The Salt Shaker – September 2018

Consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.     (James 1:2-4)

Prayers – Ministry/project locations for spring; being mindful of God’s plan for us; inspiration for writing timely updates and avoiding the “trials”

 Praises –Bee/wasp stings didn’t hinder work or music; van over 180,000 miles and still running good; internet wifi at our trailer, what a blessing!

Greetings to all our family, friends, and followers:

What a wonderful greeting we received on our arrival at Michindoh Ministries outside of Hillsdale, Michigan.  There were several couples we had worked with before already there with warm hugs, just what you need after a long drive.  We passed 180,000 miles on our odometer and are so thankful God provided such good transportation within our “low” vehicle budget three years ago when we started this adventure.  We were at this camp for 3 days last year for the annual SOWER Reunion but will spend almost 5 weeks here this year as we provide volunteer labor and attend the reunion again.

Our work was accomplished with the help of 7-8 other couples (3 of them new to SOWERs) making for very busy and lively weeks.  The men broke into 2-4 groups with John working mostly on removing and rebuilding landscape blocks, digging and installing wood handrail, and on a rainy day working with ceiling tiles and track in the kitchen.  Lots of bending, lifting, hauling, sweat, dirt, and laundry!  It remained unseasonably hot and humid here also.  Once the landscaping was complete the guys tackled cleaning up the RV area including trimming, power washing, weeding the road gutters and parking areas.  Twice John received bee/wasp stings in the same general area of his hand/fingers while picking up brush.  (The first evening we rode our bikes to the dining hall for supper he got a sting on his shoulder as well.)  Stings make John swell up, itch, and burn so it was a long month but thankfully none of the side effects caused him to miss work or music engagements.

The ladies remained in a larger group of 6 or 7 working on painting a cabin and two adjoining buildings used for education.  By the end of our volunteer hours we had found ways of staying out of each other’s way!  We had two days where it was raining so we washed chairs in both dining areas.

Michindoh (MICHigan INdiana OHio) is a camp/conference center with several areas of ministry around a small lake.  The weather did cool off a few nights and there were a few thunder storms; the geese have started moving through so fall is approaching.  A couple of trees turned a vibrant orange and they have abundant black squirrels (all too fast for the camera) and chipmunks as well as gray squirrels and ducks and turtles in the lake.  We woke one morning with mist/fog over the lake as us ladies went to work.  The camp had its start around 1910 and the “cross rock” was found at that time, mounted, and placed in front of the main dining/meeting building.  The red cross rock color is solid and goes through the whole rock, both directions, very unusual.07 Cross Rock

We searched online for area churches and decided to try the “interactive” late service at Hillsdale First United Methodist Church.  On arrival we were surprised to see a porta-potty outside the front door and found they had been under construction since April.  Only the sanctuary and a small part of the kitchen were accessible since an elevator was being installed, causing bathrooms, electrical, and plumbing to be shut down.  Their pastor had also retired in June so there was a “new” pastor with no office and no sense of what normal is.  It is a beautiful old church with wonderful colors inside, great music staff (of course the organ has not been used because the pipes have been sealed off due to construction), and an outreach service to the community held across the street at the Elks Club because their kitchen/water are not working.08 Hillsdale UMC

Having such wonderful internet connection really helped us in making contacts for future music ministry.  We played at “Rough Draft” coffeehouse in Hillsdale, near the college campus and had a wonderful time with some of our 60-70’s songs as well as original and Christian music.  Our audience was great too!  We were able to provide the music for the UMC outreach breakfast service at the Elks Club, a bit different than our usual setting, but a wonderful way to be a blessing to those in the community who don’t usually get to hear live dulcimer music.  Our last music event was a concert for the SOWER Reunion where, much to our surprise, they took up a love gift collection for us and our ministry.  God certainly does bless us as we share our talents with others!

Some of our recreation was a 16-mile bike ride with an ice cream stop (at the Udder Side) and another 20-mile ride, both with new SOWER friends.   We also took a trip to Elderly Instruments in Lansing, MI where we purchased several of our instruments 30 years ago.  We saved and looked at catalogs (before the web!) and made our wish list then.  Just a few things on our list this time, nothing was in stock, but we sold them our Balalaika which we haven’t used for years.  We met with Walter and Jamie Neuenschwander and their family (former youth and worship leaders at our home church in Illinois) for dinner, visited their church, got some groceries, and stopped in Jackson, MI where a Craigslist contact liked and purchased our extra autoharp; we know she will get a lot of pleasure from having it.  A long day full of memories and connections from the past (even saw our old Dodge Caravan).  The trailer will be a few pounds lighter now and we will have a bit more space.

11 No TrucksWe started packing up a day early to avoid some rain and hit the road again for another 2-day trip to West Virginia.  Good weather for driving with an overnight at a new Walmart with a separate area for RV overnight parking.  The signs said “no trucks” but we were surrounded with running engines.  We arrived at Potomac Park Retreat and Conference Center on Thursday, September 27 and are glad to be back to this area again.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.      (James 1:12)

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                         Web site:
ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

MAIL ADDRESS:       John & Connie Nicholas
Salty Strings Music Ministry
255 N Sperry St, Bushnell, IL  61422


  • November – Boys and Girls Home of NC, Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina; southeast
  • December – Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, Live Oak, Florida; north central
  • January/February – Camp Horizon, Leesburg, Florida; north central
  • March – Tentative – Acadian Baptist Center, Eunice, Louisiana; south central
  • April – Tentative – Northeast Texas