The Salt Shaker

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
News

The Salt Shaker – February 2019

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.  They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.  Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”  Psalm 19:1-4a

Greetings to our families, friends, and followers:

Prayers – Rest and rejuvenation as we take a month off in March to continue the work of our volunteer ministry in the months to come; discernment for songs for Sower Texas Roundup reunion worship music at the end of the month; RV park for July in Beloit, Wisconsin.

 Praises – Good roads and weather for 3-day trip to Texas; visiting friends over night at Acadia Baptist Center, Eunice, LA.

For our February project we didn’t have to travel (good, because Connie was still anxious about traveling again).  We stayed at Camp Horizon for a second month along with two other SOWER couples.  An additional five new couples joined us for a total of eight volunteer couples for the month.  Everyone was needed for all the work to be done!

The ladies continued to clean after groups and deep clean four of the eight cabins after the guys were finished with their work.  We started at the top and worked our way down:  ceilings, air vents, light fixtures, walls, curtains, lockers inside and out, bathrooms top to bottom, mattresses, and mopping the floors.  Connie also put plugs in the new windows, those little plastic pieces that cover the screws, which included re-drilling the factory holes so they would fit.  In addition, we cleaned the kitchen storage area including “combing” the streamers and bagging them to keep from tangling in the future and did some food prep work.

The men were quickly split into teams for replacing all the windows and adding egress doors to five remaining cabins.  Some pulled out old windows, some rebuilt rotten wall sections as needed, some were installers, and others caulked or ran for parts and supplies.  John was the designated “Doorman” and worked with the camp maintenance man as he learned all the “ins and outs” (pun intended) of door installation.  The cabins tended to sink slightly toward the back and the walls were not perfectly plumb, so John learned from their head maintenance guy how to overcome this and other minor problems.  After a few doors another SOWER helped out and together the last doors were done quicker and better.  These skills will obviously come in handy for future SOWER projects that will benefit other Christian ministries we are called to serve at.

Camp Horizon hosted a Marriage Seminar where we were asked to do a concert following their special date night dinner.  We had a great time and were a blessing to many as we shared songs around a love theme.  We continued attending First Christian Church of Leesburg where we provided special music for the early service, and a mini-concert for their “Fabulous Friday’s at First” talent night.  Some snowbirds we met our first winter in Florida (“The Indiana Gang”) invited us to The River Palms RV Resort (south of Zephyr Hills, about 2 hours away) for a wonderful reunion meal after which we made our way to the activities building where we had ice cream and put on an evening concert for the park residents.  This was also John’s Birthday so the travel and fellowship made for a memorable day.  Our last Sunday we ministered with some special music for the Leesburg Church of the Nazarene, where some SOWER friends attend, and were invited to their Chili cook-off movie night which was a lot of fun.

On our last Tuesday we drove about a half hour south to Groveland where we spent one day with the SOWER reunion.  It was great getting together with old and new friends and meeting new SOWER couples just starting their adventures.  We did the morning devotion using the fruit of the Spirit as our theme with a song for each (Galatians 5:22-23).  We had many positive comments and will likely use this again sometime.  Connie joined the lady’s choir for a special song following the devotion time.  We stayed for the evening concert and really enjoyed seeing “The Puffers,” a couple with about as many instruments as us!  John also worked hard in practicing new songs and techniques from his mandolin lessons.

01 IMG_1167-002

There was some time this month for several bike rides around the camp and for several days we were able to watch a helicopter practice with a water ball, flying back and forth gathering water from the lake and dumping it near the airport.  There were WWII planes (Florida War Birds) overhead February 8-9 and we were able to see the SpaceX Falcon 9 evening rocket launch from the camp (February 21).  Weather related, we had blue sky with white puffy clouds to the south and gray clouds with a rainbow to the north one afternoon. 

Connie started a “net” to help us move and carry our newest acquisition, John’s Christmas and Birthday present, a massage chair insert that helps his back and soothes sore muscles as well.  On one trip to town there were young eagles (we think) in the camp entrance field learning to fly and picking at some carcass on the ground.  The night we returned from our reunion it appeared a bag was over the gate keypad and we wondered how we were going to get back home; turned out it was an owl sitting on the post that flew away right in front of our windshield.  What a beautiful sight it was in the light from the headlights!  And spring is coming!!!  The flowers and trees are blooming:  azaleas, hibiscus, spiderwort, wild hibiscus, and others we don’t know.

February 27 found us on the road again, with Connie over her anxiety of traveling.  We spent the first night at a Walmart still in Florida, leaving early the next morning to cross into Alabama, drive through the tunnel in Mobile, through Baton Rouge and on to Eunice, Louisiana where we were able to stay overnight with electricity at one of the Christian camps we have worked at.  We went to breakfast into town with the leaders from our first project before getting back on the road to our final destination outside Woodville, Texas.  And that journey is to be continued next month!

 

SPRING HAS SPRUNG IN FLORIDA – AND IS MOVING NORTH!!!

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.  He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. . . Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”   Psalm 23:1-3, 6

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

  • March – Month off – Triple Creek RV Music Camp, Woodville, Texas; northeast
  • April – ALERT Academy, Big Sandy, Texas; northeast
  • May – Tentative – Lake Williamson, Carlinville, Illinois; central
  • May 19 – June 1 – Little Galilee Christian Camp, Clinton, Illinois; central
  • June – Tentative – Macomb/Bushnell Illinois with family
  • July – Tentative – Beloit Wisconsin area with family
Leesburg FL, News

The Salt Shaker ~ January 2019

I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.  I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me.  I am the Lord, and there is no other.

 From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.(Isaiah 45:5-6 and Psalm 113:3 – New International Version)

Prayers – Safety as we volunteer this month; discernment for songs to share for our February music engagements; and to ease our anxiety for long travel (February 27-March 1) to northeast Texas.

Praises – February music opportunities; help with changing trailer tires; back problems almost gone.

Greetings to our friends, followers, and families:

Our praise from last month was being thankful for the ways God protected us and others on the road with our flat tire.  Now for the rest of the story!  Friday, January 4 we were ready to leave with little to do in the morning so we could make our “short” trip to Leesburg, FL first thing and be set up before the rain started.  How long could 149 miles take?  We left at 8:05 am and arrived at 5:15 pm!!!  (That’s 9 hours 10 minutes, average of a little over 16 miles per hour.)

As John backed up to be in position to make the swing and turn out of the driveway Connie noticed a different color area on the trailer front passenger tire – sure enough some steel belt was showing.  So, we prayed and kept praying the whole trip.  About 15 miles after we got on I75 south we were part of a 5-mile backup from 2 lanes being closed due to construction/clean-up from a multi-fatality accident the previous day.  Another 32 miles down the road found us at our third stop for use of facilities, already 11:15 am.  (Interesting stop as we met two other SOWER couples at this rest area!)  Back on the road again, still praying for our bad tire, and John noticed our outside hand shower compartment door was blowing open – another pull-off about 10 miles from the rest area and more gorilla tape fixed that.  Back on the road and 20 miles later we were flagged down with a blown tire on the trailer front driver side.  We pulled off and contacted our insurance roadside assistance who sent service from Orlando (80 miles away).  The gas station near our waiting spot had a Cici’s pizza which we enjoyed around 1 pm for our lunch.  The heavy downpour of rain started about the time we received a call saying our service truck had just left and it would be another 2 hours.  By the time the service truck arrived the rain had let up and we were back on the road about 3:45 pm.  Since we were still praying for the other bad tire and driving on our only spare, we chose to take the highways through towns and evening traffic through Ocala, The Villages, and Leesburg, along with a fairly steady rain.  By the time we arrived it was sprinkling and we managed to get into our site, hooking up the electricity before calling it a day!

 

 

Saturday found us re-parking, getting leveled, and finishing our set up with a beautiful north Florida sunshiny day.  Camp Horizon is in a rural setting with wonderful sunrises over the lake, lots of bird sounds, and the Leesburg International Airport runway directly across the swamp to our west.  John especially enjoys watching the many planes fly over the camp and our trailer, from Learjets to WWII bombers and a P-51 fighter plane.  We were blessed to be here during a men’s weekday retreat and a weekend retreat for the 7-8th grade choir of a public school.  Since we were with 6 other SOWER couples our work was shared amongst many hands.

 

 

John started out the first day with a stiff back and helped make some table saw inserts.  From there he painted some “plastic” boards the guys had routed for new signs along the driveway and installed them when finished.  A team of three guys in a tractor bucket made short work of building some soffits and installing screening along 4 of the cabins.  They worked assembly-line fashion unrolling the screen and stapling it into place, passing it along to the next guy before moving on to the next section.  They had just about as much fun riding in the bucket, especially when they turned into the three monkeys (hear, speak, and see no evil) at the suggestion of a certain spouse who will remain nameless.

 

 

The ladies were primarily cleaning; the lodge (10 motel-like rooms), 10 cabins, chapel, and dining room along with doing the laundry from the men’s retreat.  Connie was able to do some extra help in the kitchen preparing food and serving for the guests.  She learned a new skill this month – sectioning fruit, navel and blood oranges, from the trees on the property.  This camp uses everything with very little waste, even the orange end slices and portions too dry were distributed to those who wanted to “infuse” water.

 

 

We headed off our first Sunday morning to their “early” contemporary service at the First Christian Church of Leesburg, had a wonderful service, and stayed for the Bible Study after the service.  We made introductions to the pastor and associate pastor and were warmly received and accepted into this church family.  The following Sunday we went to their other Bible Study first then attended the traditional “late” service, meeting many more wonderful people.  Since then we have been rotating services and shared some special music for the traditional service one Sunday.  It was nice to have a bit of a break in our music ministry this month, but we have made several contacts and February will be fairly busy.

11 20190120_102822About 2 am on Sunday January 13 Connie received a call from Liberty Village that her Dad Curt had passed.  He died peacefully in his sleep, before Hospice admitted him into their care (due to a snow storm).  This was an answer to her prayers (Friday/Saturday) that he wouldn’t suffer and would go quickly.  He was a daily Bible reader in the later years of his life, and enjoyed the church fellowship (and donuts) before dementia settled in.  The sermon this Sunday was from 1 Thessalonians 1:3 and truly spoke to us in our music and volunteer ministries as well as thinking of Curt’s life and passing.
We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
We remembered Curt and the work he did for STAR Ministry in Florida, and his help for our many house projects.  His faith prompted him to work actively serving God and others; his labor was prompted by love for the ministry and people he helped; and he did look confidently to eternal life having hope in the Lord Jesus.  We hope to leave a legacy as well from the hours we spend serving and encouraging those around us.

We did find a nice bicycle trail in Leesburg, 7 miles round trip, just far enough to make the legs feel tired after several weeks of no bicycling.  On Monday January 21 we were up at 1:45 am to see the solar eclipse with its red moon; what a beautiful site with a huge view of the sky.  January 24 was our last “project” volunteer day and John managed to cut his finger, bad enough that he couldn’t play his instruments for a few days.  He was able, with the help of a fellow SOWER to get all the trailer tires off, into town, mounted, and back on the trailer on our first “day off.”  (Of course, with the trailer slides in and on jack posts, first one side, then the other, it was inaccessible for the day.)

We do thank God frequently for allowing us the privilege of meeting such wonderful committed people at our projects, other volunteers we volunteer alongside of, friendly people in the churches we have attended, and all of you who read through our ramblings!

We would ask in these coming weeks as you think of us to pray the following for us ~
“We continually ask God to fill [John and Connie] with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that [they] may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way:  bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, begin strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that [they] may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified [them] to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light.  For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  Colossians 1:9b-14  NIV

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

  • February – Camp Horizon, Leesburg, Florida; north central
  • March – Month off – Triple Creek RV Music Camp, Woodville, Texas; northeast
  • April – ALERT Academy, Big Sandy, Texas; northeast
  • May – Tentative – Lake Williamson, Carlinville, Illinois; central
  • May 19 – June 1 – Little Galilee Christian Camp, Clinton, Illinois; central
  • June – Tentative – Macomb/Bushnell Illinois with family
News

The Salt Shaker – December 2018

. . . for every animal of the forest is mine and the cattle on a thousand hills.  Psalm 50:10

 Prayers – Connie’s family as her Dad (Curt) nears end of life; God’s provision for four new trailer tires.

 Praises – Noticed a trailer tire starting to show some steel belt as we left, prayed for that tire to hold for our 150-mile trip and it did, but a tire on the other side blew out and a trucker and another car got our attention; we were able to pull over and take an exit less than a mile away!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace . . . surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering . . . we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way . . . he has poured out his soul unto death.  He was counted as a sinner, and he bore the sins of many, and he pled with God for sinners.  (Prophecies about Jesus from Isaiah 9:6, 53:4, 6 NIV, 53:12 TLB)

Greetings to our family, followers, and friends:

It was 33 degrees “feels like 24” when we left North Carolina all bundled up and heading south.  There were some fall colors early in the drive with occasional subdued bright colors, heavy rain, a razor-back boar rooting along the roadside, and then cloudy with great warm weather (no coats!) as we arrived in Live Oak, Florida.  Monday morning, we reported for our volunteer duties working as a couple for the maintenance department at Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch.  (The “Boys Ranch” is now the “Youth” ranch and has “ranchers” of varying ages with individual cottages of boys, girls, and sibling groups.)  Since we had a 3-week break between December and January projects we put in some extra hours and remained parked in their RV area about a mile from the “ranch.”

 

 

 

Our first week we did several coats of paint to finish off cement block walls and metal ceiling tile railing in 4 rooms of the Education Center that is being converted to a museum.  An elderly past president of the ranch had a vision for this and had collected many mementos.  Everything was coming together in a rush fashion to have this ready for the dedication in 2 weeks.  We were able to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony one chilly evening before their Christmas Dinner and program put on by the ranchers.

 

 

 

Week two brought variety as we prepped, sanded, finished and hung a solid wood door in one of the staff homes.  We also sanded, finished, and installed 7 small square windows into office doors in the administration building.  We made a cardboard template to fit over the door, drew the diamond outline, cut the holes (hollow core doors this time), cleaned the window glass, and screwed the new windows in place.  We worked outside, removing each door from its hinges as we went.  As you can see, the Program Director really liked the change to his office.

 

 

 

Week three we refinished a larger wood door including several short trips to the maintenance building.  There was a lot of rain, therefore high humidity, and longer drying time between the stain and finish coats.  With the rain we were back indoors painting bedrooms in a boys “cottage.”  Each room was done with a base color and contrast color for one wall.  The trim around the floor, window, and doors (4 in each room) was the opposite color of its wall.  Between two coats of paint on everything and all the “trimming in” it took many hours to complete a room!

During our weeks off, we continued helping with room painting and finishing up the door refinishing.  In all we had 145 volunteer hours and felt we eased some of the burden for the maintenance guys.  A maintenance worker here spends the last few hours of each week day working with one of the “hired” ranchers (they must complete an application and interview).  This allows the kids to learn some skills as well as have a mentor to share with.  Some serious discussions and life decisions have been made during this time together.

 

 

 

We made a few bicycle trips over to the ranch, riding up and down the hills on the paved roads and making it through several mud puddles, wash-board gravel, and bumpy spots on the way to the “hard road.”  The countryside around this area is pine forest and large cattle ranches, although we saw a few cotton and peanut fields and passed by a multi-acre spinach farm with the plants grown and harvested inside row after row of huge plastic greenhouses.  It was interesting to learn about pine straw (raked in huge piles from between the pine forest trees, baled, and sold) as well as peanut straw (baled from the peanut fields after the harvest).  We were also invited to eat an evening meal with one of the cottages where we were able to share our faith and testimonies and encourage them as well.

 

 

 

We split our Sundays heading 30 minutes north to Bellville Community Baptist Church (home church of our friends) and 15 minutes down the road to Suwannee Station Baptist Church (pastored by the Boys Ranch chaplain).  All the preaching we heard had the same theme – Christmas is more than the birth of baby Jesus.  We shared a few songs for special music and had a Sunday evening concert at Bellville Community Baptist Church with our focus being on “the bigger picture” of Christmas.  We included several Christmas songs and invited the kids present to help out with some motions to one of the songs.  Our Sunday evening concert at Suwannee Station Baptist Church was on December 30th and we shared some testimony and songs leading to a time of surrendering our disappointments and failures (those resolutions that didn’t happen) to God by writing them on paper and shredding them so as to be ready this new year for what God has planned for each of us.

 

 

 

Christmas Eve found us attending a wonderful church service in Jacksonville, Florida with our eldest son from Phoenix.  We spent Christmas Day in St. Augustine (via our son’s rental car, a black Mustang!) walking around the old buildings and taking in some history from the first successful European colony in North America (1535) with the first Franciscan mission (1587).  Most of the tourist sites were closed, but we peaked through the gates of the Fountain of Youth, surrounded with coquina walls.  (Coquina, means tiny shell, is a mixture of shell fragments and sand held together by calcium carbonate.  It is a sedimentary formation that is soft until molded and allowed to dry.)  We enjoyed the old buildings, tree/moss canopies on several roads, and scenery along the waterfront.  It was a bit breezy and as soon as the sun started to set it became very chilly, cutting short our visit to the lighthouse and walking on the pier where several pelicans were gathered waiting for the scraps from a man cleaning some fish.

Back at the camp we had a few evening fires, roasted some hotdogs and marshmallows with our Wisconsin/Floridian friends, enjoyed the wonderful fresh air, sun rising through the pines, and had some beautiful views of the moon coming up from the horizon as well.  We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas season and we will continue our prayers for this New Year to find you healthy and prosperous in all you do!

We thank you all for your prayers, and our prayers for you continue . . .
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you.  We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.  (Colossians 1:9-12 NIV)

Thanks for being a part of our travels!
John and Connie Nicholas, Salty Strings Music Ministry

15 20181222_134142Contact 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

  • January/February – Camp Horizon, Leesburg, Florida; north central
  • March – Month off – Triple Creek RV Music Camp, Woodville, Texas; northeast
  • April – Tentative – Ecclesia College, Springdale, Arkansas; northwest
  • May – Tentative – Lake Williamson, Carlinville, Illinois; central
  • June – Tentative – Family travels central Illinois and southern Wisconsin
News

The Salt Shaker – November 2018

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy!  Psalm 126:3

 Praise the Lord.  Give thanks to the Lord,for He is good; His love endures forever.  Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord or fully declare His praise?  Psalm 106:1-2

01 Sunset NCPraises – Less back strain the last few months; indoor work a blessing; quiet country setting by ourselves here in Florida; weather not hot and humid!

Prayers – Good weather for outdoor work; back to stay healthy; music opportunities in January/February.

Greetings to our family, followers, and friends:

November, a month of Thanksgiving, which is getting harder and harder to remember amidst all the Christmas music, decorations, and advertising!  However, we were surrounded by thankful people!  Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina and the surrounding area received damage from Hurricane “Flo” (Florence, September 2018).  There were still brush piles in areas, lots of tarped roof spots (rich and poor homes), and remodeling/furniture debris in front yards.  But it was the emotional damage that caught us by surprise.  Everyone was either directly affected or knew someone who was – evacuations, upset in routines, jobs – basically fear of the unknown or of change.  Strangely (or perhaps not, knowing God is directing our steps) we know what evacuation is like, and packing/unpacking from moving every month or so going to someplace “new” as well.  There is still some anxiety, more so for Connie, as we travel around the country and we choose to do this!

02 20181120_172515After a Walmart overnight stay, we arrived on Thursday, October 25, shortly after noon in Lake Waccamaw, NC.  This allowed us to get everything connected and set up without rushing before dark.  We were parked behind a huge arena across the road from a tobacco factory (interesting smells some days), with stables and horses as part of our landscape.  Friday, we traveled into South Carolina visiting North Myrtle Beach (Aldi’s grocery shopping) and down the “strip” (17 miles in 45 minutes and what seemed like hundreds of mini golf places) to Myrtle Beach where we met with the owner of Fresh Brewed Coffeehouse to finalize our concert.  It was cold and rainy most of the day, getting wet feet from all the puddles, and certainly not enjoying the beaches!  We made several stops, getting new wipers and a gas cap for the van while in “town.”

On returning we found a note on our step that asked us to meet with Pastor Joe from the project, who invited us to share some songs and testimony in the Sunday morning chapel service.  God placed us here as much for music ministry as for volunteer labor!  This was the first of 3 chapel services along with two songs at a cottage Rotary dinner, one song at a youth promotion dinner, two songs for the “State of the Homes” breakfast meeting involving area-wide staff, and two songs for their Thanksgiving staff/family dinner.  We were able to practice with their praise team with separate practices for the singing girls and the drum/piano guys.  They also have a wonderful pipe organ in the chapel which Connie was able to play one Sunday.  There was only about an hour that she was able to practice for fun with John accompanying on the mandolin, which sounded beautiful together.  Organ and horses and horse shows, oh my!  God willing we will be back here again.

Each cottage here (provides housing for up to ten youth) is sponsored by an area civic club, Rotary, Civitan, Lions, etc.  Most of the youth have been in 30-40+ foster homes before coming to the Boys and Girls Homes!  Added to that was the recent evacuation to the North Carolina mountains, a totally different setting for most of the youth.  Lots of healing needed for staff as well as youth, and God used our music and testimony throughout this month.

We had one other SOWER couple with us.  They had been full-time and with SOWERs for 15 years, now returning for a project after a 3-year medical leave.   The guys spent all their time at “Roxy’s” a weight room/fitness center for the campus that was damaged when the rubber roof came off that end of the main building.  Acoustic ceiling tiles were glued to cement block walls and painted after the old tile was scraped off.  New trim and ceiling tiles were added as needed, and the floor was “stripped” ready for new wax before we left.

The ladies worked at the “Country Store” a thrift store located in an old church building that had several attachments.  The roof here was damaged as well and we were allowed to finish up the “holiday room” which needed the new drywall primed and painted.  We ladies came up with the trim solution (there was an uneven gap between the drywall and floor trim of 3-4 inches) and talked the guys into spending an afternoon installing the stained quarter round and trim.  The woodwork was wiped off as well.  Plastic had been put in to help with the leaks leaving quite a bit of dirt/black mold on the beautiful old wood.  Along with this we also dusted, vacuumed the carpeted floor wall-to-wall, tried to arrange the book shelves, straightened the linen area, and did some creative marketing with glassware, shoes, and jewelry.  This store is an emotional support ministry as well.  Everyone gets lots of “sweeties, babes, and honey” as they shop and check out, and this serves as a meeting place for locals to check up on each other and share stories about their time as kids at the church.

Of course, we had lots of fellowship time, enjoying some meals together, traveling to Wilmington, NC which has recovered well from the hurricane, and several trips together to the nearest Walmart for supplies.  While in Wilmington (a cool, blustery day with threatening rain) we walked around the old downtown, along the bay, were chased out of “Coast Guard only” parking, and observed the USS North Carolina battleship across the bay.  Then we went to Sam’s Club, enjoyed some ice cream, and went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond where they still have Table-Mate trays, which we purchased and modified for our new music stand.  There are some beautiful wood piers along the coastal areas but the weather and timing didn’t permit us to get to any of the beach/pier areas.  There were two horse shows over the weekends, one English and one Western, providing us some camping company and entertainment as well.

We made one more trip to Myrtle Beach, providing two hours of music at Fresh Brewed Coffeehouse which is in an old part of town about a block from the beach.  We set up in the corner of the front window rather than in their concert area in the back to attract customers.  Although there were few in attendance, the songs we played definitely connected with many as they sang along.  We had one young lady ask for us to do “Simple Gifts” again and she sang along with the words her grandmother had taught her.

13 Ctry Store PlaqueOur last Sunday we attended Bridge Church (a Presbyterian church in a mall) about 45 minutes away to support the youth from the Homes who were part of the Glee Club singers from the on-campus school.  We were at the first service where they did well, but they were much more relaxed and enjoying their singing after the break between services.  We enjoyed lunch with Pastor Joe and his family before returning home.  We decided to celebrate Thanksgiving on Wednesday by going out for lunch and stayed home alone, packing up the trailer for travel, on Thanksgiving Day eating leftover spaghetti!  Much better than our previous three years of being on the road on the holiday and spending Black Friday, starting on Thursday night, at Walmart or a truck stop.  We were up early Friday morning, pulling in the slides, and on the road by 7:45 am for a very long day of travel to north central Florida, arriving about 5:15 pm November 23.  And so another new volunteer project and ministry begins!

Christmas is coming ~ here’s the real reason to celebrate:

A sign will be given, a virgin will conceive, a human baby bearing undiminished Deity.  The glory of the nations, a light for all to see; and hope for all who will embrace His warm reality.
Immanuel, our God is with us; and if God is with us, who could stand against us?  Our God is with us, Immanuel.
(Immanuel, Michael Card © 1986)

We’re back in the south so all y’all have a great Christmas!
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

14 20181121_174114MAIL ADDRESS:
John & Connie Nicholas ~ Salty Strings Music Ministry,
255 N Sperry St, Bushnell, IL  61422

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • December – Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, Live Oak, Florida; north central
  • January/February – Camp Horizon, Leesburg, Florida; north central
  • March – Tentative – Acadian Baptist Center, Eunice, Louisiana; south central
  • April – Tentative – Northeast Texas/Northwest Arkansas
News

The Salt Shaker – October 2018

You are holding a cup of coffee when someone comes along and bumps into you, making you spill your coffee everywhere.  Why did you spill the coffee?”   (answer at the end)

 Prayers – “Listening” for God’s direction; being flexible; confidence in music ministry; music contacts and recording.

 Praises – Crossing the Eastern Continental Divide, van made the trip again; unpredictable beautiful fall weather; reconnecting with church family; wifi at the trailer sites this year at Potomac Park, what a blessing!

Greetings to all our friends, family, and followers:

02 Coos HomeThis October project begins our fourth year of ministry!  It is amazing that we are still re-arranging our possessions within our ~300 sq ft of trailer.  From October 2015 to September 2018 we have volunteered at 21 different Christian ministries.  30 months have been as SOWER volunteers, 4 months volunteering at Little Galilee Christian Camp, and 2 months of “time off” with lots of music ministry.  There is no way to quantify the spiritual impact – lots of volunteer hours of work and help as expected, but also many more hours in listening and encouraging the staff of these ministries as well as “Salty Strings” ministry of sharing and building up others through music and testimony of God working in and through us.

Our arrival at Potomac Park, Falling Waters, West Virginia, brought relief from the rain for them.  The ground was a bit soggy from their very wet year making parking a bit difficult (we had to have the van pulled out of the mud last year) but we didn’t get stuck this time.  Although above average for temperatures we had 2 weeks of sunny weather, the longest stretch of sunshine they had all summer!  We were able to vary our hours and add numerous extra volunteer hours to provide helping hands in the kitchen and complete some “to do” things around the camp.

John started in the first Saturday we were there helping them close down the pool area and cover the pool.  That evening found both of us helping in the kitchen and serving guests.  John’s primary task was to close in an area of the Activity Center to be used as a kitchen for the lessees’ activities.  (There are numerous small homes on the property that create the lessee community.)  The skills he learned last month in installing ceiling tile grid were used and he learned a lot in building wall sections.  As is typical in building, plans change, so the framed and installed window was removed to create a permanent pass through with a garage-type lowering door in the future.  There was putting wood framing to the steel I-beam to attach the new walls, moving lights and light switch, changing ceiling tile grid and tiles, framing walls with chair rail, temporarily hanging the door, putting up T111 siding for the outer walls, caulking, painting, and putting up the baseboard in slightly over three weeks!  The lessees were so excited to see the progress, even though there are many more hours needed to install cabinets and new appliances as well as plumbing, drains, and electrical plugs.  He also spent an extra volunteer day helping to remove shingles from an old cottage now used for storage.

Connie spent most of her time in the kitchen helping with prep work, setting up dining areas, and serving food the first week.  Then came the “uplift” to Mason dining hall.  The paint appeared for the posts which led to the decision to add a bit more color down the center and window cement block valances even.  More paint was required for the second coat and the director decided to go a shade darker to match the existing curtains better.  Connie was able to squeeze two more coats out of the next gallon of paint making everything blend together quite well.  John had the task of spray painting the old vents and was coaxed to put them back on!

Connie received a coffee cup from a lady’s retreat with the inspirational sayings inside and used in this newsletter.  Although the coffee cup was returned to them (we have too many already), the messages will be kept as a reminder of what our lives are to be.

12 Jirani CoffeehouseJohn had arranged for a coffeehouse gig on a Saturday night “down the hill” in Manassas, Va.  We spent the afternoon with our son and daughter-in-law and her family enjoying a Greek dinner and walk around downtown Manassas before ending at Jirani (Swahili for neighbor) Coffeehouse.  While walking around we stopped outside a new “game” store specializing in large versions of games (Yahtzee, checkers, etc.).  A father and daughter from our group paired off in a very intense Jenga competition with the much larger 2×4 blocks.  There was quite a crowd watching as she used a chair to reach the top blocks, eventually beating her dad who toppled the tower with a loud crash!  It was so good to see family interaction and what a witness to those who took the time to watch.

 

Sunday morning found us on the highways into D.C. where we drove past the famous huge cathedral on our way to the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land.  The Franciscan monks maintain special sites in Israel and have built replicas bringing “the Holy Land” to the U.S.  What a fantastic, ornate, and wonderful place to be, even though their wood pew benches were out for refinishing.  We completed the tour and walked around the grounds before heading back to Manassas and packing up for “home.”

Our last week was full of music!

On Thursday we provided the music for the quarterly hymn sing at Potomac Park – lots of good old hymns as well as some praise choruses and a few of our songs – followed by a delicious lunch.

On Sunday we provided two church services for Rehoboth United Methodist Church in Williamsburg, Maryland.  This is the church we attended last year and became attached to many through Sunday School and Wednesday Bible Study.  The Pastor and music leader were visiting other churches to gather ideas for their new building.  Both services went well and we were blessed as we shared our music, testimony, and encouraged them with our theme of “Life Changes, God Doesn’t.”

On Monday we joined some of the lessee musicians for a “Talent Night.”  We did two songs and were asked by the camp director to do “one more,” his favorite (‘I Believe in Jesus’ written by John to an Irish pub song) which we managed without music.  After the talent came a half hour of praise and worship in which John joined the praise team and Connie played “sound tech” for the groups.

The other big event for the month was Connie’s 64th birthday.  Her/our new bed was delivered during lunch after the hymn sing (supposed to come in the evening) and we watched the “bed in a box” being unrolled and decompressing, amazingly turning into a comfortable night’s sleep.  Different, but no more “boinging” coils as you roll over in the night!  We stretched her Birthday celebration for several weeks; delivered home-cooked meal from our son, Golden Corral lunch, Cold Stone ice cream, and present received!!

Tuesday (October 23) found us packing up, forgetting our table-mate converted music stand, and saying our good-byes.  We were so blessed to be a part of this camp again this year.  We received a thank you bag of travel goodies (donuts, chips, cookies, etc.) as well as a whole batch of peanut butter fudge from our lessee neighbor, eggs and hamburger, day-old donated food, and leftovers from the kitchen – no worries about “what to eat” as we traveled and set up camp again!  Day one of travel we noticed the outside shower door swinging back and forth right before making a gas stop.  Connie checked the latch, which was partially broken, and taped the door shut so it wouldn’t rattle open again (we have never used this anyway).  After getting gas Connie locked the keys inside the van; thankfully the windows were down enough for John to reach in with our stabilizer bar tool and hit the unlock button.  Day two of travel as Connie pumped gas and didn’t put back the gas cap or close the lid (but John didn’t notice as he got in to drive) we lost our gas cap!  We arrived, looked at each other, and decided we are getting very forgetful or perfecting our “bad news” reaction skills!!  But, we will continue to “run the race” with our eyes “fixed on the prize before us” (2 Timothy 4:7-8; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Hebrews 12:1-2) using all of our forgetfulness, travels, and circumstances as a witness to God’s faithfulness and for His glory!

11 Ladies RetreatAnswer: “You spilled the coffee because there was coffee in your cup.  Had there been tea in the cup, you would have spilled tea.  The point is whatever is inside the cup is what will spill out.  Therefore, when life comes along and shakes you (which will happen), whatever is inside you will come out.  It’s easy to fake it until you get rattled.  So, we have to ask ourselves, ‘What’s in my cup?’  When life gets tough, what spills out?  Joy, gratefulness, peace and humility?  Or does anger, bitterness, harsh words, and reactions come out?  You choose!
Today (and everyday) lets work towards filling our cup with gratitude, forgiveness, joy, words of affirmation, kindness, gentleness, and love for others.”

Thanks for being a part of our adventures!

John and Connie Nicholas, Salty Strings Music Ministry

Contact Information:
Phone – John 909-336-8910 or Connie 909-336-8912      Email – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                         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

  • November – Boys and Girls Home of NC, Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina; southeast
  • December – Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, Live Oak, Florida; north central
  • January/February – Camp Horizon, Leesburg, Florida; north central
  • March – Tentative – Acadian Baptist Center, Eunice, Louisiana; south central
  • April – Tentative – Northeast Texas