By MELISSA HART
HILLSDALE, Mich. — The kids filed onstage, one by one in their coordinating royal blue-and-black outfits. When 10 of them and their two parents settled on stage, they introduced themselves as the Bontrager Family Singers, during a concert on Oct. 7 at the Hillsdale United Brethren Church.
No one would have known they had just come from the cornfields of Kalona, Iowa. No one would have known they would head back home to feed pigs, milk cows and harvest soybeans. No one knew they made their living from their farm while traveling around the country encouraging families with the Truth of God’s word.
But when they finished their concert, everyone knew each member of the family, their strengths, likes, dislikes and their strong conviction for family unity.
Marlon and Becky Bontrager and their 10 children – Chelsy, Mitchell, Allison, Carson, Joshua, Denver, Lincoln, Elizabeth, Hudson and Rebecca – live and work on a dairy, hog and grain farm. Their purpose in singing ministry is summed up in the Bible passage Deuteronomy 6:6-9, where it says: “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children.
“Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
“Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
Marlon said as God opens doors, they minister with a gospel/bluegrass style of music in churches, festivals, prisons, nursing homes and street missions. They feel as though God has called them to ministry, so they endeavor to shine His light wherever they go, in whatever they do, with all their heart and soul and mind. Because of Him, they have a reason to sing.
With nearly every child on an instrument or microphone, they entertained the full house in Hillsdale with their bluegrass, toe-tapping gospel music. Between songs, they gave testimonials of their travels, told stories of God’s faithfulness on the road and encouraged the crowd to keep the family together.
Marlon gave statistics on fatherless families in the United States and how he feels it has adversely affected the family unit. He admonished listeners to participate in the political process, and the importance of serving the community.
After the concert the Bontragers enjoyed a time of fellowship with visitors. When asked how she keeps 10 kids looking so good, Becky remarked with a chuckle, “It’s not easy, but you see we’ve chosen black as our predominant color!
“Because it’s so costly to clothe 10 children in matching outfits, we only have two different outfits that we perform in.”
While Marlon keeps the farm running and the music ministry humming, Becky keeps the home running smoothly. They have homeschooled all of their children but, as Becky said, “It’s getting easier now. The older children are very helpful in teaching the younger ones or just taking over the household and farm duties.”
The oldest son, Mitchell, said, “When we were young, our parents spent a lot of money on music lessons but now that we are older, we are the music teachers for the younger kids.”
The Hillsdale stop was their final appearance for the year and, as they concluded the concert, they remarked they were going home just in time to head to the fields for harvest. Mitchell added, “I’m looking forward to going home and just sitting on a tractor all day long.”
The Bontrager Family Singers tour the country from April through October and can be contacted for tour information by visiting their website at www.bontrager familysingers.com or by phone at 319-330-4513. You may also email them at firstname.lastname@example.org