The Salt Shaker – March 2018

Eunice, LA

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 – Our March Project Update

How deep the Father’s love for us,
how vast beyond all measure.
That He should give His only Son
to make a wretch His treasure.
(“How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” by Stuart Townend)

Greetings to all our family, followers, and friends:

Praises – Welcoming and gracious camp, extended stay, great meals in the dining hall prepared by “Miss Peggy” and her staff; a wonderful welcome back to the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church family.

 Answered prayers:  Open doors for music ministry, unexpected contacts for music in Illinois, scheduled music ministry at Christian coffeehouses and churches in Wisconsin for July.

Prayers Continuing regardless of obstacles to meet and plan music ministry; complete healing of back problems; funds for roof repair.

On our way to Louisiana we had our first tunnel to drive through as we went through Mobile, Alabama.  We purposely avoided the interstate tunnel in Phoenix in December 2015, but we are certainly more comfortable driving now.  It was the peak of crawfish season here and we saw many “boats” in the fields, some were walk behind, others had a paddlewheel at the back, bringing in the harvest.  We arrived about the same time as our two other SOWER couples, finding to our surprise that both were from Wisconsin (our home state for many years) and we had attended church with the parents of one couple!  As usual there was instant friendship that deepened as we got to know each other better.  Our devotions in the morning were attended by staff and other volunteers as well as our breaks, and there were plenty of snacks and meals that we were blessed with.

We reconnected with Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church about a block away (we were last here in November 2015).  We joined in with their Sunday School, service, and evening service as well as attending a movie night, and salad supper.  We were able to play for their Easter Sunrise Service on the island at the camp, as well as a concert March 18 with a “wee bit” of Irish music followed by ice cream, of course!  It was wonderful having lots of space to set up and practice in our trailer.

Our work was very physical here.  The ladies finished painting the outside of the lodge (hotel) room doors and trim (final count 30 1/2, both sides of one door) with one coat oil base primer and two or more coats of latex paint.  Connie removed the hardware and numbers, painted most of the lower trim work, and reinstalled the hardware at the end.  One of the other ladies did the “rolling” and the other the upper trim work since she didn’t need a ladder!  There were several stiff and sore mornings from all the kneeling and stretching.


The guys worked together at a house with rolling floors to replace the floor as needed.  In Louisiana homes are built on slabs, on pillars, or as this one above the ground with little air flow.  In this area you also hit hard clay about 12″ under the mud muck so houses remain stable but any rain/mud eventually causes rotting.  They cut through two layer of flooring to find the joists and some beams needing reinforcement or replacing.  By the end of the project they had completed all the beams and joists in the majority of this 3 bedroom home and had all the 3/4″ underlayment done.  John was the smallest and got to shimmy around on his back “under” the floor, squeezing under the joists to twist and pound in the reinforcing or new construction.

We took several walks around the pond, fed the fish (largest was palm size), tried to feed the shy ducks, finally saw the baby alligator new to the pond, and Connie saw two snakes in the drainage ditch on a longer walk,  We were serenaded especially in the morning by our bright green trailer frog, were careful not to roll them up in the awning, and were more careful unrolling the awning as they went scurrying about.  There was springtime all around us as the azaleas, white fringe tree, yellow and eventually purple iris bloomed.  We went as a group into Eunice to the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center where we saw a film on the history of Acadiana and the people who settled in this area, listened to a Cajun band, and learned about  “Loozianna” cookin’ and enjoyed shrimp etouffee (et-2-fay, similar to a highly seasoned cooked down stew over rice).  The camp director and his wife treated the SOWERs to a meal at Chef Roy’s in Frog City where we had fried alligator and eggplant fries as an appetizer, interesting and good.08 20180317_153750


All the conference center events were available for us to attend.  The first weekend was a marriage seminar and a Catholic engaged couples encounter (thought about our son and his fiancée as they have done this).  The second weekend was the ACTS men’s retreat (Catholic group:  Adoration, Community, Theology, Service).  The third was a ladies retreat with a wonderful speaker from South Carolina.  And our last weekend was another ACTS group, ladies this time.  Us SOWER ladies enjoyed this retreat and we all enjoyed the food!!

God has greatly blessed our endeavors to share our music ministry.  We have had several “business meetings” to dream and plan and pray about the directions to go.  John started making calls for taking a month off in July for ministry.  What a blessing and encouragement as we have reserved a place to stay and have five programs on the calendar already.

03 20180318_15172802 031818 Concert

“Our” plan was to leave on Tuesday March 27 to head to our home church and camp at Little Galilee in Clinton, Illinois for Easter.  In His wisdom God had other plans.  As we were preparing to start the “pack up” mode John picked up his mandolin (probably the lightest case we have) and his back went out.  After a few days of heat and ice and Tylenol we knew we would have to cancel our travel plans and two music events for our home church (Good Friday and Men’s Fellowship).  Although painful and slow in healing this setback kept us in the warmth of the south instead of 20’s and 30’s in Illinois.  Trailers are not well insulated and we don’t have much for “winter” clothing!

           For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

           For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.  (John 3:16-17)

Until next time, thanks for being a part of our adventures!

John and Connie Nicholas
Salty Strings Music Ministry

Contact Information:      Phone – John 909-336-8910 or Connie 909-336-8912
Email – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com     Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry
ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site:  SaltyStrings.com
MAIL ADDRESS:        John & Connie Nicholas ~ Salty Strings Music Ministry
255 N Sperry Street, Bushnell, IL  61422



  • April and May – back “home” at Little Galilee Christian Camp, Clinton, IL
  • June – southern Wisconsin Timber-Lee Camp, East Troy
  • July – Music Ministry Chippewa Falls, Black River Falls, Eau Claire; northwest Wisconsin
  • August – tentative, northeast Wisconsin Camp Lundgren
  • September – tentative, south central Michigan, Camp Michindoh
  • October – tentative, Potomac Park, Falling Waters, West Virginia



The Salt Shaker – February 2018

Friday, March 16, 2018 – Our February Project Update

For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies . .
For the wonder of each hour, of the day and of the night
Hill and vale and tree and flower, sun and moon and stars of light . . .
(“For the Beauty of the Earth” by Folliott Sandford Pierpoint)

Greetings to all our family, followers, and friends:

Praises – Van catalytic convertors replaced at less than quote; Connie’s first social security check; hearing from many of you following our updates!

 Answered prayers:  Lots of good walking paths; encouragement and contacts for future music ministry; Godly wisdom and guidance for unexpected needs.

Prayers Travel to central Illinois; mild weather once there; song selection for Good Friday and Men’s Fellowship music; trailer roof repair/replace; open doors as we make calls for Illinois music programs in April-May and Wisconsin programs in July.

We have had several lessons in flexibility since our last update.  On this project we lived off-site and traveled to two locations for our work.  That meant varying time schedules depending on which location we were working at.  The never answered ladies question was “and when are we leaving today?”  Our patience was also tried and tested at the SOWER reunion as our planned times and programs kept being modified.  Going with the flow and off the cuff is not always an easy thing to do, especially with music programs!

February 2 was a very short trip to our camp site at Lake Aurora; from the country north to the country east of Lake Wales (via the west/south as there are no roads anywhere else).  02 OfficeWe arrived, leveled, unhooked, and connected the electricity before a quick run back to town for a Chinese lunch then back for our meeting with 4 other couples.  It was great to be working with so many others.  We had beautifully landscaped large sites, orange groves around us, and the fragrance of orange blossoms in the air by the end of our stay.  Connie found fire ants (first major episode this season) within a few steps down the side of the trailer, along with gecko/lizards that scurried away as we walked anywhere.

Lake Wales Care Center (our project) receives wonderful support from the community and churches in the area.  They provide meals, counseling, a food pantry, dental and medical clinics, transitional housing, and a lot more.  In return their clients have accountability, ownership (through work hours with the ministry), and direction to get back on track as best for them and their families.  Because of all the different ministries they have multiple properties to take care of along with their offices, warehouses, thrift stores, and meeting areas.

The ladies worked together splitting their time between two thrift stores.  Although similar in operation the methods and rules for sorting, pricing, and display of donated goods varied greatly.  Each store had a “free bread day” where local grocery bakeries provided bread and sweets for the shoppers to take home.  One store was 2 items per person, the other store was 2 items per family — and there was always a line waiting to get in at this location.

The men worked in smaller groups most of the time finishing the walls and building book shelves for the “Book Nook” at one of the thrift stores, building shelves from odd lumber for sorting and storage at the other thrift store, moving things from a storage trailer into permanent storage, and remodeling a transitional living apartment.  Again it is amazing who God places together.  The skills to do bathroom tub tiling, replace patio doors with windows, leveling floors, using scrap lumber to make shelves, and matching in replacement hardwood strips were all available.

We had noticed our van getting more rattles for several months, especially on acceleration, and took it to a Christian mechanic who gave several options for replacing the catalytic convertors.  We chose to have both replaced with after market convertors (one was done about 2 years ago but wasn’t holding up the best).  When we arrived for our appointment the owner had his left hand bandaged up, he had lost a finger over the weekend.  Then he found they had sent the wrong convertors (guess the longer wheel base needed something different).  Then his welder quit and he had to purchase a new one!  The repairs were finished finally and the cost was less than the original quote, much to our surprise (but still used up most of Connie’s first retirement check).  You assume the worst when you hear “they had some problems while it was on the hoist” more than once.  So far we have no “check engine” light and it is so quiet we hear the sound of things sliding around!

February is a month of special events for us.  First was Valentine’s Day where the SOWER and independent couples joined for a group of 25 and went a bit south to the Jacaranda in Avon Park, Florida.  We had been here once before on one of our trips to visit John’s parents who wintered in Avon Park for many years – it was for breakfast though.  Second was John’s Birthday!  07 BirthdayHe has now officially joined the “seniors” even though he remains the youngest of our SOWER groups.  Connie had a surprise lunch in the works when John requested going to Perkins for French silk pie.  We combined a few errands with a Perkins lunch followed by a walk through downtown Bartow.  What a surprise when we arrived and saw the “Men in Black” coming towards us as we parked.  On walking further we found we were in the middle of a Sci-Fi convention complete with costumes, cars, booths, and displays.  John was thrilled!

At the invite of fellow independent campers we went to a Christian Missionary Alliance church where we found a wonderful Sunday School and service time.  Although we didn’t have an opportunity to share our music we were able to hear from a missionary couple from Spain who compared Spain with the parable of the sower; their soil is hard and trodden down with only the gypsies (who stay in their own communities) and those less fortunate (homeless, addicts) being open to the Bible.  We were also invited to Bok Gardens with a couple from church who have annual passes that allow them to bring guests, and they bought us lunch as well!  What a wonderful place to be in the spring; trees blossoming, multiple pots of orchids, and a huge bird of paradise blossom.

The gardens have grown so much since our last visit 10-15 years ago, but the tower remains as beautiful as ever.  The carillon music is now “televised” in a little park setting where you can watch the carillon “keys” being played (with the fleshy part of the side of the hand).  After the performance you can talk with the carillon player; ours was from Belgium where there are many carillons still in use.  Bok Tower has the largest carillon and the largest bell at 12 ton, played by a kick of the foot to a large lever.

We did get to share a little music at the camp before we left – the independent guys had been fishing for several months and did a fish fry (bass) with a potluck, concert, and campfire to end the evening!  10 Connie DulcimerMonday morning found us packing up for a 3 hour trip to Groveland, Florida where there were about 30 other RV’s parked for our SOWER reunion.  We adjusted our concert and devotion plans as there had been schedule changes.  It was a great time of fellowship and relaxing once we were finished with our music.  Spring is following us around, including the yellow dust (much like the red dust from the corn silos in central Illinois) that covered the outside (and some inside) of our van and trailer.

We hitched up again on Thursday morning March 1 for our two-day drive to Louisiana with hot temperatures, blooming pink/purple flowers and blue chicory in the ditches, and gusty winds as we headed west in the Florida panhandle.  By late afternoon we noticed a bulge in our trailer roof.  John investigated and taped it up with Gorilla tape at a rest stop.  Back on the road but then came the rain, a heavy downpour thankfully of short duration, with no leaks detected.  We kept the speed at 65 the rest of the trip and kept checking the roof; the winds died down for our second day of travel and the roof still bulged up a little bit.  We arrived outside of Eunice, Louisiana (Loouuusi-anna) mid afternoon ready to set up, get refreshed, and start our new project Monday morning.

As we served this month we were challenged in many ways.  One of the most impressive was hearing of the hardness in Spain along with being part of a ministry to downtrodden people in the Lake Wales area.  We had to ask ourselves “what are we doing with the time we have?”  There are so many needs around us, let us always have our eyes open for the opportunities to be a blessing to others.11 Sundial

Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  (Ephesians 5:15-16, NIV)

 So seize any opportunity the Lord gives you to do good things and be a blessing to everyone, especially those within our faithful family.  (Galatians 6:10, The Voice Translation)

 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.  (Colossians 4:5-6, NIV)

Until next time, thanks for being a part of our adventures!

John and Connie Nicholas
Salty Strings Music Ministry

Contact Information:      Phone – John 909-336-8910 or Connie 909-336-8912
Email – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com     Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry
ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site:  SaltyStrings.com
MAIL ADDRESS:        John & Connie Nicholas ~ Salty Strings Music Ministry
255 N Sperry Street, Bushnell, IL  61422


  • March – Acadian Baptist Camp, Eunice, LA
  • April and May – back “home” to Little Galilee, Clinton, IL
  • June – tentative, southern Wisconsin Timber-Lee Camp
  • July – tentative, Music Ministry in northwest Wisconsin