The Salt Shaker


The Salt Shaker – April/May 2018

Easter Sunrise 2018Greetings to all – Our April/May Update

These are the words of the apostle John, from Revelation 21 Then I saw a new Heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making everything new!”

Prayers – Until that glorious time, things will continue to deteriorate and need to be repaired or painted, or healed, which includes our fading bodies and fading structures. We did a lot of painting this round of walls and structures, and John’s back took some weeks to slowly improve to near-normal function. Please pray for continued strength for the work that needs to be done wherever the Lord leads us.

Praises – Safe arrival in Illinois; visits with friends; love gifts; cable temple glasses; new web page design; trailer roof; son Christopher healed to walk for his wedding.

After several attempts we finally made it to Illinois! We kept planning “leave” dates and had to keep moving them forward. It became no surprise for those at church to see us again! We watched the weather and temperatures in the north, which were not favorable, and gauged the slowly healing back. We were able to leave Louisiana, after one 40-degree night, to arrive at Little Galilee in Illinois on April 11 to windy but warm weather. We kept an eye on our trailer roof as we drove, but had to stop during day 2 in downtown St. Louis when it started billowing up and flapping around. (It had come loose and made another small tear on the side.) John taped it down again and we made it on time for a late lunch with the Pastor and his wife from Carlinville along our route. We were able to get to a RV dealer a few miles from our camp before they closed to assess the damage and repair possibilities (ranging from $500-$1200).

John’s back is still a problem, getting worse again after setting up, and the weather was extremely cold and windy our first 2 weeks here. Night one we were unable to hook up to water, needing additional hose, and ran out of water from our tank (we travel with enough for a couple of days on the road). Our 5th night we thought we were set and prepared for a couple of nights below freezing – water in the tank and the furnace turned on (our heaters do well if it stays above 40-45). Thought we’d warm it up a bit before getting into bed, kicking the furnace up, but only cold air was blowing – we were out of propane! So, we prepared for a cold night’s sleep. Shortly after midnight a storm front came through with some rain followed by the power going off. John dressed and went outside, checking our power and the main panel, while Connie remained under the blankets listening to his footsteps crunch on the grass, thinking about the “normal” power outage time in central Illinois. Thankfully the power was on again in about 1 1/2 hours, and the heaters managed to keep it about 60 in the bedroom and 50 in the living area of the trailer. We immediately filled BOTH propane tanks in the morning and spent the rest of the day getting “warmed up” from being chilled. Two lessons learned, carry a bit more than “just enough water” and keep at least one propane tank full!

We met our friend Larry Stevens and he was able to stay a few nights next to us at Little Galilee. We have both been crisscrossing the US but never in the same place at the same time. He has a nursing home ministry and did a few programs in the area. It was a blessing to be together again and to have him as a “substitute” musician at a scheduled program for a Senior lunch in Decatur while John’s back was recovering.

By the end of our first week John was able to do some work for the camp. We worked together most of the time at the “old” offices at one end of a maintenance shed. Before we left we had repainted the ceiling and walls in two rooms, cleaned and reinstalled shelving, sanded and varnished the window and floor trim in one room, scraped and repainted outside window/door trim, cleaned and painted both sides of the inside entry door, and finished up the exterior primer/paint, providing Little Galilee with over 90 hours of volunteer labor, including helping “build” a Gaga ball pit.

We were also asked to help with some interior repainting of our home church (Lane Christian) in a small town about 15 minutes from our camp. We spent a few days there trimming, John on a ladder doing the ceiling and doors (sometimes with a little artist’s brush) while Connie crawled around the baseboard trim. (Another church member did all the roller work.) We were able to get the long education hallway and some of the entry walls painted with two coats.

May 15 found us at Bloomington airport at 5 am for our trip to Manassas Park, Virginia for our youngest son Christopher’s wedding. What a great time we had bustling around with the final preparations. Chris stayed with us at the hotel (his former housing was an hour away) and provided our transportation to all the activities and events. After three days Connie received his car keys and we managed to navigate through the traffic to get where we had to be. Connie enjoyed her first manicure and pedicure, had her hair done with curls that didn’t frizz in the rainy and damp weather, and even had some makeup for the wedding. John enjoyed the golf driving range (although not very good) and the trip to Chick-fil-A with the wedding party (after they were dressed for the wedding). Although rain fell most of the day it didn’t fall during the important times and even allowed for a few outdoor pictures they had wanted. It was a wonderful wedding service with Christ at the center, where He has been throughout their engagement and wedding plans. Christopher was able walk without his cane for the majority of the wedding and reception, what a miracle!

Looking back at our 6 weeks in central Illinois we had lots of other activity as well. John’s 25-year-old eyeglass frame broke with no one being able to replace the cable temple. God led us to All About Eyes where he was able to get a similar cable temple frame, the prescription he wanted (after convincing the optometrist), and two pairs for the price of one. Our trailer roof was repaired, actually the front portion was replaced, while we were away for the wedding – great since we didn’t need to live in it during that time! We did transfer all our instruments and refrigerator items to storage places at the camp (no electric hookup to the trailer while in the service department) and they allowed us to plug in and sleep before going to the airport and when we arrived back (at 12:30 am after multiple delays to our flight from Atlanta to Bloomington). Since it was humid and in the 90’s during the day and 70’s at night the air conditioning was greatly appreciated! As we were parking a trailer tire flattened, additional expense to get the valve stem replaced, but what a blessing it happened at the RV dealer and not on the road. After returning and getting the trailer back to camp we noticed both front van tires were down to the wear marks, so we were off to get new tires – all four of them since the remaining tires had maybe another 6 months use and we would have to find a good tire dealer in a “strange” place. We also upgraded our web page, something that has been needed for a few years with all the new technology, media types, etc. We have not been able to edit our web site because of software issues so it was out of date as well as not appearing well on cell phones. Although a bit more than we had hoped to spend we received a wonderful deal that included a photo session, design, technical support, a blog for our updates (still not sure how that works), and meetings at Panera Bread. Check out our new web site and some wonderful new pictures (we have gotten older!).

We packed and traveled north to Timber-lee Ministries, our SOWER project for June, arriving on May 25. To be continued in our next update!

“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those that wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” Jesus, Revelation 22

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 –    Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry

Check out our NEW web site:
ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

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

† June – southern Wisconsin Timber-Lee Camp, East Troy
† July – Music Ministry Chippewa Falls, Rice Lake, Eau Claire; northwest Wisconsin
† August – Camp Lundgren, Pembine, Wisconsin; upper northeast Wisconsin
† September – Camp Michindoh, south central Michigan,
† October – Potomac Park, Falling Waters, West Virginia


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 –     Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry
ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site:
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 –     Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry
ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site:
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