We are pleased to present the first feature by SGNScoops Magazine writer, Cheryl Smith, as she presents the “Inner Views of the Bontragers.” We are thrilled to have Cheryl as part of the SGNScoops writing team. She enjoys Bluegrass and Appalachian music and brings a fresh look at gospel music from the mountains.
It is always such a blessing to come across families who are living for God together, and who are following him and his plan for their lives as a large family unit. When there is bluegrass music involved, it is an even bigger blessing. I am so grateful to be able to share the Inner Views of one such family with you, the Bontragers.
Cheryl: Please tell us about yourselves and your family.
Marlin and 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?
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 daycare) to take me out on a date.The rest is history…
Cheryl: Will you each kindly share with us about your personal Christian testimony?
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 10 children. Each of them has asked God to save his or 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. We have the same schedule, can discuss schedule and 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 and work is shared.
Cheryl: What is your advice to parents who want to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?
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: 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?
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.
Marlin: My father passed away when I was 18. 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 the U.S. and I think that would be harder. Letters or text messages I have gotten from brothers or sisters in Christ (that) have encouraged me, have (also) encouraged me to do likewise.
Cheryl: What is the best marital advice you have ever received?
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: 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 here. Find out more at bontragerfamilysingers.com
First published on Homespun Devotions by Cheryl Smith. This feature has been condensed. For the full interview, read homespundevotions.com/2018/04/the-inner-views-of-marlin-becky.html
This feature was first published in the SGNScoops Magazine in June 2018.
More on Cheryl Smith….
Cheryl Smith describes herself as a “passionate disciple and follower of Jesus Christ.” She says: “I am married to the sweetest, most patient man for over 30 years…Mama to one miracle son God sent to us after 12.5 years of infertility…Homeschool Teacher who learns way more than I ever teach.I love to spend time with my husband and son in the mountains, sing and play Bluegrass music, and write. I am so thankful for your visit and hope you will visit my blogs: homespundevotions.com/ and biblicalminimalism.com/ It is my goal to encourage you in your walk with Jesus and to inspire you to let go of this world for the sake of a higher call. It is His call that I hope you hear. So compelling, so intense, so far above anything this world has to offer. It is the call His disciples heard as they went about a normal, ordinary day, fishing. It is a call they could not refuse. A call that caused them to drop everything they had and walk away from life as they knew it, without a backward glance. Can you hear it? Are you listening?”