The Salt Shaker ~ February 2020

Jesus speaking: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  (Matthew 11:28-29)

Praises – For all the free food we’ve been given from the daily food run, a blessing to our grocery budget; For the generous donations from some of our friends, followers, and our home church, Lane Christian Church.

Prayers –For the Chinese immigrants making their new home here in California; For an RV site to open up in Bakersfield, CA for April; Guidance for travel plans for the west coast.

14 20200221_172739 Greetings to our friends, followers, and family:

We left right after rush hour for our “short” drive from Phoenix to Indio, California.  We filled our gas tank at Arizona mile marker 1 before crossing into California where gas prices were $1 higher!  On arrival we set up on part of the cement drive and hurried to a Chinese Buffet around 3pm to get the lunch prices.  We haven’t had a buffet for a long time and it made the perfect ending to our travel day.

After our meeting with our other SOWER couple we experienced our first “Bread Run” where the mission provides day old donations from local grocery stores to the public after they glean what they can use in the kitchen.  The mission provides 3 meals a day, 7 days a week, for about 350 people each meal with a budget of $2000/month!  There is food we’ve never heard of before and it has been a huge blessing for our grocery budget.  Our first volunteer day we had a tour of the rescue mission and learned a lot about their programs and clients; they do a great job here with a very high success rate in both the secular and Christian program.  We were able to hear the testimonies of 6 clients (what brought them to the mission and how they have been helped) as well as working with some that are further along in their programs.  After the first few nights we got used to the very noisy trains and are comfortable with the clients that gather around 5:30 am across the parking lot from trailer.

This month the guys and gals have been working separately.  John spent the first weeks in the dining room tearing out baseboard, putting up washable wall board with top trim, caulking and sealing all the edges and seams, and keeping the coffee area functioning.  It was a big job complicated by all the ministry that happens in this room throughout the day – work a few hours, wait until after lunch, work a few hours, wait until after the bread run, etc.  The last week was spent building a new dividing wall complete with some solid glass windows to separate the men and women intake areas.  This included framing, putting up drywall, and securing the window frames along with gaining several splinters and ouches.

Connie volunteered mostly in the “staging” area for the thrift store that is operated off-site.  This included the second round of sorting clothing donations, tagging, and hanging on racks to be taken to the store.  It was impressive to see what a few people can do with trucks full of donations – everything was sorted for the “store” or “re-donate” or trash.  Only the best of the clothing was kept for their store (new with tags or like-new).  Other sellable clothing was re-donated to other area thrift stores (approximate ratio of 1 keep, 5 re-donate, and 8 trash).  It really makes us think about what we have donated in the past!  There were a few days when it was too cold or windy to sort clothes outside that she was in the kitchen seeing how all the donated food was used – shredding cheese blocks for pasta, making grilled meat/cheese sandwiches, traying sausage links or patties, etc.  There was one morning spent helping 10 or more other ladies make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cut in half and individually bagged.  The goal was 6,000 half-sandwiches to be handed out at the “Tour de Palm Springs” annual cycling event.

Our week “off” of volunteering we spent touring around the desert area.  During this month we have had perhaps 2 days of clouds or partly cloudy skies, higher than average temperature of mid 70-80’s, and about 0.001 in rain (made up of sprinkles only) not helping their 5” shortage of average rainfall.  It is very obvious where landscaping and irrigation are, as well as the blocks of barren land that are Indian property.  Our first bike trail was 2-3 miles downhill which, of course, meant the same distance all uphill to end our ride.  We decided not to do that one again, although it was a great paved trail along a huge dry water channel at the base of the mountains.  Other bike rides were to Coachella where we passed a palm tree field with sheep and rode by our project 4 years ago, around the old downtown of Indio with lots of building murals and statues outside an old Catholic mission church, and through some of the ungated housing areas.  We re-discovered Red Box and rode our bikes to pick up our DVD rentals!  (Midway, 2019 and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Mr. Rogers; both are great movies.)

09 20200222_160435Something new this month, we didn’t have a direct connection to the sewer.  It was a surprise on arrival to find we needed to use a macerator pump supplied by the mission to empty our “black” tank.  We connected it to our trailer battery for power and our sewer hose, pulled the lever, turned on the pump, and our sewage is pulverized and pumped up hill to the waste pipe.  This was fine once we got the hang of it until it was stolen one evening.  On arrival there were 30-40 cardboard and blanket “tent-houses” on Indian land, where many homeless people sneak through the fence to get to the mission, that the county was working on shutting down and clearing the land.  The mission pump was stored in a large tote which we suspect was taken and used in their move; what a surprise they must have had in opening the lid!  By the time we knew it was missing everything left behind had been bulldozed and hauled away, most likely the pump along with it.  We can go about 5-6 days between “dumps” and needed to replace some of our old hose anyway so we quickly purchased 40’ of new sewer hose to empty our tank manually – using some of our old hose along with the new hose stretched across the parking lot (downhill for a short distance, then uphill), “working” our way along the 60’ length, lifting up sections of the hose to get it to drain.  We now have great respect and truly appreciate the new macerator pump!

Coachella Valley Christian Church, where we attended 4 years ago, again invited us to join with their worship team as well as leading the team 2 Sundays while the Pastor and his wife were on a tour of Israel.  This kept us quite busy with Wednesday and Sunday practices, Sunday School on Sunday mornings, and Tuesday evening Bible Study; but it has been great to be with old friends as well as meeting new ones.  There are 9 people from China (3 generations) who are trying to become citizens after fleeing China from persecution, including imprisonment several times.  They have been here since June 2019, working through the process to get asylum which would provide them with green cards and social security numbers, so they can get employment.  Pray for them as their funds are very limited now and they don’t want to accept money or help from anyone.  Seven of this family were baptized by immersion one Sunday, this is not possible in the underground church in China.

We have been eating out a bit more this month:  Valentine’s Day we were at an Italian restaurant, we shared a happy hour appetizer at the “Jackalope” and some lunches after church, and made two trips to Cold Stone Creamery for wonderful ice cream (once as a social time with our other SOWER couple, and once with a coupon for John’s birthday).  The Jackalope Ranch is an interesting place with beautiful gardens with fountains, honeybell orange trees, stuffed “jackalopes,” “Babe” the pig, a wood motorcycle, and round high tables with rifles for the legs.  (A honeybell orange is a cross between a grapefruit and orange, with a sweet flavor a bit milder than a red grapefruit.)  Flowers abound, irrigated of course, and the rescue mission courtyard has yellow, red, purple, and orange flowering plants and trees.  Our favorite we named the maraca tree, purple flowers that smell like grape bubblegum and pods with two hard seeds that shake like a maraca.  On further investigation it is a mountain laurel tree and the pods/seeds are poisonous.  There will be lots of flower pictures next month as we stay on here in the desert springtime.

Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’  (Matthew 25:37-40 The Message Bible)

Until next month – thanks for traveling with us!
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 909-336-891
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry
Web site:

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site


  • February 1-March 30 – 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)
  • September – tentative month off, Washington or Oregon state
  • September 21-October 29 – Aldersgate Camps and Retreats, Turner, OR (north west)