The Salt Shaker – November 2019

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:4-7 NIV)  

Praises – Van working; physical ability to volunteer extra time; Thanksgiving week off for much needed rest.

Prayers – Weather for 2 nights “dry” camp (no electric) as we travel the end of the December to Phoenix; for our families and many others who have lost loved ones this year.

Greetings to our friends, followers, and families:

We welcomed another SOWER couple for our November work at the same ministry in northeast Texas.  Our new gal volunteered in the sewing department and Connie joined the guys on a very physical and tough project – the pump house “makeover.”  Although a relatively small space (18 x 13) it is full of electrical boxes, motors, valves, conduit, and large pipes all of which needed to be prepared for new paint.  Connie spent several “full” days and tried at least once a week to sneak over to the sewing area for some respite as well as helping get their long-standing drapery project finished and starting to put an altered shirt back together.  She also finished her Family Camp craft projects, left unfinished for examples, in some free time.

John started with trying to power wash the outside of the building with no success due to mechanical problems.  This led to repairing a rotten section of board in the back before turning our time to the inside.  Almost three weeks of chipping, scraping, grinding, caulk, cement/grout repair, removing rust with a power chisel and grinders with wire wheels, taping off labels and gages, and finally wiping pipes with lacquer thinner in preparation for painting.  There were several nights we both used the massage chair insert to get relaxed and help the stiffness!  We worked in lots of dust, dirt, and fumes (with interesting results).

Connie did the ceiling, and the guys spray painted the electrical boxes and used special paint on the cement block, two coats.  The last scheduled volunteer day we agreed to add a few more days the following week and were able to get the second coat on the ceiling as well as the epoxy paint on the large pipes.  Our last paint day was a long one for the guys, mixing the epoxy paint around 3 pm to paint the large pipes and finishing about 8 pm.  As with all paint jobs you see the missed and thin spots the next day – a bit discouraging as we had to move on, but the other couple were staying and finished the touch ups.

We continued to attend Holly Tree Bible Church, almost getting through the final chapters of Revelation.  There were a few more Sundays with us providing some special music for the services as well.  John commented one Sunday “sure are a lot of interesting buckles, belts, and boots in Texas!”  On our way to church we pass a field with some Brahman cattle.  One morning there was the cutest face up close to the road looking at us as we drove by.  It was a mix of elongated cow face with short horns, rabbit-like lop-ears, and blood hound/shar-pei/mastiff face with big sad eyes.  We were camera prepared the following trips but he/she was never close to the fence or facing us again.

Every Friday morning found us making the 40-minute trip to Longview for Connie’s “surgery” appointments.  Medicare is a great help but you have to play by their rules, only one head cyst removal allowed each week.  Four trips (three surgeries with a final suture removal), 17 stitches later, and all the bumps are gone!  The pain was controlled with Tylenol the first day or two, and trying to avoid raising her eyebrows (surprising how much of your scalp moves).  This became our weekly grocery, shopping, and lunch date.

We had several nights below freezing (lowest was 19 degrees) when we unhooked the hose and used our trailer pump and tank.  There was a water pipe break one evening but it didn’t affect us since we were prepared for a few days with no “real” running water.  Most days were great weather for John to remove the vent covers, scrub the trailer roof, and get everything sealed up again.  We were able to have a few more camp fires, coaxed a shy “red” toad/frog to some rocks for a photo, and attended a staff/family early thanksgiving chili potluck with hot cocoa, apple cider, bonfire, and hayrides.  Each volunteer day of work earned us a special bonus of lunch and supper; what a great treat after hard days!  We took lots of walks and bicycle rides (after fixing flat tires on both bikes), and had a Sunday lunch at “Brisket Love BBQ” with about 16 other SOWERs in this area.

We thank you for your prayers for our van – although it was quite a test of faith and patience, we seemed to have the peace and wisdom needed for a positive outcome.  After more intermittent unshifting problems, the van “died” in the parking lot after surgery on a Friday.  We could hear the battery discharging and see the dials/needles spike as we waited for tow truck confirmation.  We walked across the street for a quick lunch at the hospital cafeteria, hurried back to meet the tow truck driver, were towed to the transmission shop, and arranged a ride home arriving back at camp mid-afternoon.  By 4 pm we had a call that they replaced the battery, the transmission checked out ok, and a test drive was fine.  We picked it up Saturday morning and within the typical 5-10 miles it unshifted again!  Back to the shop on Monday, of course no problems when the mechanic went for a test drive, but they replaced the speedometer sensor thinking that would solve it.  Tuesday pick up and all was well on the way home but Wednesday the automatic shifting was hard and weird a few times.  We decided to drive to McDonald’s Thursday morning for breakfast as another test drive to be sure before traveling with the trailer.  It was a good idea as we completely lost the speedometer as well as unshifting and other weird things.  We made phone calls as we ate breakfast and found the Chevy dealer was right across the street with time to run a computer diagnostic.  Thankfully the mechanic was willing to hear the whole story, test drove it, hoisted it up to reinstall the speedometer sensor correctly, and test drove it again 40 miles with no issues!  We were treated very well by the dealership and given gift cards to McDonald’s for our long wait through the lunch hour.

The initial diagnosis was a rebuilt transmission, up to three days without a vehicle, and $2200.  The final total we ended up paying was $213 plus whatever the speedometer sensor cost will be. We finally knew we would be able to leave after making our usual Friday trip with no vehicle problems!  God truly IS GOOD, all the time, especially in HIS timing.  We packed things up and were on the road about 11 am on Friday arriving within the time frame we arranged weeks before at our new project in Glen Rose, Texas.

As we entered Somerville County, Texas we came over a hill seeing a herd of buffalo (Bison Hill Ranch).  About 3:30 pm we arrived at Riverbend Retreat Center after a winding road and several cattle guards.  We apparently were more tired than we thought since neither of us could get the trailer parked where we wanted in a huge, wide-open lot!  We have a wonderfully steep almost 0.25 mile up-hill climb right outside the trailer to help us get in shape (and make our muscles sore the first few hikes) and two larger cities for shopping fairly close and lots of deer and a fox running across a camp road one evening coming back.  We changed a light to a pull chain (getting too lazy to stand up and push the button!); found the part and fixed our shower skylight; hiked around the retreat finding a wonderful prayer garden and small waterfalls; slept in several mornings, watched lots of football, and enjoyed the rest and wonderful weather throughout our Thanksgiving week off.  Thanksgiving Day found us at Corner Stone church with the pastor, family, and a few church folks that don’t have family in the area like us.  After a few more restful days we’re back to our volunteer schedule and ready to see what God has for us to do here!

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving     (1 Timothy 4:4  NIV)

Until next month – thanks for traveling with us and being part of our family ~
May each of you and your families have a blessed and wonderful Christmas!

John and Connie Nicholas, Salty Strings Music Ministry

Contact Information:      Mail:  John & Connie Nicholas ~ Salty Strings Music Ministry,
3916 N. Potsdam Ave. #3962, Sioux Falls, SD  57104

14 1028_173005849Phone – 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


  • November 21-December 31 – Riverbend Retreat Center – Glen Rose, TX (north central)
  • January 3-31, 2020 – Phoenix Christian School, Phoenix, AZ
  • February 1-March 26 – Coachella Valley Rescue Mission, Indio, CA (southeast)

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