Winter Tour/Week 10

Week #ten. 
At the beginning of the week, we had only been without the bus for three days, but already we were greatly GREATLY missing it! After our whirlwind wkend of four concerts in 48hrs from the previous several days, we were very excited about the prospect of arriving at dad's sister's home in Texas and being able to spread out for two days! 

All that bottled up energy was put to good use in an energetic football game with the cousins. It was cold and muddy, but the guys didn't seem to mind. =)
Showers were needed afterwards. =)
Most schoolbooks had been left back at the bus, but instruments and music books came along so we continued with as much of our normal schedule as possible-music lessons + practice.
We love Texas cooking. =) Many thanks to our aunt and another dear friend for providing such yummy meals!
And...thanks for letting us help! Allison + Taylor were the stellar pancake crew for morning breakfast!
As always, we enjoyed some great family games, challenging discussions, and sharing of life dreams + God at work.
Late night, er, early morning...cousin time. =)
Love you people! Y'all inspire and challenge us to live more fully for Jesus Christ! Our times with you are always so rich and encouraging!

After singing in Tyler, we went on to Broaddus, TX. With only several weeks' notice to advertise the concert (it was a last minute decision to sing there) this church went all out and we had a packed crowd at our concert there.
A highlight there was after our concert when the pastor called up the "prayer team" to come and pray blessing over us. They were such dear people with such a heart for Jesus.

More friends (that we met through Bible Bee. Have you seen a pattern lately? We meet all sorts of awesome people through BB!) gave us this sweet little condo to stay in while we were waiting for news on the bus and trying to decide how to proceed with our tour. We were there for two nights and the day in between.

Dinner and fellowship with friends.

We enjoyed getting to know these sweet ladies!

By Thursday night the transmission had still not arrived back in Alabama. We were originally planning to head back and pick up the bus after our Broaddus concert, because it was only supposed to take a week at most to get fixed. But when Thursday night arrived and the transmission had still not even arrived, we knew we would have to continue with the next portion of our Texas concerts, in the van/trailer. So Friday morning we all piled in the van again and took off for San Antonio where we were scheduled to sing at the Christian Worldview Film Festival.While in San Antonio, we were so blessed by the generosity of some dear friends (above) who took us out to dinner and offered for our family to stay in their home which was fifteen minutes from the festival. It was such a blessing as we had previously had no plans for lodging or what we were going to do, since it was such a last minute decision to come without the bus. 

The younger ones were very excited to recognize this actor from one of our favorite family movies, Indescribable
We had a wonderful time at the fest. Sadly we weren't there much (arrived Friday afternoon, sang Friday night, and were in and out on Saturday) and weren't able to take in very much of the festival just due to our totally different schedule since we didn't have the bus. It really changes the schedule when you have to worry about leaving for food and lodging and other needs instead of what we are used to-just going to the bus! But for the little bit of time we were able to be there, we enjoyed meeting up with many old friends and making new ones, and taking in a few of the movies and sessions going on. 

Thanks so everyone who was so gracious to our family during week ten! The Lord was so good to cross our paths with just the right people during this week of being without our bus. 

"Stand therefore, having your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; 
And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel."
Ephesians 6:15-19

{posted by Chelsy}


Winter Tour/Week 9

Week nine began with our last concert in Florida, in Hernando. We love these people!
Monday morning found us at mom's sister's house for breakfast. Our uncle and cousin and their employee also came over to join us.
Paper Airplane Making 101. With cousin Nic, of course. =)
Our next concert location was one of our favorites-New Life in Christ Church in Foley, Alabama. After traveling and doing concerts in hundreds of churches for years, we have found a few favorites. And this place in Foley is one of them. We LOVE their church.
The pastor and his family (of ten) used to travel in evangelism/music ministry as well so they know all about life on the road with a big family. Now all of them are grown and the "children" are my parents' age, and we just love getting to see them every year-they are such an inspiration to our family.
The church is twenty minutes from the beach, and we hadn't had time yet to visit the beach on our tour, so we took a few hours one chilly afternoon to go.
The water was freezing! Some of us could barely stand to stick our toes in. Others....well, we have a few fish in our family, and they will get in the water no mater how cold it is. =)
Beach football-a family favorite.
The church has two guest houses called the "Prophets Chambers" that they so graciously allow our family to use every year. It is always good to spread out a house, sleep in a real bed, and cook real food in a real kitchen again!
It was quite an experience, cooking the crab. It was alive when we got it so the whole boiling process was quite...lively, shall we say. 
Both for the crab, and for a couple of the more queasy Bontragers. =)
We left Foley late Wednesday night following our concert. Ten miles down the road, 
our transmission gave out. We were able to get to the side of the road and park for the night.
The next morning began the process of trying to locate a towing service (yes, we have AAA!! But they are sometimes very slow in actually getting the towing job done) The pastor from the church we were at the previous night came over and picked up our trailer and all of us except for dad, and took us back to the Prophets Chambers to stay until we got the bus situation figured out.
Loading instruments from the bus to the trailer so we would be able to spend time practicing that day.
We needed the bus moved so that we would be able to hook the van up to the trailer. 
The logical solution when we need something moved in our family is for all of us to push. =) The people from the nearby florist shop came out to watch-pretty sure they had never seen anything like this before.
Believe it or not, we pushed that bus fifty feet. Hey, there's strength in numbers in more ways than one! =)
Back at the house we spent the day working on school, music practice, etc etc, while dad, back at the bus, made lots of phone calls and finally was able to get a towing service to tow the bus into Mobile. 

First thing Friday morning, we all loaded up in the church van and drove over to Mobile where the bus was. Then Carson took a rental truck and dad took the church van to go back to the church in Foley to get the trailer. (the church van wasn't able to haul our trailer that distance because our trailer is so big and was so full)
While they were gone, the rest of us were frantically packing. 
Now, packing for a week for the normal family may sound like no big deal. 
But considering that we travel in a bus, and store our clothes in closets, and don't have suitcases or things like that...this was pretty complicated. We packed things in boxes, and backpacks, and anything we could find. Thankfully we have a clothes rod across the trailer, so we had hanging space which was a blessing! 
We planned to be back again within one week (that was the amount of time that was estimated to install the transmission) so we only took along two extra changes of clothes each and one singing outfit. The plan was to wear the clothes over the weekend, wash them at our aunt's house on Monday, wear them Tuesday and Wednesday, and be back to the bus and all of our other clothes by Thursday. Stay tuned for the next post to see how that worked out. =)
Things got a little crazy with all of us stuffed in there trying to pack!
We are forever indebted to these dear friends who heard of our bus troubles and offered to loan us their 15-passenger van for as long as we needed it. This was the first of countless ways that God provided for our needs during our time without the bus! 
Their son drove it the three hours from their home over to Mobile. He arrived about the same time as Dad and Carson got back.
Now the real work began-moving whatever we could spare (our chest freezer, extra inventory, etc) out of the trailer and into the bus, and moving all of the things we needed for the next week, into the trailer.
Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth....
Finally! Many hands make light work, and by early afternoon we had everything transferred and we were all safely sandwiched seated inside the van and ready to hit the road!
Couldn't quite get everyone in the picture, but that's most of us! =)
We had a three hour drive to our concert in Macon that night. Travels went well and we arrived in time to sing! =) So thankful for our gracious hosts in Macon who were so kind and accommodating to our family-they are pretty much another home away from home for us and although it was tough to transition to living from a van and trailer instead of the bus, we all agreed that their home was a wonderful place to be "stranded". =)
Above, enjoying a delicious steak dinner with their extended family the next day. 
Mom and the girls with friends, making blankets for poor children in other countries. 

You wouldn't believe it, but we had van trouble next! Thankfully it was discovered a few hours before we had to leave for our Saturday night concert, so the guys and our friends worked diligently and were able to get everything back to working order in a short amount of time.

We made it safely to our concert Saturday night in Louisiana where we had a blessed time with new and old friends.
Week #9 was definitely the beginning of quite an adventure for our family! We are so thankful to all the people who were so gracious in helping us in so many different ways that we needed as a result of not having our bus!

"The Lord will give strength unto His people; the Lord will bless His people with PEACE."
Psalm 29:11

{posted by Chelsy}