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** The Salt Shaker  **

Monday - November 23, 2015

 Greetings to all our friends & family (Since we're getting accustomed to the south - Greetings to all y'all)

 Praises - safe travel here, Satsuma oranges, God's abundant provision, accepted house sale offer, the "light" and encouragement we were able to be in song and testimony, teaching and learning from camp leaders' testimonies, songs and devotions each workday, and faithful Christians and churches.

 Prayers - safe travel for everyone on the roads this week, smooth closing on house sale, continued computer work and web updating, place to park (12/18-1/06) and music ministry opportunities while in the Phoenix area.

 Our last week in Alabama was spent working with another volunteer group known as RVICS (Roving Volunteers in Christ's Service).  Normally SOWERs have a free week in between projects, but the RVICS were staying on so we pitched in to work with them since we arrived late.  Connie and the ladies worked helping the camp Activities Director with mailings, trail markers, and making bean bags.  John and the men cleaned and painted the Adventure Camp cafeteria kitchen.  It rained most of the week :(

 We left on Friday (10/30) heading southwest through rolling hills to our camp/conference center project near the town of Eunice in south central Louisiana.   We spent one night at Camp Wal-Mart along the way where we realized the water pump and refrigerator wasn't working (after buying ice cream).  As our lights got dimmer in the camper we knew it had to be the battery.  We stopped at an RV center on the way and put in a new one, just before it started to rain.  The next four hours were spent driving in mostly heavy rain with poor visibility, but God was with us - the rain let up just as we arrived and didn't start back up until after the essentials were setup, then poured again for most of the night.

 After attending church on Sunday, the camp director bought all 6 SOWERs lunch at a local Cajun cafe.  Work started Monday morning after breakfast provided by the camp.  Again, God is good - all our meals this week could be eaten at the camp because they were feeding up to 60 volunteer Campers on Mission people.  The ladies worked with the other ladies cleaning the lodge, conference room, kitchen, chapel, and library.  The SOWERs ladies also worked on a mailing.  The guys cut custom moldings for an entryway and patched some drywall in the conference room from a leak.  For the next two weeks the guys set some new porch posts on a cabin and remodeled four of the lodge rooms with plaster repair, paint, and new crown moldings that really brightened them up.  John also cleaned up and adjusted a big professional table saw that the center had recently acquired (fun, fun!).  The ladies continued cleaning - all 32 lodge rooms with Liquid Gold on the woodwork and bathroom cabinets, washing windows including the track and screens, and air conditioner vents/shields.

 The camp has a nice baby grand piano (Baldwin) in one corner of the dining hall and Connie was told she could play it whenever she wanted.  So, there have been several hours of free time along with the songs at morning devotions with her at the piano.  The Campers on Mission saw our Salty Strings vans graphics and asked us to play for their Wednesday evening prayer service.  Several camp staffers who attend the nearby Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church talked to their pastor and we were invited us to do some special music Sunday morning and a mini-concert Sunday evening.  We were treated to lunch after the morning service and a surprise love offering in the evening.  God's provision has been made evident through his faithful servants at this camp in so many ways!  We also were privileged to play at a local care facility where the residents seemed to be deeply touched by several songs and were very appreciative of all we did.  We know God was present as we selected the songs. 

 Overall we've had about as many cloudy-rainy-dreary days as nice days so the trailer gets rather small.  We've also had fluctuating temperatures - we'll run the heater at night for several days then turn on the air conditioning for a few days!  We've even fired up our furnace a few times to take off the chill in the morning (reached 31 last night and we don't have much for insulation).  We've been able to take several bike rides, mostly around the lodge since there isn't much of a shoulder on the "hard" road and the side roads are gravel.  There are huge mosquitoes so we keep moving during our evening walks, greatly needed with all the food we've been eating!  We don't need really need our alarm clocks - we have a deranged rooster challenged with the time change, squirrels that we have seen chew off the acorns that fall on our roof (usually about 6 am), and a braying donkey. 

 We spent our first Saturday going to three museums (in the rain) in nearby Eunice.  We learned of the Acadian heritage of this area (Cajun is slang for Acadian); heard local Cajun music (actually Zydeco style) with fiddle, triangle, guitar, and diatonic accordion (buttons that are two different pitches based on the bellows being pulled or pushed); watched a cooking demonstration (too spicy for Connie); and toured an instrument museum.  This area was French catholic originally with Spanish and German influence as well.  Sadly the original French language is disappearing even though the song lyrics are in Cajun French.

 lagatorWe went with our SOWERs on a field trip to Avery Island (although it is surrounded by water, kind of like a moat, and higher in elevation than the surrounding land it isn't an island as we expected).  This is where all Tabasco sauce(s) are made.  We toured the factory (for free) and sampled flavors (including ice cream, Coke, mustard, and mayo).  The original owners (late 1800's to early 1900's) were "eco friendly" and dug lagoons and ponds for alligators, worked with horticulture, created an aviary to save dwindling egrets, and made a wonderful "jungle garden" on part of the island.  We took our bikes along hoping to ride around the 2.5 by 3 mile island town, but it is all private land so we were content to ride around (and up and down the hills) the 3 miles of garden roads.  There were several spots where there were trails that we walked with multiple varieties of palm trees, camellias in bloom, and mixed varieties of bamboo as well.  We passed lots of sugar cane fields in various stages of growth and harvest along the drive and saw smoke from the burning of one field.

Photos of work in progress and completed entry at the Conference Center

The SOWERs were invited to a free supper at Kelly's Landing, a wonderful place full of toy tractors (mostly John Deere) and all size tractor related collectibles,  that serves authentic south Louisiana home cooked meals.  Kelly has used his property, tractor collecting, and years of farming experience to become a tourist attraction for many groups after loosing most of his eyesight to macular degeneration.  Area RV parks will schedule tours and meals and there are Amish groups that return each year.  He does the cooking, as do many of the men around this area, and the story telling for groups of up to 50 people.  We had gumbo with chicken and sausage (again, too spicy for Connie) served with rice, potato salad and crackers (always served with gumbo),  and dessert.  The farming here is rice one year then rotated with soy beans, cattle, or crawfish - very interesting as they harvest the rice with a combine, spray and plant with airplanes, and use boats to harvest the crawfish.  We actually ate there again at the invite of another group - Kelly is very generous and appreciative of volunteer workers.

Our "home" in Louisiana

 We took a day to ourselves stopping at 2 music stores (Mouton's Accordions did not have any accordions!), the rice museum with a history of Crowley Louisiana, and a trip to Lake Charles where we were able to ride our bikes along the lake front promenade as well as through many streets of the Charpentier (Carpenter) District of historic homes (built around the turn of the century by carpenter architects) complete with mixed styles, leaded glass, turrets, towers, etc.  A wonderful mix of beautiful homes many now used as lawyer offices. 

 We will be traveling this week and on Thanksgiving day to Phoenix, Arizona for our next project.  We are looking forward to how God will use us in this new experience at a Christian school as well as spending some time with our son Aaron who lives in Phoenix. 

 Until next time, thanks for being a part of our travels!  May you be blessed these coming weeks.

John and Connie Nicholas, Salty Strings Music Ministry

Contact Information:

            Phone - John 909-336-8910 - Connie 909-336-8912

            Email - SaltyStrings@hotmail.com     Web - SaltyStrings.com

            Mailing Address:        John & Connie Nicholas ~ Salty Strings Music Ministry
                                             1658 Milwaukee Ave #100-9861
                                             Chicago, IL  60647

                   (This is a mail service - we will receive our mail monthly so there may be delays)

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