Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Inner Views of Marlin & Becky Bontrager of The Bontragers

"Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise."
Psalm 98:4
(KJV)

It is always such a blessing to come across families who are living for God together, side-by-side, and who are following Him and His plan for their lives as a family unit.
When there is bluegrass music involved, it is an even bigger blessing!
Today, I am so grateful to be able to share the Inner Views of one such family with you,
and if you don't know them already, I trust you will enjoy getting to know them, learning about their music ministry, and watching the video at the end!


The 
of 
Husband, Father, Farmer, Fearless Leader, Passionate about finishing strong,
Marlin Bontrager
and
Disciple of Christ, Mother, Wife, Multitasker, Encourager, Servant, Gardener, Devoted Homemaker, Lover of reading books aloud to children,
Becky Bontrager 

Cheryl:  Please tell us about yourselves and your family. 

Marlin & Becky Bontrager:  Our parents taught us the value of hard work and strong family ties. We raised our family on a farm in rural Kalona, Iowa. We farm half of the year and travel singing and sharing God’s Word the other half. 

Cheryl:  How and when did the two of you meet?  We would love to hear how God brought the two of you together.

Becky:  We casually met at a Bible school in Arkansas, then again with some mutual friends a year later, and once more at a conference in Ohio six months later. Total, we had spent probably three hours together, mostly with other friends, but through all this, God put it on Marlin’s heart to go out on a date with me. So about two years after our first meeting, he came to Cincinnati (where I was working at a Day Care) to take me out on a date.The rest is history!!!

Cheryl:  Will you each kindly share with us about your personal Christian testimony?  Were you raised in a Christian home?  What drew you to Christ?  How has surrendering your life to Him impacted your life?  What does He mean to each of you, individually?

Marlin:  We both were raised in Christian homes. I was rebellious for my growing up years. I came to Christ at a revival meeting a few months before my 20th birthday. 

Becky:  I asked God to save me when I was about 14.  More recently, I have realized that God's salvation is free and complete without any "help" from me.  My part is simply trusting Him for salvation and then joyfully serving/obeying Him every day of my life. 

It is always the work of the Holy Spirit that draws a person to Christ, but our parents, the church, and a loving home were all instrumental in bringing us to salvation. Surrendering one's life to Jesus Christ changes everything--it has affected our thoughts about birth control, how we raise our children, our finances, the way we spend our time, etc.

Cheryl:  Please share with us about your children and how God is working in and through their lives.  

Marlin and Becky:  God has blessed us with ten children. Each of them has asked God to save his/her soul.  We have no greater joy than to see them walking in truth as they faithfully serve God in various ways. Four of them are now married, but the other six are still at home.



Cheryl:  What is your favorite part of having a large family?

Marlin and Becky:  A strong family is an incredible witness in a broken society. There are countless benefits to having a large family, but I will only list a few.  A large family can complete a large work project very quickly. Family businesses are more easy to run with family members living in the same household (i.e., we have the same schedule, can discuss schedule & work while we eat family meals, we take vacations together).  We also can have a party without inviting anyone else to join us but when we do hospitality (and we do it a lot both on the road and at home) the preparation/work is shared.  For example, when we have a group of 10-20 over, Denver might grill some meat, Allison makes the dessert, Elizabeth fixes potatoes, and Becky makes a salad.

Large families also increase influence.  One of our married sons and his wife are managing our local hotel, help at our church, and they both are involved in personally discipling young people.  Another son and his wife manage our farm while we travel and also minister to their neighbors in various ways.  Our oldest daughter and her husband have many opportunities to share the Gospel as they travel together for his business and also in their home in the city. The son who travels with us writes a blog with the help of his wife.  They are a tremendous team, ministering to our family and to those at our concerts. All of them practice extensive hospitality in many ways. We are also seeing our borders expand with two grandchildren on the way. 

Cheryl:  Living in a culture that is growing increasingly hostile towards God, His Word, and the Christian way of life, what is your advice to parents who want to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, as instructed in Ephesians 6:4?

Marlin and Becky:  Parents must build their homes on God’s Word (Psalm 127). Home discipleship is vitally important in raising and equipping our children. Deuteronomy 6 commands parents to teach their children as they “walk by the way, lie down, and rise up.” Parents must also be willing to be different and to make hard choices in order to shepherd their families. Discernment is a must. Teach your children to love God, to love His Word, and to love those around them. 

Cheryl:  How long have you been singing as a family, and how did God lead you to start this ministry?

Marlin and Becky:  We have been traveling and singing for 13 years. We began when we were invited to participate in a Prison Crusade in South Carolina. After that first year, we did a few concerts at churches, and the ministry grew from there.



Cheryl:  Describe some of the most outstanding times of blessing you have experienced while ministering together in church services.

Marlin and Becky:  Seeing families strengthened and encouraged is one of life’s greatest blessings. We have also been blessed in so many ways by the generous hospitality and giving extended to our family while we live on the road. Bus-life has its own set of challenges, but the road has been softened many times by the love of God's family.

Cheryl:  As you travel and minister in different churches, what do you find to be some of the greatest challenges currently facing the Body of Christ, as a whole? How can we proactively work to meet those challenges, in our personal lives? What can we do to make necessary changes?

Marlin and Becky:  One of the greatest battles facing the church is the tug-of-war between the family and the church. God never intended these two institutions to be at odds. Unfortunately, many churches are often not family-friendly. Parents must be willing to stick out. Lack of discernment is another big challenge. Most of all, we see that much of the church is following the world rather than the Word of God.  Our desire is to follow God at any cost, no matter what others think. 

Cheryl:  How can the church combat complacency and apathy? What do you identify as being one of the biggest regrets the children of God would have if Jesus were to come back today?

Marlin and Becky:  The church must engage the fathers. One of the biggest regrets could be the failure to embrace the blessing of children and to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. 

Cheryl:  I admire the standard of modesty you maintain in your manner of dress. Will you please elaborate and explain why you and your daughters choose to dress modestly and why it is important to you?

Marlin and Becky:  The Bible exhorts both modestly and femininity. We wish for our daughters to reflect the image of God and His design. It is important to have God’s grace (His divine influence) be at work in every area of our lives.

Cheryl:  Will each of you share about a dark time in your life and how the grace of God sustained you and saw you through such difficulty? Describe particular gestures of kindness extended to you by others during those times and what God taught you through those experiences. What are some effective ways we can reach out to brothers and sisters in Christ who are hurting and in need of encouragement?

Becky:  For me personally, road life has some big challenges, the biggest being insomnia which seems to intensify when I get to bed late, eat certain foods, and am under stress. (All of which seems to happen during concerts on the road). God’s grace (again, as in His divine influence on my life and it’s reflections in my life) has given me the strength to be joyful, to remember my words when singing (most of the time!!), and to minister to others no matter how little sleep I get. I remember one lady who said, “It must be hard to live on the bus.” Those kind, understanding words ministered healing and encouragement to my heart. There have also been many acts of kindness along the way--a basket of homemade lotions, etc; thoughtful notes from my children, a care package from a sweet friend that included homemade & personalized pillowcases and cosmetic bags for each of the girls and I, a text from a friend reminding me that she is praying for me, and much more.

My father passed away when I was eighteen. Although I was an adult at the time, I think that has given me a greater compassion for the fatherless. And while I know death is final, I know there are many men who are living without fathers in America who are still living and think that would be harder. Letters or text messages I have gotten from brothers or sisters in Christ who have encouraged me has encouraged me to do likewise.

Cheryl:  What do you most hope to accomplish through your daily lives, through your ministry, and as parents?

Marlin and Becky:  We hope to first of all train and teach our own family to love God with all their heart, soul, and mind, and then to build families and reach the world.



Cheryl:  Who do you each identify as being your strongest Christian influence?

Marlin and Becky:  We have all had many friends along the way who have spoken into our lives in various ways. We are blessed to have a loving church that prays for us and welcomes us back with open arms whenever we come home. All of us love to read and look for books that edify and strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ. We also love to read books on time management (redeeming the time), farming and gardening (dominion of the earth), parenting (train up a child in the way he should go), finances (being good stewards), and much more.

Cheryl:  What is the best marital advice you have ever received? When advising your children and/or other young couples considering marriage, what do you most long to convey to them?

Marlin and Becky:  An elderly couple at one of our concerts said: “Follow the Owner's Manual" (the Bible) to have a good marriage. We also have learned a lot from the “Love and Respect” DVD series as well as many other books. We took each of our married children through the “Love and Respect” series before they got married.

Cheryl:  If you could each go back and live your life over again, what would you change? What do you regret? What are you most thankful for?

Marlin and Becky:  If we could do it over again, we would be more intentional about raising our children and cultivating our spiritual walks with the Lord. We would worry less and pray more. We would work less and play more with the children.

We're most thankful for God’s Word, His forgiveness, and His grace that enables us to flee sin and serve Him. I (Marlin) am thankful that God turned my heart to my children over 15 years ago.

Cheryl:  What are your favorite sources of encouragement?  Are there particular Scriptures, songs, books, or other resources you most often turn to in times of despair?

Marlin and Becky:  The Psalms, hymns, prayer, and God's Word are all treasured sources. A local body of believers is a powerful tool for encouragement, edification, and fellowship.

Cheryl:  What musical groups, singers, or musicians do you most enjoy listening to?

Marlin and Becky:  We enjoy a variety, including classical, bluegrass, and gospel groups.

Cheryl:  What is the hardest thing God has ever asked you to do?

Marlin and Becky:  About 15 years ago, God led us to leave a church we were fully plugged into, but which was damaging our family.

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you?

Marlin and Becky:  You can pray that we would continue to serve God in humility and faithfully follow no matter where He leads us.

A BIG Thank You to Marlin and Becky for sharing their Inner Views with us here!  
Please keep them in your prayers, as they continue to minister together as a family.
You can connect with the Bontragers at their Websitetheir Blog, or on Instagram.

The video below is from a Bontrager concert on March 5, 2017.
(The parts that begin at 33:42 and 39:41 are two of my personal favorites!)
I hope you have time to watch and enjoy!

The Bontrager Family

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