The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy! Psalm 126:3
Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord,for He is good; His love endures forever. Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord or fully declare His praise? Psalm 106:1-2
Praises – Less back strain the last few months; indoor work a blessing; quiet country setting by ourselves here in Florida; weather not hot and humid!
Prayers – Good weather for outdoor work; back to stay healthy; music opportunities in January/February.
Greetings to our family, followers, and friends:
November, a month of Thanksgiving, which is getting harder and harder to remember amidst all the Christmas music, decorations, and advertising! However, we were surrounded by thankful people! Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina and the surrounding area received damage from Hurricane “Flo” (Florence, September 2018). There were still brush piles in areas, lots of tarped roof spots (rich and poor homes), and remodeling/furniture debris in front yards. But it was the emotional damage that caught us by surprise. Everyone was either directly affected or knew someone who was – evacuations, upset in routines, jobs – basically fear of the unknown or of change. Strangely (or perhaps not, knowing God is directing our steps) we know what evacuation is like, and packing/unpacking from moving every month or so going to someplace “new” as well. There is still some anxiety, more so for Connie, as we travel around the country and we choose to do this!
After a Walmart overnight stay, we arrived on Thursday, October 25, shortly after noon in Lake Waccamaw, NC. This allowed us to get everything connected and set up without rushing before dark. We were parked behind a huge arena across the road from a tobacco factory (interesting smells some days), with stables and horses as part of our landscape. Friday, we traveled into South Carolina visiting North Myrtle Beach (Aldi’s grocery shopping) and down the “strip” (17 miles in 45 minutes and what seemed like hundreds of mini golf places) to Myrtle Beach where we met with the owner of Fresh Brewed Coffeehouse to finalize our concert. It was cold and rainy most of the day, getting wet feet from all the puddles, and certainly not enjoying the beaches! We made several stops, getting new wipers and a gas cap for the van while in “town.”
On returning we found a note on our step that asked us to meet with Pastor Joe from the project, who invited us to share some songs and testimony in the Sunday morning chapel service. God placed us here as much for music ministry as for volunteer labor! This was the first of 3 chapel services along with two songs at a cottage Rotary dinner, one song at a youth promotion dinner, two songs for the “State of the Homes” breakfast meeting involving area-wide staff, and two songs for their Thanksgiving staff/family dinner. We were able to practice with their praise team with separate practices for the singing girls and the drum/piano guys. They also have a wonderful pipe organ in the chapel which Connie was able to play one Sunday. There was only about an hour that she was able to practice for fun with John accompanying on the mandolin, which sounded beautiful together. Organ and horses and horse shows, oh my! God willing we will be back here again.
Each cottage here (provides housing for up to ten youth) is sponsored by an area civic club, Rotary, Civitan, Lions, etc. Most of the youth have been in 30-40+ foster homes before coming to the Boys and Girls Homes! Added to that was the recent evacuation to the North Carolina mountains, a totally different setting for most of the youth. Lots of healing needed for staff as well as youth, and God used our music and testimony throughout this month.
We had one other SOWER couple with us. They had been full-time and with SOWERs for 15 years, now returning for a project after a 3-year medical leave. The guys spent all their time at “Roxy’s” a weight room/fitness center for the campus that was damaged when the rubber roof came off that end of the main building. Acoustic ceiling tiles were glued to cement block walls and painted after the old tile was scraped off. New trim and ceiling tiles were added as needed, and the floor was “stripped” ready for new wax before we left.
The ladies worked at the “Country Store” a thrift store located in an old church building that had several attachments. The roof here was damaged as well and we were allowed to finish up the “holiday room” which needed the new drywall primed and painted. We ladies came up with the trim solution (there was an uneven gap between the drywall and floor trim of 3-4 inches) and talked the guys into spending an afternoon installing the stained quarter round and trim. The woodwork was wiped off as well. Plastic had been put in to help with the leaks leaving quite a bit of dirt/black mold on the beautiful old wood. Along with this we also dusted, vacuumed the carpeted floor wall-to-wall, tried to arrange the book shelves, straightened the linen area, and did some creative marketing with glassware, shoes, and jewelry. This store is an emotional support ministry as well. Everyone gets lots of “sweeties, babes, and honey” as they shop and check out, and this serves as a meeting place for locals to check up on each other and share stories about their time as kids at the church.
Of course, we had lots of fellowship time, enjoying some meals together, traveling to Wilmington, NC which has recovered well from the hurricane, and several trips together to the nearest Walmart for supplies. While in Wilmington (a cool, blustery day with threatening rain) we walked around the old downtown, along the bay, were chased out of “Coast Guard only” parking, and observed the USS North Carolina battleship across the bay. Then we went to Sam’s Club, enjoyed some ice cream, and went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond where they still have Table-Mate trays, which we purchased and modified for our new music stand. There are some beautiful wood piers along the coastal areas but the weather and timing didn’t permit us to get to any of the beach/pier areas. There were two horse shows over the weekends, one English and one Western, providing us some camping company and entertainment as well.
We made one more trip to Myrtle Beach, providing two hours of music at Fresh Brewed Coffeehouse which is in an old part of town about a block from the beach. We set up in the corner of the front window rather than in their concert area in the back to attract customers. Although there were few in attendance, the songs we played definitely connected with many as they sang along. We had one young lady ask for us to do “Simple Gifts” again and she sang along with the words her grandmother had taught her.
Our last Sunday we attended Bridge Church (a Presbyterian church in a mall) about 45 minutes away to support the youth from the Homes who were part of the Glee Club singers from the on-campus school. We were at the first service where they did well, but they were much more relaxed and enjoying their singing after the break between services. We enjoyed lunch with Pastor Joe and his family before returning home. We decided to celebrate Thanksgiving on Wednesday by going out for lunch and stayed home alone, packing up the trailer for travel, on Thanksgiving Day eating leftover spaghetti! Much better than our previous three years of being on the road on the holiday and spending Black Friday, starting on Thursday night, at Walmart or a truck stop. We were up early Friday morning, pulling in the slides, and on the road by 7:45 am for a very long day of travel to north central Florida, arriving about 5:15 pm November 23. And so another new volunteer project and ministry begins!
Christmas is coming ~ here’s the real reason to celebrate:
A sign will be given, a virgin will conceive, a human baby bearing undiminished Deity. The glory of the nations, a light for all to see; and hope for all who will embrace His warm reality.
Immanuel, our God is with us; and if God is with us, who could stand against us? Our God is with us, Immanuel.
(Immanuel, Michael Card © 1986)
We’re back in the south so all y’all have a great Christmas!
Thanks for being a part of our travels!
John and Connie Nicholas, Salty Strings Music Ministry
ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site
John & Connie Nicholas ~ Salty Strings Music Ministry,
255 N Sperry St, Bushnell, IL 61422
TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS
- 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/Northwest Arkansas