The Salt Shaker

News

The Salt Shaker – January 2020

 Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will reap a crop of my love; plow the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower salvation upon you.  (Hosea 10:12, The Living Bible)

Praises – Great time with family; Arizona sunshine; cushioned track at school with bleachers for walking and exercise.

Prayers – Upcoming maintenance (trailer and van brakes/suspension); time management for recording and exercise; RV site to open up in Bakersfield, CA for April; guidance as we make travel plans for the west coast.

 Greetings to our families, friends, and followers:

Ever had one of those days where your plans just didn’t work?  That was Wednesday morning, New Year’s Day.  We drove a half hour to stock up on non-perishable Aldi’s groceries but they were closed for the Holiday; then we purchased a few items elsewhere to get our 100 points for a gas discount only to find most of our points expired 12/31.  So much for planning!  We finished packing up and had one final LP tank refill, a blessing provided by the camp during our stay.  Thursday morning we leisurely had breakfast and hooked up, stopped by the office with a few things, picked up some coffee and hot chocolate to go and headed out for 2 hours of back highway driving.  Day 1 of travel included a stop at a rest area where we found a good chisel on the road and an interesting dead tree.  Throughout the day there were cotton fields, goats, sheep, cattle, windmill farms, large dairy operations, and increasing numbers of oil pumps and refineries as we neared Midland, Texas for our overnight stop at a campground for electricity for lows of 28-30.

Day 2 was long, starting with rain and mist in the morning and catching a rock chip in our window.  It was all interstate driving plus we gained an hour.  We exited Texas after El Paso, drove through New Mexico, and into Bowie, Arizona for our overnight stay at another campground.  Again, overnight temperatures found us needing electricity for our heaters but we had a wonderful view of the sunset on the mountains to our east along with snow on the tops of the southwest mountains.

Day 3 was much shorter, treating ourselves to lunch at Denny’s in the Tucson area and arriving at our destination, Phoenix Christian Preparatory School (Pre-school to 12th grade), around 2 pm.  We were the last to arrive and managed to get into our spot, a very tight fit, on the third try.  Our space was at the end of the football field and track, parallel parking between a motor home and a fifth wheel.  We were tight to the fence (had to pull in our slide to access the outside storage door) and still had our wheels and a slide hanging into the track lanes.  We de-stressed by walking around the track and enjoyed our pizza supper special delivered by our son.  We were here four years ago; it is good to be back.

04 20200106_162258Connie took advantage of the empty table from traveling to start her Coco-Cola jigsaw puzzle Sunday after church, finishing it Monday afternoon.  It was taken apart in sections and stacked in a bag for thrift store donation and the table was ready for office space the next day.

Our SOWER organization was 5 couples and we had an additional 3 couples with the RVIC organization to accomplish sprucing up before the school’s open house at the end of the month.  John spent most of his time at the elementary school courtyard, “Shelly’s habitat” that was renovated into a fenced planter and green-space area.  Shelly is the approximately 40-year-old tortoise that was on site.  She went to a new, more spacious home after our first week; turns out she was an escape artist, quite often breaking out of her white picket fence area, along with concerns about her digging under the sidewalks.

05 20200113_141324Our first week found John under the weather with a flu bug of some sort.  He attended devotions and “worked” the first day, then spent the rest of the week and weekend resting and recovering.  He even quit drinking coffee for several days!  Connie mustered the courage to drive alone in the Phoenix traffic to take the van to north Phoenix for windshield repairs and get groceries.  It is amazing how much we do together and get used to having the extra eyes, ears, and hands in navigating detours and such.

The second week John gradually built up strength and put in some extra hours under the tutelage of a wonderful cement worker.  He dug and formed for the new fence, mixed cement, shoveled it into the forms, “planted” the fence, finished the cement surface, and cleaned and touched up the paint on the fencing.  Other tasks included digging trench to relocate water lines and sprinklers, another learning experience.  The planters, built as directed by other volunteers, involved lots of labor as well.  The guys shoveled dirt into the planters, emptied them, used caulk on the inside joints, painted dry-loc on the blocks (inside and outside), refilled the dirt, and painted the finish coat on Friday before the open house.  The plants were added late Friday and early Saturday morning; a wonderful transformation completed.

As we worked we had to be patient with curious children and explain to them why we were painting and fixing things.  There were a few that appointed themselves supervisors, telling us how to do our jobs, and informing us that when they were in charge things would be different!  We also shared with teachers and church members what we do and why we were here, reinforcing to us how blessed we are to be able to travel and volunteer (see 1 Timothy 6:6-8 at end of letter).

Connie spent her time in the church attached to the elementary school, ripping out baseboard, painting in the sanctuary, and eventually painting some bright colors on the elementary room doors before the open house.  Since we were here 4 years ago the school has acquired this property, across the street, already set up for elementary school/church along with the pre-school building they were leasing.  The school uses the church for weekly devotions for all age groups and gains income by leasing it to a church plant for Sunday services.  What a wonderful transformation with clean white walls, removing the window shades for light to come through the lightly tinted glass panels, and new carpeting.

10 20200121_184534We had our devotions every morning in the teachers’ lounge with our other volunteer couples, combining 3 tables and most of the chairs, causing some heads to turn as they hurried in for their morning coffee.  We joined with our other volunteers on Tuesday evenings for a “social” night and Wednesday evenings for Bible Study which was typically provided by one of the school staff.  It was interesting hearing some stories about the staff people and their roles at the school.  There was a magician from the RVIC group that entertained one social night and we were able to provide a short concert for the volunteers the last social night.  All had a great time as we shared some of our songs, some familiar hymns and sing-alongs, and even a brand-new, never before played in public song (even getting good feedback!).   It energized us to work at recording as well as making some time to maybe get some video clips to our web site.

Our last weekend we were able to spend some time with our son (from Phoenix) and our daughter and her friend who flew in from Wisconsin.  On Saturday we took a late morning hike, completing the full trail at North Mountain, followed by a taco and homemade custard pie lunch at our son’s house.  Then it was siesta time before we met at a restaurant in Scottsdale for a wonderful evening meal.  We were all able to meet again on Monday for donuts and conversation before their flight back to Wisconsin.

Other social events included meeting half-way at Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa, Arizona with SOWER friends, lunch out at Cracker Barrel with our SOWER couples here, dinner out with our son and his friend followed by a stop at a great little out-of-the-way home-made ice cream shop for dessert.  On the way back to our trailer our son took us past an arts district that we managed to find again for some day time pictures of the blanketed palm trees.  They are literally “wrapped” in knit/crocheted afghans and stay that way throughout the year!  There were also multiple stops at various Walmart stores and Home Depot trying to find new knee pads for John – and we are still looking; guess they don’t spend a lot of time on their knees in Arizona.

13 20200129_140857Thursday, January 30, found us having our final lunch with our son at “My Mother’s Place” where they are known for their prime rib, which Connie greatly enjoyed before starting to pack up for our trip to southern California.

But godliness actually is a source of great gain when accompanied by contentment, that contentment which comes from a sense of inner confidence based on the sufficiency of God.  For we have brought nothing into the world, so it is clear that we cannot take anything out of it, either.  But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.  (1 Timothy 6:6-8 Amplified Version)

Thanks for traveling with us!  We so appreciate your prayers and notes of encouragement!!

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 – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                         Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • 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
News

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 – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                         Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • 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)
News

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 – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry
Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • 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)
News

The Salt Shaker – October 2019

PraisesA week off with extra days to relax between volunteer projects; lots of meals provided by our host with homemade bread and few desserts, a great blessing to the food budget! 

PrayersFinancial concerns (early filing for social security?); van transmission and other parts as it has 196,000+ miles; recording more songs.

Greetings to our friends, followers, and families:

Jesus speaking . . . “So I tell you, don’t worry about the things you need to live . . . Don’t worry and say, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’  That’s what those people who don’t know God are always thinking about.  Don’t worry, because your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things.  What you should want most is God’s kingdom and doing what He wants you to do.  Then He will give you all these other things you need.  So, don’t worry about tomorrow.  Each day has enough trouble of its own . . .
Matthew 6:25, 31-34  ERV (Easy-to-Read Version)

This month starts our 5th year with SOWERs!  Where has the time went?  This is our 39th SOWER volunteer project, we have spent 5 months volunteering at Little Galilee in Clinton, IL and have had 5 months off “project” work staying at camp grounds providing music and help to our families.  Life has been so good and we are very aware of how God keeps using us and blessing us along the way.  It is a privilege to be able to serve our amazing God in this way!

Our first week in northeast Texas was very hot and humid!  We put up our hummingbird feeder and within two days had one lone bird.  The feeder was adopted for a few days by a sparrow, then the bees gathered as the temperatures dropped.  We attended R-night (new Recruits starting their 8 weeks of “basic” training) where we randomly adopted a Canadian recruit to pray for.  John was digging, laying, and packing sand/dirt around an 8” water line to an outlying building.  After three days they were able to pressure test the fittings, with success, and start the final burying process.  John finally got into some fire ants while digging and has a better appreciation for all the bites Connie usually gets.  Connie helped clean up the sewing room for the recruits to get fitted for their uniforms, in an assembly-line fashion, then sort and stack the correct sizes for each recruit.

Week two was just about perfect weather allowing for lots of walks and bike rides (after fixing a flat on Connie’s bicycle) and getting our South Dakota license plate on the van.  One morning there was a leaf twirling around in the breeze about a foot from the ground; on closer inspection it was hanging from a spider web strand off our awning.  As we were able to enjoy the outdoors, we noticed many different kinds of trees, the most interesting being Magnolia trees in the fall with their shiny leaves and pods of red berries.  One evening before leaving for dinner we had to wait for a butterfly/moth to fly off of Connie’s pocket!

John graduated from ditch digging to repairman diagnosing and repairing some washers and dryers, replacing electric plugs, and finishing woodwork repairs and touch-up paint in two dorm rooms.  He was quite at home and glad to get to use the wood shop here!  Connie continued in the sewing room, helping with a few alterations, pressing shirt sleeves for patches, and sewing name tapes (embroidered lettering) on the field jackets and short sleeve shirts.  There was a power outage one morning causing them to relocate to the end of the dining room to keep sewing.

Our third week of this project was “Family Camp” with lots of families and kids in dorm rooms and the camp ground.  Good speakers, good fellowship, a mini-orchestra with two harp players, lots of activities like all camps, and yucky rainy cold weather the first few days!  Connie was recruited to help with the sewing and crafts; 3 to 4 hours each day with a different sewing project or craft every day for 5 days, plus the time to learn how to make each sewing project.  It was a lot of standing on cement or stone tile floors but well worth it as she helped kids (and a few adults) make projects they could use.  John was recruited to help with the “golf cart” races one rainy morning – very few showed up and some of the races were between 4-wheelers and human runners.  His second recruiting was for the “white washing” competition where teams (mostly kids) primed sections of the pasture fencing after he spent a day prepping multiple fence sections to bare wood, using the clapboard planers (grinders) he repaired.  There was lots of flying paint and some unique painting styles as well!  Family Camp ended with a cookout at the lake, slide show of the campers, and a great firework display without all the big bright-white booms.  It was wonderful to sit within 100 feet of the shooting area and have the fireworks so close, one of the best displays we have ever seen!

It seems the majority of our married life we have lived “away” from a larger town with good shopping and our life on the road is no different.  Connie’s birthday included a trip to town (Longview) and lunch at Golden Corral along with the usual grocery shopping.  Her birthday also brought Medicare benefits and an appointment to check out the “bumps” on her head.  On our way to the initial visit the van “unshifted” causing some panic since we had not obtained roadside assistance coverage yet.  After pulling off the road and restarting the van, all was well, we made it on time for the appointment, and got the roadside assistance coverage the next day!  The initial visit was successful, removal is covered by Medicare but only one each week so three appointments were made to remove the sebaceous cysts and God granted favor with the doctor who removed the skin tag on her eye “free of charge.”  This trip to town included 10 stops in 8 hours, one of which was for lunch that made us both a bit queasy for a few days.

We attended “Cowboy Church” one Sunday morning where there was a baptism in a big water trough, a bit different.  Our other Sunday’s found us back at Holly Tree Bible Church where we provided some special music and an attended an evening fellowship potluck.  There are four SOWER projects in this area and we all joined together for another potluck meal one evening.  John was able to visit a “little” guitar shop in a very small town only to find that customers come from all over the world to visit this shop and get repairs done.  He tried out a few guitars before realizing the price tags were $10,000-$15,000!  We also found Brookshire’s grocery store has great Jalapeno bread and the best fried chicken of anywhere we have been!  Connie even got her harp out of the corner, tuned it up, and has practiced almost every day (which John enjoys).

We finally took a full week off, no extra volunteer hours or activities, and relaxed along with getting some of our “to do” things done.  John started buffing/polishing the trailer along with cleaning and sealing the roof.  We had a couple of camp fires with chilly evenings helping to reduce the wood we have been carrying around for just such a time.  Our focus for the week was to record some of our songs and we managed to establish the logistics and get some good tracks made in spite of being sick part of the week.  Best of all, we don’t have to move anywhere ~ it truly is a blessing for us to stay at the same project for two months!

The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field, the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.  But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children – with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
Psalm 103:15-18 NIV

Until next month – thanks for traveling with us!
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                         Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

<*>MAIL ADDRESS: <*>
John & Connie Nicholas ~ Salty Strings Music Ministry,
3916 N. Potsdam Ave. #3962, Sioux Falls, SD  57104

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • October 28-November 21 – ALERT Academy – Big Sandy, TX (northeast)
  • November 21-December 31 – Riverbend Retreat Center – Glen Rose, TX (north central)
  • January 6-January 31, 2020 – Phoenix Christian School, Phoenix, AZ
  • February 1 – Coachella Valley Rescue Mission, Indio, CA (southeast)
News

The Salt Shaker – August/September 2019

God said . . and . . the earth sprouted and abundantly produced vegetation, plants yielding seed . . . and trees bearing fruit . . and God saw that it was good and He affirmed and sustained it.  And there was evening and there was morning . . .
Genesis 1:11-13 (Amplified Version)

Praises – Recovery from colds; travel protection; safe arrival after each move; God is good!

Prayers – Discipline as we take steps to better improve our health; recording some songs

Greetings to our friends, followers, and families:

We have had a lot of traveling days through old and new territory since our last update!  Our trip to Bushnell mid-August included a pasture full of what we have named “Oreo-cookie cows” and calves (belted Galloway) followed by a pasture of seven camels both one and two humps!  On arrival we parked at a cousin where we were able to hook up to water and electric from the garage, across the park from John’s family home.  Although hot, we had air conditioning and fans and were quite comfortable for our 5-day stay.  After a brief detour to dump our waste tanks, we moved east to Little Galilee Christian Camp outside of Clinton, IL.01 camels 0819 1

The first week at Little Galilee we volunteered 27 hours including putting up baseboard in the “penthouse” of the new dining hall and lots of power washing of dining area floors and shower room walls and floors.  We drove back over the weekend to Bushnell for the funeral and were so encouraged by the conversation and comments on how Shirley (John’s Mom) touched so many lives.  What a legacy to leave!  Back at camp we help out with another 82 hours of labor over the next three weeks plus preparing and leading worship sessions for Labor Day weekend Family Camp.  John had more power washing to do, cleaning a few cabins, fixing a few things, and prepping and painting a total of 25 metal exterior doors.  Connie helped remove the tape from metal studs (after the foam sealant was sprayed) in preparation for drywall installation at the new dining hall, and then organized all the kitchen areas in the six cabins assuring guests would have enough plates, cups, silverware, etc. for the cabin capacity.  Our trailer site gave us views of deer playing on a gravel pile, hummingbirds at our feeder, and wonderful sunsets.  The camp grounds allowed for lots of bike riding and a dip in the pool.

Our home church (Lane Christian Church) hosted this Family Camp so it was a wonderful time of being with many of our church family.  We were quite blessed with all the comments we had for the songs we chose for the various sessions as well as what we received from the morning devotions and speakers.  While in our home area we were able to connect over some meals with many friends and Connie even played piano once a week for the residents at Eagle Ridge in Decatur.  This brought back many memories and, as usual, a blessing to both the residents and us.  We will try to do this more often as we continue in our travels!

September 15 found us back on the road again for a two-day trip to central Minnesota for a reunion of area SOWERs (Servants on Wheels Ever Ready).  Along the way we stopped for gas in Iowa at “The World’s Largest Truck Stop” where we found backed up gas lanes and people leaving their cars at the pump while they shopped.  A bit too busy for us, but many interesting things to see there.  We went by “What Cheer, IA” with their “Pleasant Stay Inn” and stopped for our overnight stay in a Walmart lot in Albert Lea, MN before arriving outside of Long Prairie, MN the next afternoon.  It was extremely hot for mid-September in Minnesota, but the trees had started to change color just a bit making it feel more like fall.05 IA MN Travels

Our devotion music and concert for our fellow volunteers went well and we met many “new to us” from our SOWER family.  It was a great time with a 50’s theme allowing John to use his electric guitar for their talent night, something he really looks forward to since it is much too loud to play in the trailer!  With all the music over Connie was able to join in a card game of “Hillbilly Rummy” which is a treat for her (even though she ended in last place).

Thursday September 19 found us again on the road headed southwest to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  Mostly highway traveling gave us time to notice this part of Minnesota – wetlands, changing colors, farms, logging, horses, pasture of mini-horses and worn out farm implements, elk farms, lots of lakes, bald eagles, granite falls, windmills (the new kind) and fields of solar panels.  Going through Belgrade we passed their Centennial Memorial (2012) of the world’s largest crow, several Sinclair gas stations (thought those were extinct), and the Fagan Fighter Museum (WWII) just south of Granite Falls with P51’s noticeable from the highway.  We arrived mid-afternoon, got set up and were looking forward to a few days of rest and quiet – then the F16’s flew overhead!  Connie plugged her ears for the second one, and we tried over the next few days to get pictures but they kept changing their flight route getting further away.  The little gray triangle in the middle is a F16!

We were able to get our driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations, and new plates all done on Friday with lots of patience, one second visit, and several long lines to wait in.  That left the rest of our time for relaxing, enjoying a guided tour from a fellow SOWER couple, visiting the downtown area, and walking around the waterfalls.  (Just a few days before our arrival three tornadoes and heavy rain caused some flooding and damage.)  Tower Campground was quite large with lots of trailers, great weather during our stay, and very friendly squirrels.  They would enjoy the bird seed and bread we put on the table and seat, not minding us sitting a few feet away.

Then there was morning and evening (day one of our three-day trip south) and it was good.  As usual there were several stops in the first few hours, getting our schedules aligned to days of travel.  The weather was mostly cloudy which is great for traveling south, but lots of flood damage as we passed into Iowa with boats, RV’s, trailers, and soccer fields in and under water.  We detoured around Council Bluffs, IA/Omaha, NE due to interstate closures from flooding, putting us on state roads that went through Wahoo, York, and Hebron Nebraska where we passed a Sinclair gas station with the dinosaur!  We were in four states (South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas) ending the day at Walmart in McPherson, KS.  Of note, Iowa has two kinds of rest areas; some “modern” with facilities and others for “rest” only!

Then there was morning and evening (day two) and it too was good.  Our first sighting of oil rigs and a very long horned longhorn steer were in Kansas!  We had some beautiful clouds, of course the photos did not turn out, but they looked like God was looking down into the white clouds and gently circling them with his finger (kind of like stirring the foam of a Frappuccino).  Kansas had a lot of sorghum fields as well; trivia of the day–Kansas leads the nation in the production of both wheat and grain sorghum (milo).  We also found lower Oklahoma and north Texas to be hilly and rolling with clouds meeting the fields at the horizon.  We usually take a longer early afternoon break on long drives, and this was no exception with a stop at Cracker Barrel in Norman, OK.  It was good to be fueled up when, shortly after leaving, we hit multiple areas of road construction slowdowns, one lasting 45 minutes for 8 miles!  We arrived, a bit later than we hoped, staying another overnight at Walmart in Sheldon, TX with no electricity for an extremely hot night.

Our final travel day started with a beautiful sunrise followed by nothing when we turned the switch to start the van!  After several false tries, popping the hood, and a lot of conversation and self-diagnosing, John realized the shift lever wasn’t fully in the Park position.  We won’t say who parked it the night before!  This was our musical city day, passing through Bell and Celeste, Texas.  We arrived just before noon to our volunteer work project east of Big Sandy, TX where we got set up, turned on the air conditioning, relaxed, took a leisurely bike ride, and a short walk to finish out the day.

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.  1 Timothy 4:4 (English Standard Version)

Thanks for traveling with us!  We so appreciate your prayers and notes of encouragement!!  Let us know what you’ve been doing too!
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                         Web site:  SaltyStrings.com
ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

<*> NEW MAIL ADDRESS: <*>
John & Connie Nicholas ~ Salty Strings Music Ministry,
3916 N. Potsdam Ave. #3962, Sioux Falls, SD  57104

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • September 27-November 21 – ALERT Academy (2 months) – Big Sandy, TX (northeast)
  • November 21-December – Riverbend Retreat Center – Glen Rose, TX (north central)
  • January 2020 – Phoenix Christian School, Phoenix, AZ
  • February 2020 – Coachella Valley Rescue Mission, Indio, CA (southeast)
News

The Salt Shaker ~ July/August 2019

A Patriotic Thought for July (paraphrased from a devotion we read)

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.”  (Deuteronomy 7:9)
It’s been 243 years since the Declaration of Independence was signed.  Since then, ten generations of Americans have enjoyed the multitude of freedoms the United States has to offer . . . And just as God kept His promise to the Israelites, He will keep His promise to you. . .God will be faithful “to a thousand generations” – 100 times longer than the United States’ existence!  God has no intention of giving up on you.  Thank Him for his faithfulness.  Pray that He would guide you as you walk through life.

Praises – We were able to be with Connie’s family and some of our kids throughout the month; lots of repairs, cleaning, sorting, and items sold covering our expenses; fall/winter plans made for projects; wonderful music programs!

Prayers – Comfort, peace, and direction for John and his family in the passing of his mother; Family Camp worship music (8/30-9/1); protection and travel mercies as we venture into new areas in September; music ministry opportunities looking forward to fall projects.

Greetings to our families, friends, and followers:

July 1 (Monday) found us packed up and on the road to rural Shirland, IL, a very small community almost at the Wisconsin border.  We planned on stopping for lunch in Galesburg, IL where we found our “new” restaurant to be closed!  Phones are so wonderful now days; we parked in an abandoned mall lot and searched for places to eat where we would have enough room to maneuver with our van and trailer.  Back on the road we crossed the Rock River 5 times before arriving!  This was a familiar route also from our travels from Wisconsin to John’s family in Bushnell so it was great passing landmarks.  Along the way there were still many overflowing creeks and rivers, water in fields, and patches of little growth in the farm fields.

We arrived at Sugar Shores Campground on the banks of the Sugar River, which we lived on further north in a galaxy far, far away (1980’s).  It was very hot and the parking was tight, but John got the trailer backed in on the first try!  We didn’t spend very much time at our trailer but did enjoy the swimming pool a few times and the mini-golf course once before we left.  Our phone signal was 1 tiny bar most of the time, and wifi was not available so there were numerous hours spent at McDonald’s connecting to the internet and making phone calls.

Our music ministry flourished this month.  We had one scheduled “vacation” job in Osseo, WI where we shared last year and picked up two other programs as we visited and met with friends.  We traveled to Osseo leaving at 1pm to avoid the north-bound interstate traffic on a Friday (it was still very busy and backed up in places).  Our van was packed for music and spending a few nights away from home where the church pastor had his trailer set up outside the church for our two-night stay.  He and his wife invited us to dinner Friday night and drove us around as the clouds thickened and winds blew through, arriving back at the church before the rains started.  There was lots of damage further north but the trailer barely moved.  We were able to set up and practice throughout the day Saturday, enjoying our time off.  Finding ourselves with an empty freezer we just had to purchase a quart of ice cream, meaning we had to eat it all before leaving (not our smartest decision, but good!).  Sunday’s service was wonderful with the “sermon” from us on the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5) with lots of songs.  There was fellowship time and a meal following the service, then we packed up and headed back home.  We decided to get off the interstate and take back highways which led us through more memories – our first (and only) cross-country skiing and the “blessing of the tractors” in Black Earth with our church praise team!

One of our friends lives at Rock Bay Harbor in Beloit where we shared an hour of music including old favorites and hymns for the very thankful residents.  We also were able to do a program for the residents at Suites at Beloit (Pioneer Court) where Connie’s mom lives.  Both were wonderful times of sharing, being blessed, and being a blessing to residents as we talked with them afterwards.  We haven’t had much opportunity for this ministry for quite a while.

Our primary goal for this month plus was to help clean, organize, sort, throw away, and sell some things from Connie’s mom’s house of 65 years.  This meant an almost daily commute 30 minutes each way from Shirland to Beloit, WI.  What memories, and what appreciation for all the things Mom was involved with.  She canned, caned, refinished, refurbished, knit, crochet, collected, sewed, danced (square, barn, and line), cared for others, traveled, bowled, and the list goes on.  Added to that was Connie’s Grandmother’s possessions including lots of photos, papers, salt & pepper shaker collections, sewing machines, etc.  Each box opened was a surprise!  After every trip we could look back and wonder where it all kept coming from.  By the end of our six weeks things were looking hopeful for an end being in sight.

Connie was also kept busy with trips to track down paperwork, attorneys and accountants for her brother’s estate.  Each trip was successful and the hard work is pretty well done, allowing for restful nights and being ready to travel south for the winter.  John spent quite a bit of time being her chauffeur and patiently waiting with little to do.

It was a great six weeks, very hot most days, and lots of time spent with family reminiscing of things in the past.  It was fairly easy for us (to not want to keep things) since our space is so limited in the trailer, but much harder for others.  There are enough boxes of “things to go through” to last for a few years – photos, jewelry, spoon and plate collection(s), and of course the “what do we do with this?” boxes.  Connie met her goal of cataloging and putting all the collectible plates into their proper series or collections.  Last/final count – 275!

On deciding we were staying another week or two we found our spot was already reserved which meant a move.  We chose another campground 3 miles closer and much cheaper for our additional time.  We were able to have two Sunday night camp fires with friends coming over for a hot dog roast and supper.  We found ourselves at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church just south of Rockton where we enjoyed great messages, music, and fellowship.

15 20190804_112346We added the sixth week knowing John’s mother was declining in health, thinking we could go to our next camp via Bushnell, IL to check up on her and the family.  We received a call that she was in home hospice and left a day early (Tuesday 8/13) to park in a lot next to John’s cousins house for a few days.  We were able to finish up the kitchen wallpaper removal and painting (left from our June visit) and it was a great blessing to be there and with family when she passed into heaven at 11:30 pm on Friday (August 16).  Lots of tears and sadness along with the comfort of knowing she is in heaven and no longer in pain or suffering.

16 20190702_181106Thanks for traveling with us and supporting us with your thoughts and prayers!

“And may the God of peace himself make you holy in every way; and may your spirit and soul and body be free from all sin at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God, by whom you have been marked out in his purpose, is unchanging and will make it complete.  Brothers and sisters, keep us in mind in your prayers . . . The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”   (1 Thessalonians 5:23-25, 28)

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
Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

<*> NEW MAIL ADDRESS: <*>

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

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • August 18-September 15 –Little Galilee Christian Camp, Clinton, IL
  • September 16-18 – Lake Beauty Covenant Bible Camp – SOWER Reunion concert and devotion music (Long Prairie, MN)
  • September 19-27 Stopover in South Dakota for licenses and vehicle titles; traveling
  • September 27-November 20 – ALERT Academy (2 months) – Big Sandy, TX (northeast)
  • November 21-December – Riverbend Retreat Center – Glen Rose, TX (north central)
News

The Salt Shaker – June 2019

We always give thanks to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ when we pray for you. Colossians 1:3

Praises – We were able to see John’s mom, brother and family, sister, niece and family, and cousins for more than just a quick day visit; all the work done on Mom’s house while there; financial provision for our parking spot this month.

Prayers – God’s direction for SOWER October and winter project locations; financial provision for our parking spot in July; music ministry opportunities.

Greetings to our followers, friends and families:

Our memories are getting a bit fuzzy with almost four years on the road now, but this trip was the shortest of all our moves to date – 117 miles!  We have made this drive many times to visit John’s family so it is a familiar route, but this time we had our home in tow.  Our usual stop in Havana, IL at McDonald’s was made and included downloading an “app” to Connie’s phone, a multi clinometer, to help in leveling the trailer when we park.  “Thank You” to our friend for the suggestion, it worked great!  We arrived in Macomb, IL and were set up before the rain showers started.

Our volunteer work this month was for family.  John’s Mom has had Alzheimer’s for several years and is being cared for at home by his brother’s family, not much time and energy left for routine maintenance and remodel projects.  We completed most of the tasks on our list along with a few extra surprises.  The bathroom was the top priority – we installed beadboard, trim, wallboard, base board, crown molding, ceramic tile, and lots of caulk and paint touch up.  John worked on all the detail work with Connie’s helping hands to hold pieces while nailing.  Connie did the tile layout work and grouting, with John’s help cutting, mastic to wall, and all the cleaning between the tiles before grouting.

Early into the bathroom project we arrived to the sound of running water to find a pipe had broken under the sink in the crawl space.  After calls to the local plumber (not available), trips to the hardware store, and John getting into the crawl space under the floor several times, the pipe was fixed and the water to the house back on.  As we were pushed beyond our comfort level we prayed for patience and wisdom.  These words as Paul encouraged young Timothy in ministry (2 Timothy 4:5) fit quite well “But as for you, be clear-headed in every situation [stay calm and cool and steady], endure every hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill [the duties of your ministry]” as this was a large part of our ministry this month.  Oh, how wonderful to turn on the valve, then the faucet, and have no drips or leaks!

John was able to get the gutters cleaned and some tree branches trimmed during our last week as we cared for his Mom for several days.  As John diligently worked in the bathroom on the last little details, Connie started in kitchen removing wallpaper.  The first layer was heavy vinyl paper that came down easily.  The multiple layers underneath needed to be soaked several times and scraped off.  John joined in with some spackle and sanding, and cleaned all the ceiling tile and rails as Connie painted a “Kilz” coat and final coat on our last “work” day.  We only finished two of the four walls but it was a good start.

We attended Maple Avenue Christian Church about 5 minutes away and enjoyed the messages on “Courageous” giving and faith, and Sunday School classes (Why we should study the Bible) where we had a lesson on Greek!  We were invited to do a concert one Sunday evening and we had a lot of fun preparing, practicing, and sharing our music and testimony; we were encouraged and blessed as well.

Our last Sunday was in Bushnell Christian Church where we were asked to share some music and testimony for the Sunday School class and the church service.  It was wonderful learning about all the Hebrew words and their meanings that are translated “praise” in the Bible.  The Hebrew word for the day was ‘Halal’ (root of Halleluiah) which signifies praise with the whole body!  Again, we were encouraged and blessed by this wonderful church.  It seems that as we share our ministry and blessings with others we are blessed in return.

On one of our drives north to Galesburg (nearest Lowe’s for supplies) Connie saw “swirling butterflies” for the first time.  This is a group of butterflies arranged in a tornado-like shape; our thanks to Google for confirming what she thought she saw!  Connie was also able to finish a shawl she started in March finding the right stitches to add the edging and dangling hearts all around.  We mailed it off to its new owner on one of our bicycle trips to town.

The weather this month was not pleasant with rain, thunderstorms, high temperatures and humidity, power outages, and gnats.  Although we were not able to enjoy being outside under the trailer awning, we were able to gradually increase the length of our bicycle rides around town.  It was a nice way to relax and enjoy the landscaping of parks and beautiful homes.  We attended an evening concert in the park after a meal with family and the gnats were not too bad that night.  It was good to sit back and listen and not have to haul, set up, and pack up.  Again, we saw the Oscar Meyer “Wienermobile” with photo proof this time!  There was a car show that John and his sister went to after breakfast out, and a chance to be with her for an early “birthday” treat before we left the area.

A highlight of our recreation was a trip to John’s alma mater, Western Illinois University.  He has wanted to “go back” for several years now and we made it a priority for this trip.  It rained (torrential downpour) for most of the driving tour but cleared up enough to enjoy walking to the library and back to our van.  Seeing some new buildings, renovations, and upgrades to the industrial engineering building (his main study course).  Even some of the old machines and processes he learned on were still in use.  It brought back many memories for John and Connie enjoyed the tour as well having never attended college.

John moved in for five days to care for Mom and give his brother and family a chance to “get away” and visit family in Chicago.  Connie slept in the trailer, in her comfortable bed, checking up on the trailer temperature and humidity with the instruments as well as being present in the trailer park so we appeared to be home.  This too was a great time spent with Mom, knowing she won’t be with us much longer.  Earlier in our visits John played some guitar for Mom, which she enjoyed, and he spent some of the evenings reading Bible stories to her and praying before bedtime.

Most of the month was spent going back and forth and researching for another step in our full-time RV ministry.  We finally decided on a mail service from South Dakota which will allow us to have “residency” there once we get our driver’s licenses and vehicles titled.  In order to vote you must have a residence (rented or owned) in a state.  When you travel without owning property you have to “reside” with a “postal mail box” in a state that this is legal.  Of course, the taxes, vehicle fees, inspection, insurance, etc. are all a factor as well so it is a big decision (as well as not being a resident of Illinois or Wisconsin where our hearts are).  We sort of feel like we’re defecting, but the decision has been made and our new address is below.

As is part of life, there were other times of frustration as well.  Our newsletter was delayed in printing as we ran out of ink causing two mailings.  Then there was the process of making more CD’s for our concert.  What should have taken a few hours turned into a full day with several “bad” CD’s and a few mis-prints thrown in as well.  John had hopes of getting his Quatros guitar repaired, but after two attempts it came back still “buzzing” where it shouldn’t.  Even with frustration there are always more occasions of things going right which we don’t tend to notice.  Our extra expense for parking and utilities this month was covered by generous gifts we received!  This was a wonderful month of being near family, sharing stories, visiting and getting caught up, working hard, and many shared meals together!

Thanks for traveling with us and being part of our family too!

We ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will, with all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives.  Then you will be able to live as the Lord wants and always do what pleases Him.  Your lives will produce all kinds of good deeds, and you will grow in your knowledge of God.  May you be made strong with all the strength which comes from His glorious power, so that you may be able to endure everything with patience.  And with joy give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to have your share of what God has reserved for His people in the kingdom of light.  He rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us safe into the kingdom of his dear Son, by whom we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven.  Colossians 1:9b-14 (GNT)

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                         Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

<*> NEW MAIL ADDRESS: <*>
John & Connie Nicholas ~ Salty Strings Music Ministry,
3916 N. Potsdam Ave. #3962, Sioux Falls, SD  57104

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • July 1-31 – Beloit Wisconsin area with family (Sugar Shores, Shirland, IL)
  • August 1-September 15 – Tentative – Little Galilee, Clinton, IL
  • September 16-18 – Lake Beauty Covenant Bible Camp – SOWER Reunion concert and devotion music (Long Prairie, MN)
  • Stopover in South Dakota for licenses and vehicle titles
  • September 27-October 24 – SOWER project – Arkansas, Louisiana, or Texas
News

The Salt Shaker – May, 2019

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. . . . You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.  This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.      (2 Corinthians 9:8, 11-12)

Greetings to our families, friends, and followers:

PraisesJuly RV site found and deposit made; great spiritual teaching and fellowship.

PrayersCompletion of projects for family; health and rest for care-givers; God’s direction for SOWER October and winter project locations; financial provision as we pay for our parking spots the next few months; music ministry opportunities.

The month of May was quite a whirlwind!  We started in Carlinville, IL about an hour south of Springfield where we renewed friendships with the staff at Lake Williamson Christian Camp and friends at Memorial Christian Church.  We had some cool nights, more rain, wind, thunderstorms, hot and humid days and a few of those “just right” days for bike rides around the lake.  As usual, the spring flowers continue blooming with iris, tulip trees, and phlox, along with the resident geese with chicks at various stages of growth.  Before leaving we had a tour of the “Brotherhood Center” which John worked on during a very hot July in 2017.

John worked independently half the time and with other maintenance employees the rest.  He installed ladders on 76 bunk beds, mattresses on 103 bunks, deep cleaned 16 bathrooms, helped build a huge new dock, and completed a smaller floating dock with high life guard chair at the beach area.

Connie was quite happy to be helping in the kitchen doing preparation for the next days meals.  Food needs to be “panned” up, meat needs to be sliced and put up in pans, and put in the walk-in cooler for the next day.  This time there was also a need for door “clickers” who serve a dual purpose of greeting the guests as well as keeping a count so the kitchen can keep the buffet lines running smoothly; John also helped one evening with this.  There were also many cones and dishes of ice cream served as well as a morning of waffle making to keep things moving so the line wouldn’t get too long, and Connie also volunteered for four half-days in the laundry, folding towels and sheets.  On returning from a quick 3-day trip to Beloit (5 hour drive each way) for legal affairs she found John well taken care of and another ministry musician friend visiting us for the weekend.  Connie ended up being a very busy girl this month!

11 20190509_180227Saturday, May 18, we were packed up, on the road again, and headed a couple of hours north to our “home church camp” west of Clinton, IL.  We missed one of the first turns needed on the back roads to the highway and had a moment of panic as we crossed a one-lane board plank bridge!  With the wind at our back we had our best gas mileage pulling the trailer so far, and finally saw some fields being planted.  The blowing long grass as we neared overpasses on the interstate was beautiful to see.  Due to our schedule we were not able to help out as much at Little Galilee Christian Camp but John did have some time to fix some stone/wood benches, grill pork chops for Family Camp, and repair/install a few storm doors.

We were blessed by the love gifts we received from our time of sharing with a few songs and some photos of where we’ve served over the last year.  Our mini-presentation worked well at both Carlinville and Lane churches.  At Little Galilee camp in Clinton we were invited to join some other RV volunteers (VMM’s – Volunteer Mobile Missionaries) who were already there for morning devotion time.  We provided some special music for their devotion time as well as having a fun evening of fellowship (ice cream!) and a concert for the volunteers who were ending their service time here.  It is always wonderful to meet other generous and like-minded RVer’s in service for Christ, some we worked with before, and some are now new friends.

Part of our activity during the last two weeks of May was holding two Memorial Services for Connie’s dad Curt, one at Lane Church and one in Beloit, Wisconsin.  We are thankful for those who attended and the memories shared by friends and family during these services.  We were also blessed in spending four days in Wisconsin that included two times of gathering with all of our 4 children, spouses, some of the grandchildren and our daughter’s boyfriend who just returned from service in the middle east.

Again this month, you never know what you will see as you travel.  Headed “home” from Wisconsin, right around the WI/IL border there were two Oscar Meyer Weiner-mobiles followed about 15 minutes later by a Planter’s Peanut-mobile headed north.  We were not quick enough to get some pictures, you’ll just have to take our word.

14 IMG_1443We had many more days of high winds and rocking trailer life, including our first evacuation to a safe location (12:15-1:00 am) with a tornado warning and rotating winds headed for us!  We were able to attend Family Camp 1 over the Memorial Day weekend, the opening of the camp season, and hear some wonderful speakers; Mark and Jill Savage “No More Perfect Marriages” which pertains to all relationships, and “Code Blue” on our corporate and personal spiritual condition.

With all the travel and busy-ness of the month we are left a bit tired and worn down.  Having great churches to attend has helped keep us spiritually uplifted along with seeing many of our friends from this area.  Thank you all for your prayers and donations as we travel along . . .

Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.  And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.  Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!      (2 Corinthians 9:13-15)

15 20190530_111230Thanks for traveling with us!

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
Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

MAIL ADDRESS:
John & Connie Nicholas ~ Salty Strings Music Ministry,
255 N Sperry St, Bushnell, IL  61422

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • June 1-30 – Bushnell Illinois with family (Kiljordan Meadows, Macomb, IL)
  • July 1-31 – Beloit Wisconsin area with family (Sugar Shores, Shirland, IL)
  • August 1-September 15 – Tentative – Little Galilee, Clinton, IL
  • September 16-18 – Lake Beauty Covenant Bible Camp – SOWER Reunion concert and devotion music (Long Prairie, MN)
  • Stop over in South Dakota for address change
  • September 27-October 24 – SOWER project – Arkansas, Louisiana, or Texas?
News

The Salt Shaker – April 2019

 “It is good to praise the Lord and make music to Your name, O Most High, proclaiming Your love in the morning and Your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp.  For You make me glad by your deeds, Lord; I sing for joy at what your hands have done.”  Psalm 92:1-4

Greetings to our families, friends, and followers:

Praises –Safe travel without any incidence from Texas to Illinois; ability and strength to do hard work without back or foot problems; projects that feed us, what a blessing to our budget; for all our prayer partners and supporters!  

Prayers –Continuing to do work as needed without re-occurrence of injury; Memorial Services for Connie’s dad (Curt) to go smoothly May 23(Lane) and 29 (Beloit); RV spot near Beloit for July; Music ministry opportunities

 Our SOWER Round-up (reunion) the end of March was very busy with special music and devotions every day so we appreciated a few days of nothing-ness!  Prior to the start of our volunteer work we enjoyed a camp fire with the three couples staying for this project, our first fire since December.

Our project this month, International ALERT Academy, was different in many ways from our other camps.  We attended “recruit” night where 33 young men started their training, much like boot camp with a Christian emphasis.  These “kids” will be stretched physically, mentally, and spiritually!  They will have survival training, pass inspections, learn respect for their commanders, build up to a 24 hour 55-mile hike in wilderness conditions, and recite 1 Peter from memory before their graduation.  All 33 Cadets were still in training at the time we left (week 5).  Phase 2 is basic response training and Phase 3 is certification in EMT, Fire, Rescue, Diving, Pilot, and Mobile Response.  This campus is huge with lots to be done and is great to ride bicycle around.

We chose to go about 25 minutes away to Holly Tree Bible Church where we met Pastor Tim and a wonderful congregation.  We were invited to share with some special music for three events and were blessed to attend their outdoor Easter sunrise service in a beautiful wooded setting, brunch, and indoor service with harp, piano, violin, and special singers.  It was wonderful!

John and the guys spent most of their time upgrading 8 camp sites for big rigs.  Lots of digging of trenches for water, sewer, and electric (lots of sand in the wash machine too!); putting in posts for electric boxes and a high post to mount the wifi repeater with a boom bucket; laying underlayment, and shoveling asphalt to park on.  The last few days they were patching holes in the roads and moving bleachers and chairs to prepare for a large group coming in.

Connie graduated to a “sewing SOWER” this month!  She spent her time in the sewing room starting with ripping seams for the new recruit shirt alterations and cutting out the body of an eagle for a banner.  Into week 2 she did a lot of ironing – shirt sleeves for patch locations and dress pants for hemming, and cutting old towels into appropriate rag sizes.  Finally, instructions on use of the serge sewing machine and getting to sew!  The final days were ironing, cutting, and hemming the sleeves on boys’ shirts for Father Son camp.  It was a lot of fun.

On our many drives to church and for errands we found typical signs of spring with lots of deer and some wild boar piglets along the roadside, lots of flowers starting to bloom in multiple colors, and some fox pups living in the underwater storm system at ALERT and poking their heads out of the drain gutter near the dining room.  Twice we moved our vehicles inside a large convention building with threats of thunder storms producing large hail.  Thankfully for our trailer roofs it was an unnecessary precaution since the storm fronts were quite mild.  We had three game nights where John provided background music for “Hillbilly Rummy” (Connie won the last game!).  One of those nights we also celebrated April anniversaries with cake and ice cream.

12 FlowersOur 35th wedding anniversary was a great day – playing special music at church, being treated by the Pastor to a wonderful lunch, taking photos of flowers, putting on a new harp string, and sitting around a camp fire until the mosquitoes attacked.  There is a harp player who lives and works on campus that is inspiring Connie to get back to “Frankenharp” practice (our rescued harp has metal plates bolted together at the top to help straighten the neck).  Right before we left, she came over and gave some pointers as well as playing our harp, it sounds pretty good when you know what you are doing!

Wednesday April 24 we were back on the road for a two-day trip to Illinois with great driving conditions with the wind at our back.  Up to 7.4 miles per gallon staying on interstate most of the way with light rain most of the second day.  We decided to cut north on the outer bypass of St. Louis and cross over the Mississippi River into Alton, IL since we had viewed the beautiful bridge a few years ago.  There were lots of soggy fields along our drive as well as flooding along the Mississippi.  We arrived safe and sound with time to visit some of the staff and get mostly set up before going to dinner.  We parked near our 2016 spot, barely within wifi range, and ran 140’ of water hose to the nearest building for our water supply due to water line breaks in this area of the RV sites.  It is good to be back at a camp we love volunteering at!

“You shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land He has given you.  Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God . . .   Deuteronomy 8:10-11

Thanks for being a part of our travels!

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
Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

MAIL ADDRESS:
John & Connie Nicholas ~ Salty Strings Music Ministry,
255 N Sperry St, Bushnell, IL  61422

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • April 25-May 18 –Lake Williamson, Carlinville, Illinois; central
  • May 19 – June 1 – Tentative – Little Galilee Christian Camp, Clinton, Illinois; central
  • Memorial Service – May 23, 10 am at Lane Christian Church, Lane, IL
  • Memorial Service – May 29, 10 am at Beloit Eagles Club, Beloit, WI
  • June 1-30 – Macomb/Bushnell Illinois with family
  • July – Tentative – Beloit Wisconsin area with family
  • August-September – Tentative – Minnesota Projects and SOWER Reunion
News

The Salt Shaker ~ March 2019

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”  2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Greetings to our families, friends, and followers:

Prayers – RV park for July in Beloit, Wisconsin; continued rest needed from all the travel and activity; safe 3-day travel to Illinois April 24-26; music ministry opportunities for May, June, and July

 Praises – Safe air travel; family and friends; RV parking found for June; strength and peace only God can provide; volunteer time-off allowing us to travel!

As we traveled the end of February through the panhandle of Florida, we saw the inland devastation of hurricane Michael.  Although “cleaned up” there were still trees twisted, broken, and being cleared along with I10 road signs bent and crushed along the road edges.  After a great day of driving (over 400 miles) we spent our first night at a Walmart near the west edge of Florida and proceeded the next morning into Alabama, crossing Mobile Bay into the city.  As we crossed John noticed an alligator heading slowly towards a bird resting on the water.  Connie drove us through the tunnel (a bit scary pulling a trailer) and on through Mississippi and into Louisiana.  Our second night on the road was spent at one of our favorite volunteer projects outside of Eunice, where we had electricity for the night.  What a blessing along with hugs and chats with some of the staff.  Following a wonderful breakfast in town we were back on the road noticing the following signs: “WARNING Speed Trap” and after crossing into Texas “Hitchhikers May Be Escaped Inmates.”  Interesting to say the least!

We stopped at the Walmart in Woodville, TX before continuing the last 10 miles of our journey.  The very final 3 miles started with a turn off the “hard road” onto a bumpy dirt and sand logging road.  Texas had a lot of drizzly rainy days recently making the road very slow, muddy, and slippery in places.  We were warned to stay in the tire grooves (sometimes 4-6” deep) and that the black areas had been filled in with rock and were solid under the mud.  We continued on, the road turning into the private drive to Triple Creek RV Music Park and were certain we would “arrive” just around the next bend . . . and the next, etc.  You can imagine the conversation as we slip-slided our way to our new home!  We were greeted, shown to our site, mostly set up, and made it to the 5pm potluck in the shed (cozy woodstove going) followed by our first jam session.  John played his mandolin while Connie, being tired out from the travel, listened and worked on a jigsaw puzzle.

Triple Creek is a great place to be with lots of potlucks, great musicians, early morning men’s coffee time, Monday night BINGO (Connie won once), and Saturday mid-morning breakfasts.  A group of young musicians, ‘Snake Blood Remedy’ gave a great impromptu “old country style” concert when they spent the night before going into Houston for some shows.  Washboard rhythm section, violin/fiddle, guitars, banjo, harmonies, and yodeling for about an hour before the jam session started.

Connie split her time at the camp with trips to Wisconsin for her brothers’ final days in Hospice.  (He has spent the last 3 years in surgeries and treatments for brain and lung cancer.)  Our son flew from Phoenix to Houston to help her travel stand-by and provide chauffeur service for the first trip (March 4 to 11).  They enjoyed a string quartet at Houston Hobby Airport while waiting.  Once in Beloit she stayed at her brother’s house helping relieve the main care-givers and providing some extra hands for cooking, cleaning, and care.  After his death we both flew back to Wisconsin (March 18 to 21) for the funeral.  A special “thank you” to all those who were there for us emotionally, the relatives we haven’t seen for many years, and all who helped with the funeral and everything that goes with it.

John did a lot of pickin’ and grinnin’ along with making several potluck dishes and driving to Houston airports several times.  After leaving Connie at the airport he managed to get through downtown Houston, construction detours getting him lost in the city twice.  GPS kept wanting to take him back to previous construction, so he gave up on that and just headed east until running into the main highway home.

With all the travel Connie didn’t have much time to enjoy the craft shop at camp where all sorts of yarn, sewing supplies, multiple weaving looms, spinning wheels, and a triangle loom were available for use.  The camp owners have three alpacas (Johnny, Waylon, and Merle) for fleece/yarn but there was no time to try some spinning.  She did manage to start a triangle shawl and crammed the last few days to get it wove and off the loom before leaving; with the addition of a border it will become a gift.  All the air travel also provided great down time to get another shawl (promised five years ago) almost finished as well.

Sunday, March 24, found us packing up and heading northwest, through Nacogdoches (John can pronounce that from an old John Wayne movie) where we switched drivers and found beautiful deep red clover along the roadside.  We arrived at our next volunteer project early for the Texas Roundup (SOWER Reunion) where we provided a special song that evening along with leading worship the next three mornings and some songs for the talent night.  It was a wonderful time of fellowship and great teaching with horses from “Sermon on the Mount” ministries.  We spent two mornings on bleachers outdoors while receiving biblical teaching as a young two-year old colt was “broke” for riding.  The trainer of course knows what is best but the horse wants to continue in its own way.  The trainer allowed the horse to “run wild” until he would look him in the eye which brought a smooch and the reward of rest and relationship being built.  In less than 2 hours the first day the colt was saddled and rode with one lead rope rein and a few smooches.  The second day reinforced lessons on trust and rewards, some body commands, and a very confident ride inside the fence.  Truly amazing!

A beautiful way to end this month is with spring coming, at least in the south.  More blooming flowers, redbud, and paulownia (new to us) trees here in northeast Texas, along with the pine pollen!  Migrating cardinals arrived our third week along with some beautiful black and white winged woodpeckers as we were leaving.  What a joy to see God’s handiwork renewed!

“Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being praise His holy name.  Praise the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits – who forgives . . . and heals . . . who redeems . . . and satisfies your desires with good things.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him.  Praise the Lord, all His works everywhere in His dominion.  Praise the Lord, O my soul!  (Psalm 103:1-5, 11, 22 paraphrased)

Thanks for being a part of our travels!
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
Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

MAIL ADDRESS:  John & Connie Nicholas ~ Salty Strings Music Ministry
255 N Sperry St, Bushnell, IL  61422

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • April 1-24 – ALERT Academy, Big Sandy, Texas; northeast
  • April 25-May 18 –Lake Williamson, Carlinville, Illinois; central
  • May 19 – June 1 – Tentative – Little Galilee Christian Camp, Clinton, Illinois; central
  • June 1-30 – Macomb/Bushnell Illinois with family
  • July – Tentative – Beloit Wisconsin area with family
  • August-September – Tentative – Minnesota Projects and SOWER Reunion