Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

January 28, 2013

Cafe owner slips away for a walk across Spain

GOSHEN — At a table in The Electric Brew, Myron Bontrager sits at ease, surrounded by the hum of conversations and coffee sipping.

Bontrager wears blue jeans and leaves his wrist cuffs unbuttoned; anything formal would stand out in The Brew.  As the owner, this is where he makes his living; but for now, he puts work aside.

He tells the new baristas: “It’s all about relationships.  It’s not about coffee.” He observes how this philosophy is embraced around the room, pointing out clusters of conversations between patrons.

“Relationships help good things happen,” he says.  “I expect my employees to have relationships with each other — good relationships.”

According to Bontrager, this philosophy is how he runs his coffee shop and also how he lives his life. However, even with a high regard for relationships, he recognizes the value of solitude.

Every fall, he goes on a weeklong camping trip to Pokagon State Park, alone, usually at the end of October when most campers have already left. He pitches a tent at the edge of the park, and spends the week reading and enjoying the outdoors. This year, he did something more ambitious.

“In place of that, I took six weeks off and walked in Spain,” he said, laughing.

Bontrager recently returned from taking a pilgrimage across Spain that is called the Camino de Santiago. For centuries, pilgrims have walked hundreds of miles to reach the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela, which is believed to house the remains of the apostle St. James. The Camino de Santiago is also known as the Way of St. James.

“I love adventure, so I always like something new,” he said.  After watching the movie, “The Way,”  in which an American father travels to Spain to recover the body of his son, who was killed in a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago, and then reading books and articles about the pilgrimage, Bontrager decided to make the journey.  He hoped to find peace in his life, which he said has been hectic in the past years.

“All the books I read said that I should articulate why I wanted to go,” said Bontrager, who admits that his goal was broad for a reason.  He did not want to make a list of goals and return home disappointed if he only achieved a few of them.

Leaving his wife, two sons and grandchildren behind in the United States, he made the journey alone, but regularly called home and posted updates on his Facebook profile.

“I’d go again in a heartbeat,” he said, “but I’d make sure that heartbeat goes along with my wife.”

On the journey, Bontrager said he enjoyed the common humanity that every pilgrim shared.

“One of the phenomenons about the camino is that a bunch of people from around the world meet at a certain place randomly and within days they are bonded,” he said.

During the final days of the pilgrimage, Bontrager reconnected with another walker whom he had met earlier on the journey.  The man ended his walk in the same place as Bontrager over the next two nights.

On the final night they saw each other, the man invited Bontrager to have dinner with him and a group.

“Hey! These two women I know said there is a great octopus place and we’re going to eat there tonight.”  Bontrager decided to join the group with his acquaintance.

“They just packed us into one table,” said Bontrager.  “There was a group of people that he knew; there was a group of people that his friends had invited and I knew him, and I knew almost nobody else.”

“This is unbelievable,” he said after looking around the table and counting seven countries represented.  “It was almost a surreal moment.”

“Everybody was talking at least some kind of English, some better than others,” he said, also describing how people used their hands to communicate.  “It was loud, it was noisy and I thought, ‘There is a real beauty there.’”

“It sort of said, ‘This is what it’s about.’”

Bontrager described the dinner as a metaphor for his whole trip.  “It’s about people coming together, who have nothing in common except for this… let’s enjoy the company we bring to each other in this moment.”

Myron Bontrager on the Camino de Santiago

Even on a journey of solitude, Bontrager discovered the beauty of relationships, which he also sees at The Electric Brew.  The other half of his career, ministry, is about relationships as well.

From an early age, Bontrager said that he “has felt a certain drawing to leadership in church ministry.”  He has served in leadership roles in various churches, including a five-year term at a small church venture in Ecuador.  Most recently, he has served as pastor at Downtown @ 808, which meets in the Goshen Theater.

“I’ve always said this: church isn’t a business — it’s a family,” he said.  “Families are messy; families are dysfunctional.  People with problems get together because they are family.  And yeah, you fight together, but you defend each other, too.”

Bontrager admits that his way of leading church is not popular, but he believes that relationships are more important than “polished” programs and services.

“Nothing good happens outside of relationships,” he said.  According to him, relationships between people give them permission to help each other.

“If you’re having a problem in your life, if you are doing something that’s harmful and destructive to your life and to other relationships,” he said, “the deeper the relationship I have with you, the more permission you give me to say something.”

Bontrager said that he has experienced the value in close relationships, especially during difficult times.

“A number of years ago, I went through a real crisis of faith,” he said.  “It was like I didn’t know how to sort this stuff out.”

At the time, Bontrager was in a pastoral role at a church, and said that he decided that it would be best to offer his letter of resignation.

However, one of the women on the leadership team said, “No, I wouldn’t accept your resignation, because the place you found your wounding is also the place you can find your healing.”

Bontrager continued quoting her: “If you walk away now, you will leave as a bitter, disenfranchised ex-pastor that will never find healing.  So we are willing to walk through that with you.”

“I think that’s the best example I have ever had of someone looking at me and accepting me, knowing the real crap in my life, and basically saying, ‘No, it’s OK, we want to be at your side through this because we care about you,’” he said.

“And that was huge for me.”  Because of it, he said, “I’m a better person today.”

Bontrager says he is slowing down.  Another person is helping with the pastoral responsibilities at Downtown @ 808 as Bontrager approaches retirement.  He says that he plans to eventually retire at The Electric Brew, where he enjoys roasting coffee.

However, even when he is done roasting, he will certainly continue sipping this favorite roast, Bald Brothers, over a good conversation.

 

1
Text Only
Local News
  • GN140421 easter egg hunt 05 Local churches worship, have fun on Easter holiday GOSHEN Encouraged by bright blue skies and near-perfect temperatures in the low 70’s, families and churches from all across Goshen took to their yards Sunday afternoon to participate in a time-honored tradition: the Easter egg hunt. Included among th

    April 20, 2014 5 Photos

  • GN140420 ysk kalil 01.jpg You Should Know: Anthony Kalil GOSHEN -- Goshen native Anthony Kalil has been awarded a Richard Trucker Career Grant, which includes a $10,000 cash prize. He currently lives in New York. The grant is awarded to three of America's top young opera singers who are selected after a by

    April 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • GN140420 The 39 Steps Taking 'Steps' in Bristol BRISTOL -- The Elkhart Civic Theatre crew is set to present the classic Alfred Hitchcock mystery "The 39 Steps" at The Bristol Opera House. Performances of "The 39 Steps" are planned for two weekends -- this coming Friday and Saturday and May 2 and 3

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140420 Kokomo Tornado 03 Recent decisions by FEMA have frustrated state and local leaders KOKOMO, Ind. -- Pamela Jackson thought she was lucky to escape harm as a tornado bore down on her neighborhood last November. She huddled in a bathroom with her two disabled sons, critically ill husband and six other family members as the twister ble

    April 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • GN140418 ghs high mileage team 12.jpg Goshen High School Super Mileage team to compete in national competition for third straight year GOSHEN -- The Goshen High School Super Mileage team is heading to Houston this week to compete in the Shell Eco Marathon for the third consecutive year. The team, led by engineering technology teacher J.J. Johnson, is taking two cars to the competiti

    April 20, 2014 5 Photos

  • BIZ GN0420 tech talk image Mistakes businesses make with their home page Mistakes businesses make with their home page

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140420 boston marathon 04.jpg Undeterred by last year's bombing, several locals return for Monday's Boston Marathon GOSHEN "Boston Strong" is the moniker that emerged from Boston a year ago, describing the way people dealt with the tragic events that marred the 117th annual running of the Boston Marathon. Three spectators were killed and 264 more people injured w

    April 19, 2014 5 Photos

  • GN140419 good friday 04 Local Christians reflect in advance of Easter Sunday GOSHEN - Members of the community gathered at First Presbyterian Church of Goshen to observe Good Friday with a Stations of the Cross tour.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • Briefly Elkhart Store opens at mall Creative Life Memories is now open at Concord Mall. The store is owned by Jose Elizalde, a native of Chicago, Goshen College graduate and resident of Elkhart County. CLM specializes in engraving and personalizing small gif

    April 19, 2014

  • GN140419 cyclists return 05 Trio of GC alums return from Pan-American trek GOSHEN — The dream for a pan-American cycling adventure was born for Levi Smucker, Abe Stucky, and Michael Miller on the couches in a dormitory room at Goshen College in late 2010,

    April 18, 2014 5 Photos

Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Poll

There has been discussion at West Goshen Elementary School to require mandatory student uniforms in the future. How do you feel about the prospect of mandatory student uniforms in a public school environment?

I think it’s an excellent idea that is way overdue
I think it’s a bad idea and would be restrictive for students and parents.
     View Results
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest