CHIANG MAI – Family and friends are mourning the loss of American Brett Bontrager, who died Friday, June 6, while serving on a mission trip in Chiang Mai. Bontrager, 21, was at the beginning of a seven-month venture when he collapsed while running.
Brett was on the last event of his two-week training in the mountains when he was running a 10K back to Chiang Mai and collapsed.
He took his first mission trip when he was 12 years old, serving in Nicaragua. He also served in Canada, Israel, Mexico and China as well as numerous stateside missions. He was a very active member of Riverview Christian Fellowship in White Pigeon, Mich.
His father Merlin Bontrager remembers him always being very active in missions and youth group at their church. At the time of his death he was working with Global Tribe Outreach (GTO), where he was training to distribute Bibles to closed countries. GTO had sent Brett and a group of young men into the mountains to physically and spiritually prepare for the trip ahead, what they called a “Seals Hike.”
The last phone conversation Merlin remembers having with his son was during his layover in New York on the flight out. Merlin told Brett how his family would be praying that he would have a good flight and that God would watch over him and bless his time there.
“He was a sweet kid,” said Merlin, recalling the morning of Mother’s Day when Brett woke up early to make his mother pancakes in the shape of the letters “MOM.” Merlin also noted that the other young men in his mission team said that he was always making them laugh.
“We know that he was so eager to go [to Thailand],” said Merlin. “We are glad he could. We are at peace about it. It’s not that we don’t feel pain and sorrow but we are feeling God’s peace in all this.”