars whiz by just feet from where I'm sitting.  Yes, I forgot to mention that I'm about 1/4 mile from the beach.
Life on the road continues to be............well, it's hard to describe.  Yesterday was "one of those days".  Mother lost her voice and had ceased even whispering so as to rest her voice.  Dad got up on stage and said, "It's amazing how quiet it's been in the bus."  (That sounded horrible-as if without all the noise Mom makes, things were so quiet!)  He then went on to explain that everyone else has been talking quieter, too.  In all seriousness, though, it's been very frustrating and hard.  Imagine if, for a day or two, your mother had to write down (yes, as in, write down on a paper with pen), mouth, or communicate with hand motions everything she needed to say!  Of course, this also means we did the entire concert last night without Mother's beautiful voice!  But yesterday, some of us had a really sweet time together, praying and sharing how God is working in our lives.  He absolutely does use trials like this one to to strip us of our pride and self-sufficiency and teach us to rely on Him alone.  Right now He is doing a work in us.  He's doing a work in me, and I'm grateful, even though it's really painful at times! 
Thank you all for your prayers!  God is answering.  He's moving and working above what we could ever ask or think.  
To G O D be the glory!