. . . for every animal of the forest is mine and the cattle on a thousand hills. Psalm 50:10
Prayers – Connie’s family as her Dad (Curt) nears end of life; God’s provision for four new trailer tires.
Praises – Noticed a trailer tire starting to show some steel belt as we left, prayed for that tire to hold for our 150-mile trip and it did, but a tire on the other side blew out and a trucker and another car got our attention; we were able to pull over and take an exit less than a mile away!
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace . . . surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering . . . we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way . . . he has poured out his soul unto death. He was counted as a sinner, and he bore the sins of many, and he pled with God for sinners. (Prophecies about Jesus from Isaiah 9:6, 53:4, 6 NIV, 53:12 TLB)
Greetings to our family, followers, and friends:
It was 33 degrees “feels like 24” when we left North Carolina all bundled up and heading south. There were some fall colors early in the drive with occasional subdued bright colors, heavy rain, a razor-back boar rooting along the roadside, and then cloudy with great warm weather (no coats!) as we arrived in Live Oak, Florida. Monday morning, we reported for our volunteer duties working as a couple for the maintenance department at Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch. (The “Boys Ranch” is now the “Youth” ranch and has “ranchers” of varying ages with individual cottages of boys, girls, and sibling groups.) Since we had a 3-week break between December and January projects we put in some extra hours and remained parked in their RV area about a mile from the “ranch.”
Our first week we did several coats of paint to finish off cement block walls and metal ceiling tile railing in 4 rooms of the Education Center that is being converted to a museum. An elderly past president of the ranch had a vision for this and had collected many mementos. Everything was coming together in a rush fashion to have this ready for the dedication in 2 weeks. We were able to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony one chilly evening before their Christmas Dinner and program put on by the ranchers.
Week two brought variety as we prepped, sanded, finished and hung a solid wood door in one of the staff homes. We also sanded, finished, and installed 7 small square windows into office doors in the administration building. We made a cardboard template to fit over the door, drew the diamond outline, cut the holes (hollow core doors this time), cleaned the window glass, and screwed the new windows in place. We worked outside, removing each door from its hinges as we went. As you can see, the Program Director really liked the change to his office.
Week three we refinished a larger wood door including several short trips to the maintenance building. There was a lot of rain, therefore high humidity, and longer drying time between the stain and finish coats. With the rain we were back indoors painting bedrooms in a boys “cottage.” Each room was done with a base color and contrast color for one wall. The trim around the floor, window, and doors (4 in each room) was the opposite color of its wall. Between two coats of paint on everything and all the “trimming in” it took many hours to complete a room!
During our weeks off, we continued helping with room painting and finishing up the door refinishing. In all we had 145 volunteer hours and felt we eased some of the burden for the maintenance guys. A maintenance worker here spends the last few hours of each week day working with one of the “hired” ranchers (they must complete an application and interview). This allows the kids to learn some skills as well as have a mentor to share with. Some serious discussions and life decisions have been made during this time together.
We made a few bicycle trips over to the ranch, riding up and down the hills on the paved roads and making it through several mud puddles, wash-board gravel, and bumpy spots on the way to the “hard road.” The countryside around this area is pine forest and large cattle ranches, although we saw a few cotton and peanut fields and passed by a multi-acre spinach farm with the plants grown and harvested inside row after row of huge plastic greenhouses. It was interesting to learn about pine straw (raked in huge piles from between the pine forest trees, baled, and sold) as well as peanut straw (baled from the peanut fields after the harvest). We were also invited to eat an evening meal with one of the cottages where we were able to share our faith and testimonies and encourage them as well.
We split our Sundays heading 30 minutes north to Bellville Community Baptist Church (home church of our friends) and 15 minutes down the road to Suwannee Station Baptist Church (pastored by the Boys Ranch chaplain). All the preaching we heard had the same theme – Christmas is more than the birth of baby Jesus. We shared a few songs for special music and had a Sunday evening concert at Bellville Community Baptist Church with our focus being on “the bigger picture” of Christmas. We included several Christmas songs and invited the kids present to help out with some motions to one of the songs. Our Sunday evening concert at Suwannee Station Baptist Church was on December 30th and we shared some testimony and songs leading to a time of surrendering our disappointments and failures (those resolutions that didn’t happen) to God by writing them on paper and shredding them so as to be ready this new year for what God has planned for each of us.
Christmas Eve found us attending a wonderful church service in Jacksonville, Florida with our eldest son from Phoenix. We spent Christmas Day in St. Augustine (via our son’s rental car, a black Mustang!) walking around the old buildings and taking in some history from the first successful European colony in North America (1535) with the first Franciscan mission (1587). Most of the tourist sites were closed, but we peaked through the gates of the Fountain of Youth, surrounded with coquina walls. (Coquina, means tiny shell, is a mixture of shell fragments and sand held together by calcium carbonate. It is a sedimentary formation that is soft until molded and allowed to dry.) We enjoyed the old buildings, tree/moss canopies on several roads, and scenery along the waterfront. It was a bit breezy and as soon as the sun started to set it became very chilly, cutting short our visit to the lighthouse and walking on the pier where several pelicans were gathered waiting for the scraps from a man cleaning some fish.
Back at the camp we had a few evening fires, roasted some hotdogs and marshmallows with our Wisconsin/Floridian friends, enjoyed the wonderful fresh air, sun rising through the pines, and had some beautiful views of the moon coming up from the horizon as well. We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas season and we will continue our prayers for this New Year to find you healthy and prosperous in all you do!
We thank you all for your prayers, and our prayers for you continue . . .
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. (Colossians 1:9-12 NIV)
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
- January/February – Camp Horizon, Leesburg, Florida; north central
- March – Month off – Triple Creek RV Music Camp; northeast Texas
- April – Tentative – Ecclesia College, Springdale, Arkansas; northwest Arkansas
- May – Tentative – Lake Williamson, Carlinville, Illinois; central
- June – Tentative – Family travels central Illinois and southern Wisconsin