The Salt Shaker – December 2019

 . . . Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here that they may believe that you sent me.”  (John 11:41-42)

 I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.  (Psalm 17:6)

Praises – Answer to prayers for more enjoyable and less strenuous work, specifically woodworking; the camp filled our propane bottles; lots of harp practice

Prayers – Upcoming maintenance (trailer and van brakes/suspension); discipline to get healthier

 Greetings to our families, friends, and followers:

17 20191226_132919

What a blessing to meet with our host and receive our volunteer “jobs” for the month!  They try to match our skills with needs at the camp and did a wonderful job.  We started working on the t-shirt display boards where we took measurements and assembly-lined 54 new boards to have on hand as needed.  These previous themes and camps t-shirts are wrapped around the board and displayed around the dining room walls.  It is great just to walk around and read the various themes and scriptures; hundreds on display already!

As Connie finished up the t-shirt boards John started plans for the bathroom shelves and cut frame stock for 30” x 36” mirrors for the use in the lodge rooms.  After several attempts the table saw and chop saw were “squared up” making it easier to fit the pieces together.  We finished 7 frames and completed 4 with mirrors cut down from some older ones.  We completed one shelf unit and installed it for “final inspection” and approval.  With a slight modification to the height we were back in business for the remaining three shelf units to complete the remodeled lodge rooms.

Our second week we incorporated our demolition assignment, Connie’s highlight of the list!  We stripped out a lodge room down to the studs leaving one interior wall as a bathroom partition.  The weather had grown quite chilly in the mornings and that was a good way to stay warm since the heater in the room was still connected.  Sledge hammer, saws-all, pry bars, hammers, and muscles and all was cleaned out from the ceiling tiles to the framing attached to the concrete floor!  It was such a blessing to us that the camp here filled our propane bottles because it was cold (28 was our low) overnight and in the mornings, using the furnace and our electric heaters every day.  Eventually we got a heater for the shop which helped the morning chill.

SOWERs have an extra 2-week break for the holidays and we were warmly received to stay as long as we wanted.  That provided us additional time for volunteering as well as ministry to others.  One of the permanent volunteers had been with Texas Baptist Men’s ministry and was so glad to have someone to talk with, reliving her travel experiences.  She invited us to her church where we attended Bible Study and led worship one Sunday morning (New Prospect Baptist), shared some meals out, and made sure we took at least one morning break with her each week.  We were also able to share at the camp’s staff Christmas Party and participate in their gift exchange.  We made two small frames for our CD from scraps, finished them, and they were our gift exchanges.  John ended with a Star Wars Jedi action figure that he gave to one of the little boys and Connie ended with a 700-piece jigsaw puzzle and homemade chocolate chip cookies!  New Year’s Day was designated as “clear the table” day for putting the puzzle together, postponed until after we arrived in Phoenix!

We received a card at church for Somervell County residents to view Fossil Rim Wildlife Center with entry fee (normally $25.95/person) being a non-perishable food donation so we had the camp administrator write us a note that we were residing in the county and spent an afternoon driving around the park.  It was close to a safari experience with the animals coming right along the cars (of course many had purchased pellets to feed them).  We also took a morning to tour the Creation Evidence Museum, seeing evidence of dinosaurs and humans from excavations in the area, especially along the Paluxy River that runs through Glen Rose.

When we arrived here, we “toured” the grounds finding a beautifully landscaped prayer garden with hand-made mini water falls running through for a nice babbling-brook sound.  On going further there was a wonderful waterfall over the edge of the ridge.  As we walked up and down our hill, we circled the camp and were encouraged (and inspired) by inset marble memorial stones in the sidewalks with scripture verses.  One morning on our way to our work “shop” there were several deer inside the fence including a buck with a nice rack of horns that leaped over the fence – how beautiful and graceful!  Lots of gnarly trees along with various kinds of cactus too.  One dead tree had 8-10 buzzards on the branches warming themselves in the sun one morning and we saw several on our hill walks atop power poles; they really are very graceful and beautiful as they fly and have interesting bird talk that sounds a lot like dog growls.

Christmas Eve day found us touring downtown Glen Rose in t-shirts and finally making our way to Big Rock Park.  We found the “China Wok” restaurant as well as the “Shoo-Fly” ice cream parlor/gift shop knowing that we would go to both before leaving the area.  Christmas Day brought eggnog pancakes and homemade chicken and noodles as well as a hike on some trails down the ridge to the Brazos River.  (Spanish called it “Brazos del Dios” which means “The arms of God.”)  John skipped several stones across the river, the longest was 7 skips (and we have a video to prove it)!  Then there was the “turtle” in the river that turned out to be a tire.  We hiked back up through the rocks, quite a rugged climb, for a wonderful day alone.

15 Christmas Day 2019

There was a “things to see” sign at the County Building in Glen Rose that indicated a geological formation called Seven Knobs a bit south of the city.  Although we couldn’t find any information about how these were formed, we did drive by to see seven cone-shaped, cedar covered unusual hills.  While driving to church we took the “long route” to go through the town of “Eulogy” which amounted to a few empty buildings.  It seems one of the elder ladies in church was kidnapped as a practical joke after her wedding and left in Eulogy (eventually with her new husband) which she described was full of bars, interesting people, and rowdiness in those days.  There was also the adventure of waking at 6 am to a very cold wet bathroom floor in the trailer.  We had decided to leave the faucet “drip” overnight with freezing temperatures.  Connie, obviously not thinking clearly, put a rag in the sink to silence the dripping.  It did accomplish that but by early morning was soaked, pushing in the drain plug and causing the sink to overflow.  The positives, we had a clean floor and will never do that again!

16 20191214_133204Our final shelf units were ready for installation when we were delayed several days with some back problems.  After lots of ice, heat, and rest John was able to move and bend to install the units under the sinks and clean up the “shop” area before we left.  We stayed a day beyond our targeted leave date and enjoyed New Year’s Day watching football and leisurely packing up for our 3-day travel to Phoenix, Arizona.  Our Christmas wreath and lights came down and we venture into this New Year surrounded by God’s love for each of us as we continue in the spirit of the hope that Christmas brings.

 “God will heal your brokenness if you give Him all the pieces.”
“Don’t worry about tomorrow, God is already there.”
(These phrases were on plaques in the Women’s restroom at the camp office and they keep coming back to me (Connie) ~ may you find them encouraging as well)

 Thanks for traveling with us and supporting us with your thoughts and prayers!

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

Phone – John 909-336-8910 or Connie 909-336-8912      Email –
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                         Web site:

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  • January 3-31, 2020 – Phoenix Christian School, Phoenix, AZ
  • February 1-March 26 – Coachella Valley Rescue Mission, Indio, CA (southeast)
  • April – tentative month off, Bakersfield, CA area
  • May 1-June 30 – Pacific Bay Christian School, Pacifica, CA (west central)
  • July 2-August 27 – Warm Beach Senior Community, Stanwood, WA (north west)