The Salt Shaker – February 2018

Friday, March 16, 2018 – Our February Project Update

For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies . .
For the wonder of each hour, of the day and of the night
Hill and vale and tree and flower, sun and moon and stars of light . . .
(“For the Beauty of the Earth” by Folliott Sandford Pierpoint)

Greetings to all our family, followers, and friends:

Praises – Van catalytic convertors replaced at less than quote; Connie’s first social security check; hearing from many of you following our updates!

 Answered prayers:  Lots of good walking paths; encouragement and contacts for future music ministry; Godly wisdom and guidance for unexpected needs.

Prayers Travel to central Illinois; mild weather once there; song selection for Good Friday and Men’s Fellowship music; trailer roof repair/replace; open doors as we make calls for Illinois music programs in April-May and Wisconsin programs in July.

We have had several lessons in flexibility since our last update.  On this project we lived off-site and traveled to two locations for our work.  That meant varying time schedules depending on which location we were working at.  The never answered ladies question was “and when are we leaving today?”  Our patience was also tried and tested at the SOWER reunion as our planned times and programs kept being modified.  Going with the flow and off the cuff is not always an easy thing to do, especially with music programs!

February 2 was a very short trip to our camp site at Lake Aurora; from the country north to the country east of Lake Wales (via the west/south as there are no roads anywhere else).  02 OfficeWe arrived, leveled, unhooked, and connected the electricity before a quick run back to town for a Chinese lunch then back for our meeting with 4 other couples.  It was great to be working with so many others.  We had beautifully landscaped large sites, orange groves around us, and the fragrance of orange blossoms in the air by the end of our stay.  Connie found fire ants (first major episode this season) within a few steps down the side of the trailer, along with gecko/lizards that scurried away as we walked anywhere.

Lake Wales Care Center (our project) receives wonderful support from the community and churches in the area.  They provide meals, counseling, a food pantry, dental and medical clinics, transitional housing, and a lot more.  In return their clients have accountability, ownership (through work hours with the ministry), and direction to get back on track as best for them and their families.  Because of all the different ministries they have multiple properties to take care of along with their offices, warehouses, thrift stores, and meeting areas.

The ladies worked together splitting their time between two thrift stores.  Although similar in operation the methods and rules for sorting, pricing, and display of donated goods varied greatly.  Each store had a “free bread day” where local grocery bakeries provided bread and sweets for the shoppers to take home.  One store was 2 items per person, the other store was 2 items per family — and there was always a line waiting to get in at this location.

The men worked in smaller groups most of the time finishing the walls and building book shelves for the “Book Nook” at one of the thrift stores, building shelves from odd lumber for sorting and storage at the other thrift store, moving things from a storage trailer into permanent storage, and remodeling a transitional living apartment.  Again it is amazing who God places together.  The skills to do bathroom tub tiling, replace patio doors with windows, leveling floors, using scrap lumber to make shelves, and matching in replacement hardwood strips were all available.

We had noticed our van getting more rattles for several months, especially on acceleration, and took it to a Christian mechanic who gave several options for replacing the catalytic convertors.  We chose to have both replaced with after market convertors (one was done about 2 years ago but wasn’t holding up the best).  When we arrived for our appointment the owner had his left hand bandaged up, he had lost a finger over the weekend.  Then he found they had sent the wrong convertors (guess the longer wheel base needed something different).  Then his welder quit and he had to purchase a new one!  The repairs were finished finally and the cost was less than the original quote, much to our surprise (but still used up most of Connie’s first retirement check).  You assume the worst when you hear “they had some problems while it was on the hoist” more than once.  So far we have no “check engine” light and it is so quiet we hear the sound of things sliding around!

February is a month of special events for us.  First was Valentine’s Day where the SOWER and independent couples joined for a group of 25 and went a bit south to the Jacaranda in Avon Park, Florida.  We had been here once before on one of our trips to visit John’s parents who wintered in Avon Park for many years – it was for breakfast though.  Second was John’s Birthday!  07 BirthdayHe has now officially joined the “seniors” even though he remains the youngest of our SOWER groups.  Connie had a surprise lunch in the works when John requested going to Perkins for French silk pie.  We combined a few errands with a Perkins lunch followed by a walk through downtown Bartow.  What a surprise when we arrived and saw the “Men in Black” coming towards us as we parked.  On walking further we found we were in the middle of a Sci-Fi convention complete with costumes, cars, booths, and displays.  John was thrilled!

At the invite of fellow independent campers we went to a Christian Missionary Alliance church where we found a wonderful Sunday School and service time.  Although we didn’t have an opportunity to share our music we were able to hear from a missionary couple from Spain who compared Spain with the parable of the sower; their soil is hard and trodden down with only the gypsies (who stay in their own communities) and those less fortunate (homeless, addicts) being open to the Bible.  We were also invited to Bok Gardens with a couple from church who have annual passes that allow them to bring guests, and they bought us lunch as well!  What a wonderful place to be in the spring; trees blossoming, multiple pots of orchids, and a huge bird of paradise blossom.

The gardens have grown so much since our last visit 10-15 years ago, but the tower remains as beautiful as ever.  The carillon music is now “televised” in a little park setting where you can watch the carillon “keys” being played (with the fleshy part of the side of the hand).  After the performance you can talk with the carillon player; ours was from Belgium where there are many carillons still in use.  Bok Tower has the largest carillon and the largest bell at 12 ton, played by a kick of the foot to a large lever.

We did get to share a little music at the camp before we left – the independent guys had been fishing for several months and did a fish fry (bass) with a potluck, concert, and campfire to end the evening!  10 Connie DulcimerMonday morning found us packing up for a 3 hour trip to Groveland, Florida where there were about 30 other RV’s parked for our SOWER reunion.  We adjusted our concert and devotion plans as there had been schedule changes.  It was a great time of fellowship and relaxing once we were finished with our music.  Spring is following us around, including the yellow dust (much like the red dust from the corn silos in central Illinois) that covered the outside (and some inside) of our van and trailer.

We hitched up again on Thursday morning March 1 for our two-day drive to Louisiana with hot temperatures, blooming pink/purple flowers and blue chicory in the ditches, and gusty winds as we headed west in the Florida panhandle.  By late afternoon we noticed a bulge in our trailer roof.  John investigated and taped it up with Gorilla tape at a rest stop.  Back on the road but then came the rain, a heavy downpour thankfully of short duration, with no leaks detected.  We kept the speed at 65 the rest of the trip and kept checking the roof; the winds died down for our second day of travel and the roof still bulged up a little bit.  We arrived outside of Eunice, Louisiana (Loouuusi-anna) mid afternoon ready to set up, get refreshed, and start our new project Monday morning.

As we served this month we were challenged in many ways.  One of the most impressive was hearing of the hardness in Spain along with being part of a ministry to downtrodden people in the Lake Wales area.  We had to ask ourselves “what are we doing with the time we have?”  There are so many needs around us, let us always have our eyes open for the opportunities to be a blessing to others.11 Sundial

Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  (Ephesians 5:15-16, NIV)

 So seize any opportunity the Lord gives you to do good things and be a blessing to everyone, especially those within our faithful family.  (Galatians 6:10, The Voice Translation)

 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.  (Colossians 4:5-6, NIV)

Until next time, thanks for being a part of our adventures!

John and Connie Nicholas
Salty Strings Music Ministry

Contact Information:      Phone – John 909-336-8910 or Connie 909-336-8912
Email –     Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry
ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site:
MAIL ADDRESS:        John & Connie Nicholas ~ Salty Strings Music Ministry
255 N Sperry Street, Bushnell, IL  61422


  • March – Acadian Baptist Camp, Eunice, LA
  • April and May – back “home” to Little Galilee, Clinton, IL
  • June – tentative, southern Wisconsin Timber-Lee Camp
  • July – tentative, Music Ministry in northwest Wisconsin

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