The Salt Shaker ~ June 2020

I will praise God’s name in song.  I will proclaim his greatness with thanksgiving.  (Psalm 69:30 Evangelical Heritage Version EHV)

Greetings to our family, friends, and followers:

Praises – Trailer repairs went well and are finished; fellowship and being together; churches starting to open doors

Prayers – Texas RV park(s) for winter rest/relaxation; van/trailer brakes repair/replacement; school year on-site classrooms

Well, our two days of driving to our volunteer project in Pacifica, CA (just south of San Francisco) were hot, stressful, scary, and exciting as mentioned last month.  At the end of travel day one the freezer door was stuck and “fell apart” as we jiggled it open – not to worry, the panels slid back together fairly easy.  When we got into the trailer at the end of travel day two, we found the freezer door open with food thawing on the floor.  That made for some interesting and creative cooking!  Our first evening brought a full moon rising over the hills bringing peace into our hearts even with all our travel problems. 01 20200604_204448

We welcomed our first SOWER couple on Friday right before we left for a drive north to a music store.  Connie tensely drove through San Francisco, over the Golden Gate Bridge, through the tunnel, and into the suburb city of San Rafael.  We arrived about a half hour before closing to find we were only allowed into the entry of the store with everyone fully masked and trying to stay 6 feet apart.  The folk harp we went to see was brought to us, along with a tub to sit in on so Connie could try it out.  It was hard with the doors open, traffic noise, others coming and going, and not being in tune, to get a real feel for the sound but the levers seemed to work fine so we purchased a “new” harp – slightly smaller but a few pounds heavier.  After all the stops along the way, over an hour of driving, and trying the harp we really had to find a restroom (the music store was not an option due to COVID restrictions).  Thankfully there was a veterinary clinic a short walk up the road with the key to a public restroom that was much appreciated.  We conversed with the friendly receptionist finding she was from the Milwaukee area in Wisconsin.  Sometimes it is the small things of life that make all the difference!

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We started our volunteer work on Monday as a group of 4 and were joined on Tuesday evening with another SOWER couple.  Both of the couples joining us were on their first SOWER project but both had worked mission building trips before and had some idea of what it would be like.  The guys started on the roofs of the buildings, preparing and painting the vents – the salty mist in the air and fog from the ocean are very conducive to rust and corrosion.  There were also some days on their hands and knees filling cracks in the asphalt before a grant came through with the funding to have the seal-coating done professionally.  John fixed some window sills that were rotten (getting to use their wood shop), and caulked and primed them for painting.  The last 10-12 days were spent on a “quick” roof fix that ended up tearing out a lot of rotten wood, designing supports, fitting and rebuilding for much of the soffit and fascia on one 70’ side of the building.

John also spent a lot of time researching and watching videos online to get ideas to fix the back wall of the trailer.  We made a 40-minute trip to Home Depot for some materials for the repair with more shuddering brakes causing Connie to declare there would be no more road trips until they were fixed.  However, our first priority was the trailer repairs.  After we stored all the instruments in the “music room” of the school (where we gather for our morning singing, devotions, break time, and ice cream fellowship), John spent a few days to complete the repairs then moved on to washing and waxing both the front and back of the trailer so it could be caulked.  We could still use the van for our grocery trips but found we could bike and/or walk almost as easy.  The grocery stores and Ace Hardware are a mile or less, and McDonald’s is right on the route!

The ladies spent a few days washing shelves and hauling trash/recycling from elementary school classrooms where the teachers will not be coming back.  With all the COVID uncertainty the decision was made to not have K-3 classes this coming year causing several teachers to be let go.  There is a little animal farm with fancy chickens, goats, and bunnies that the kids enjoy.  The rest of our days were spent “landscaping” at both the elementary school (across the road and up a steep hill) and middle/high school grounds.   Our supervisor was the administrator who was quite handy at giving the plants and trees “haircuts” with the chain saw and bush trimmer.  We filled at least 17 pick-up truck beds with green waste which is dumped amongst the trees on the hill – that’s a lot of picking up and tossing!  There were about 25 seedlings to be potted as we cleaned up various areas, weeding, spreading wood chip mulch, and lots of watering of existing pots and transplants.  Connie spent a day cleaning up the greenhouse, put up some wood pieces for a hose hanger, and with a wee-bit of help from John fixed the door to the greenhouse shed.  As we worked along the fairly busy road, we were informed there is a “friend” that drives by who uses the “drug-free zone” in front of the school to dispose of his little vodka bottles – we found 17 one day in a block-long section!  We still look for (and find) them almost every time we walk the front sidewalks.

With all our travels we have gotten pretty good at adapting and reading the local weather, but not so here.  Mornings bring upper 50’s with clouds/fog, sometimes spilling over the ridge of the south hills which is very beautiful.  It is very green and sunny even though there was no rain all month, typical in the summer dry season here.  By mid-morning you are hot and changing into short-sleeves and by mid-afternoon to evening you have a jacket on even though the temperatures are in the lower 70’s.  We have spent a couple of afternoons checking instrument tuning as they adjust to the new climate, but it is great with low humidity and cool nights for sleeping – we haven’t used our air conditioners at all but do have the heaters on every night.  We have had a few days with some nice breezes and one very gusty day that rocked the trailer a bit, but nothing like central Illinois spring winds.  We are typically in Illinois/Wisconsin in spring and are really missing our friends and family being so far away.

Our first trip to the grocery store was a shock!  We haven’t had to shop for a lot of things for several months and the cost of living here is very high; seems like everything was $1 more than the expected price.  It makes one extremely thankful for the blessings we have had.  We had a lunch trip with our SOWERs at a restaurant down the coast; we had to sit outside of course.  It was a bit cool and breezy with no sun but the food and fellowship were great.  We put up our hummingbird feeder after a week and finally had some takers the 4th day; these are darker with lots of red around and on their heads.  The landscaping around the school has lots of blooming flowers we had to compete with.  Some things we do recognize for trees and plants sure look different here.

Almost every day we were walking or biking.  There is a creek that runs behind the high school property where deer hang out and it is not unusual to see them in the ball field dugouts in the evening.  One walk we came upon a racoon coming down the electric pole and onto the fence top to join his friend, less than 8 feet away.  Other than going for groceries there were a few trips by bicycle to the post office, great at the start but some fairly steep hills coming home!  Connie finished the baby blanket for Mila which incorporated crocheting from 3 generations.  The yellow diamond from Mila’s great-great Grandma, the pink and green from great-Grandma, and the remainder from her Grandma.  It was fun and very enjoyable, so Connie is researching some knitting projects to use up the many odd pieces of yarn she has.  We have also had some conversations on future travels and respite, and are hoping to find an RV park for some winter months to just relax.

But if we are living in the light of God’s presence, just as Christ does, then we have wonderful fellowship and joy with each other.  (1 John 1:7 The Living Bible TLB)

14 20200619_103906Please keep us in your prayers . . . and 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 909-336-8912      Email –
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                         Web site:

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site


  • June 8-August 27 – Pacific Bay Christian School, Pacifica, CA (central coast)
  • August 27-October 29 – Youth With A Mission, Chico, CA (mid-central)
  • September 21-24 – SOWER reunion, Turner, OR (north west)
  • October 29 – unknown, tentative leisurely driving to Texas