Labor Day Weekend//13th Annual Turning Hearts Celebration

Company began arriving on Saturday and by Sunday night we had quite the crowd already. =) We enjoyed having many of our guests with us at church for the evening service, and then out to our farm afterwards for fingerfoods & fellowship.
One of the highlights of the weekend was that one of mom's sisters and her family from NY stopped by for a very short visit on their way out west for a family vacation. Their stay was way too short but we LOVED seeing them again and spending time together!
So many people helped in so many ways to get ready for Labor Day. There's no way we could ever mention everyone! Above is the official carrot-chopping crew, cutting the carrots for the pasta salad.
smiling faces in the kitchen:)
The boys give lots of "tours/field trips" in the barn and around the farm on Labor Day!
"Denver and company" during chore time.
Around noon on Monday, the people really started arriving.  It was so fun to see everyone spread out to enjoy the activities of the day.
Ice cream was served!  What could be better than an ice-cream cone on a beautiful summer afternoon?
There were folks spread all over the farm, eating picnic lunches, getting to know new friends, or just relaxing.
A HUGE highlight for the guys every year is the football game.  It was quite the party- dozens of guys having an absolute blast playing football for hours!

Ahh...suppertime!  Chelsy and crew did a great job serving up a delicious meal to hundreds of hungry people!

The messages by Mr. Bowers were so inspiring and encouraging.  His afternoon message was about the agenda in our nation.  In the evening he delivered an encouraging message about family and the hope for our nation.
(you can read more about their documentary, Agenda, here)

The Bowers family shared their beautiful music, complete with acapella, instrumental, and mixed songs.  It was a delight to hear their beautiful harmonies and instruments.  
We Bontragers introduced each other and shared a few songs.

"Sibling Cooperation"

After the evening session, a big group of (mostly:) young people gathered on the lawn to play volleyball.  The game lasted until early in the morning, along with more fellowship time.

Taylor and friends
Denver and Charlie
More good times!
I love this photo!  The blue sky, the bright green grass, the horse-drawn buggy, the corn field, and the cow (calmly birthing her calf:) all meld to create a beautiful image of country life.  
Here is our lovely "laundry queen", making order out of the chaos of monstrous piles of laundry that were the aftermath of a crazy weekend.:)
our faithful dog, Ryker
a jam that happened in the midst of everything else:)
Mother, Father, Mr. Bowers, and Mrs. Bowers

We snapped a photo with some of us and some of the Bowers family right before they left.  We had a wonderful time with this dear, sweet family!  They are so genuine, and we were beyond blessed by their love for Jesus and people all weekend as they selflessly served.
{special thanks to Carolina & Cassidy Bowers, Cheryl & Elizabeth Adams, Jared Sutherland, & Kaylee Morris for the photos!}

-posted by Allison


Our Church Mission's Conference

Our church hosted its annual missions conference two weeks ago. It was an incredible conference! We are so blessed to go to such a great church that believes so strongly in missions and supporting missionaries around the world.
The sanctuary was decorated with flags from different countries, as well as the plaques of all of our currently supported missionaries.
We had twelve different missionaries and their families come in to speak and share at the conference.
There were so many amazing messages-too many to properly recap all of them. I didn't take notes because I was photographing but one of my brother's kindly loaned me their notebook so I'm borrowing some thoughts from their notes here.
"Missions isn't just a ministry; its a HEARBEAT.
Missions is an opportunity to increase your faith.
Giving is not about money; its about the heart.
Living by faith is just proving God to be true.
We not only have the greatest message, but the greatest opportunity.
People that are lost and in need of hope won't normally come to us, we must go to them.
We are all missionaries in some way-God wants to use us TODAY.
Being in the will of God is the safest place to be on all of the earth.
The great commission is not an option to the considered, it is a command to be obeyed.
God is not looking for tatlent, and intellect, but for availability."

The kids choir sang "Here Am I, Lord". Most of the children dressed up in costumes from other countries. Our little ones went American-Amish. =)

I think they looked pretty convincing. =) Except that the boys didn't have the correct Amish pants.
One night all the little boys in the church came in and gave a pair of brand-new shoes to each of the missionary men. One of the missionaries shared later in a testimony about how his current shoes are two sizes too big and he stuffs toilet paper in the toes to make them fit. It was so neat to see how God worked and provided for his need for new shoes!
This missionary couple was one of my favorites-they are a young married couple heading to Kurdistan and their heart for the people over there is so genuine. I have rarely seen someone who has such a passion and great desire for a certain group of people to come to Christ. It was so convicting!
It was such a blessing to have two of our very own church member families as speakers at the conference.
And then....then there was the international dinner. It was an exceptionally amazing event. I have never in my life seen a group of people like the people at our church who will work so hard to fulfill their pastor's dreams. It is unbelievable. And it is so much fun to work with such a great group of people on fun projects like this! The goal was to do the dinner with excellence, to the glory of God, and also to be a blessing to the missionaries.
Special music...performed in costume. =)
Hard at work in the kitchen! All afternoon that church kitchen was bustling and bursting at the seams with about every kind of food you could imagine!
This is one of the things I made-Avacado Shrimp Pasta Salad, with Cilantro/Lime dressing. 
There were five different continents in the international dinner, each with their own booth. Each booth was a group of people cooking for and representing five different countries within each continent.
Since America doesn't have five different countries in it, we did foods representing five different parts/cultures of the USA. This salad (above) is a popular west coast salad.
A sampling of some of the different foods from the different countries.
We had so much stuff and people packed into our little church basement! Add to that the fact that nearly every booth was playing music that went with their country/theme-it was pretty much a dull roar down there. =)

These little guys!! So cute with their penciled moustaches!

This dear couple did a FABULOUS job being in charge of team Europe!

Welcome to our little 1950's American home! Our friends who were in charge of our country did such a fabulous job coordinating everything and designing the set! Mitchell built part of the set and lots of other people joined our team to pitch in and contribute whatever they could.

Our 1950's ladies!
  (more details about our outfits and other fun info about what we did, are over on my blog)

the living room. We even had Andy Griffith playing on the TV! =)

Homemade Pie & Icecream!
...served by this cheerful crew of Carson & Allison.
Mitchell, Rebecca, & I were posing as the "typical 1950's family" in front of the house. We welcomed each guest with smiles and drinks!
My mom with two of our friends..serving the very American Mac & Cheese and Pulled Pork Sandwiches.
Rebecca! Her job was to pose as the little American daughter of Mitchell and I. Oh, and to eat chocolate chip cookies. =)
This is what a typical little living room looked like back in the fifties. Complete with men reading the paper...oh yes.
Looks like someone got tired of the model job and opted for a snooze instead. =)
Carson serving homemade icecream to one of the missionaries.
I loved this very fun red stove! It didn't work, but with a little red spray paint and fresh baked pies in the oven...it sure looked like the real deal!
Liz was the queen of the root beer floats station.
Team South America!
Team Asia!
Team Africa!
Team Europe!
Our team! Team America-1950's!
The last night of the conference was absolutely incredible. Our pastor had all of the missionaries stand up at the front of the church, and then all of the church people came up and gave them cards, financial gifts, and just encouragement and words of blessing. Everyone had been praying and preparing for this beforehand and God's hand was just all over it. It was an amazing moment-so many tears and heartfelt words. I don't think there was a dry eye in the room. 
While all of this was going on, a group was singing "Thank-You For Giving To The Lord" and "Across the Miles"...both powerful songs with such great meaning.

This conference was such a blessing to our family. We were so renewed, inspired, and challenged by the sacrifice these men and women have given so that the nations might hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

I will close with one of my favorite quotes from the conference
"Each of us is either a missionfield, or a missionary. 
Which are YOU?"

{posted by Chelsy}