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  • Writer's pictureNielsen Studios Inc

American Faces No. 79

Nick Gordon, better known as “Nick of the Woods,” is a man with a wealth of outdoor knowledge and a passion to share that knowledge with others. I recently took a WFA (Wilderness First Aid) course in Waupaca, Wisconsin offered through Nick’s company, NOW Outdoors Expedition Co. Nick was a brilliant instructor, helping bring to light “real world” solutions in situations that would require “on the spot” medical attention. While I was there for the WFA class I also added to my personal knowledge base on hammocking, hiking, knot-tying and a host of other outdoor skills enriching my weekend in ways I had not imagined.

What made the class feel particularly “real-life” and applicable to me was the fact we were camped in the woods of Wisconsin. Campfire smoke would fill our nostrils, and sometimes our eyes, as Nick shared how to assess each emergency situation (without freaking out), take inventory of the situation and then work together for the best outcome. Those last two words “best outcome” really made me think about the impact of what Nick does. He teaches people how to administer Wilderness First Aid. Some of those people –myself included – may encounter someone in a dire situation and have to administer first aid that may save someone's life, or at least change the course of what could have been a very negative outcome. That right there is the definition of a “World Changer.” At least in my eyes. Perhaps at some future time, one of Nick’s students may give life-saving CPR to another human that saves their life. That is simply amazing to me!

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But Nick of NOW Outdoors has even more depth to his resume! He, along with others, leads and guides expeditions on wilderness hiking trails, into the BWCA and to distant places like Base Camp Everest. Sharing a campfire with this outdoorsy guy is an experience one does not easily forget. His way of making a person feel comfortable in the outdoors makes you feel like you can conquer a backpacking journey deep into the woods, or paddle a canoe into the wilderness.

In the photos above, Nick has sawdust (Man Glitter) from tending the fire. His hair is not perfect and he is not wearing a button up flannel shirt. But he is wearing a smile that speaks volumes to his love for the outdoors. Nick of the Woods, you help make the wild places even more amazing with your outdoorsiness. Thanks for the amazing experience!

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  • Writer's pictureNielsen Studios Inc

Updated: Apr 29, 2022

American Faces No. 78

Confession: there were tears as I wrote this American Faces story. You see American Faces #78 is my son and my soldier, Isaac . You never are really prepared for the time when your children take flight. But I guess I should have seen this coming. Isaac has forever been filled with gusto and an extraordinarily loyal heart for his people and his country. His loyal heart was on full display in late August of 2019 when at age 16 he sat at the bedside holding the hand of his 79 year old Papa as he passed away. Isaac never left my dad’s side until his last breath was breathed that day. He said, “I didn’t want Papa to feel alone.” That was one of the most powerful examples of undying loyalty I have ever seen in my 52 years on this globe, and it still takes my breath away nearly three years later. Just amazing.

Now for the soldier part: I think it is just in this young man’s DNA. When his sisters weren’t trying to get him to dress up in a TuTu, or play dolls or house, Isaac was outside slaying some dragon or fighting some battle in some imaginary place. But one of his “best days ever” was when he modeled on a photo shoot I did for J.M. Cremps and he dressed as a soldier. At the tender age of 8 I saw glimpses of someone who would wear a uniform and wear it well, with dignity and pride, for the U.S. Army National Guard. Ike (our nickname for him) may have been playing that day in 2010, but to him he was a real soldier on a real mission.

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On March 21st, 2022 we said our goodbyes to Isaac as he headed out for 9 weeks of Basic Training. After conquering Basic, he’ll move on to 20+ weeks of specialized training (MOS).

Our family is so proud of the direction that Isaac has taken and how he plans to move forward in life with this decision to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.

I closed my photo session with Isaac by asking him to share a word for his sisters Anna, Abigail and Bethany, in case he never saw them again. He simply said, “Thanks for loving me, for growing up with me. Thank you for sharing our childhood years together. I will be forever proud to call you my sisters.”

We’re so proud of you too, Ike. Keep living, loving with your whole heart and showing us what it means to be loyal!

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  • Writer's pictureNielsen Studios Inc

American Faces No. 77

I was introduced to Karen Austin Brave Crow by Dan and Sandy Adler (American Faces #73). Karen (American Faces #77) has endured more in her 58 years than most of us will see in three lifetimes. Her very difficult road started at the age of three when, inconceivably, she was forgotten outside her reservation home, suffering frostbite on her tender hands – the same hands that show the lasting effects of frozen flesh even today. Frostbite was only the beginning. She was eventually adopted by a family when she was 6, but only after she had passed through countless foster homes. The pain of her early childhood years shattered her trust in others. So when she was later adopted by the Austin family, she could not understand the love they showed her. The young Karen Brave Crow, as a deeply troubled teenager, did not know how to live within the love and the structure of her adoptive family. In her struggle she said words to her adoptive dad that unknowingly marred her innocence even more. She told him she wished he was dead. The next day her adoptive dad died. Though his death was not by her hands, his loss crushed an already broken heart.

Suffering an utterly broken heart and self blame, Karen repeatedly ran away from home, from the time she was 11 until she she left home for good at 17. She faced an even more difficult life in the days and years ahead. Cocaine, alcoholism, abduction, rape, and beatings became what defined Karen’s life in the 70's, 80’s and 90’s. In those three decades she was running away from her past, from her hurts and trying to drown it out with everything her brutal world had to offer. She often woke up in a hospital from overdoses and beatings.

But gladly, Karen’s story doesn’t end there. You can now see a certain light in her beautiful, brown eyes in this portrait – a light that says, “My story is still being written.”

The Karen you see in the 1991 photo below may carry the same name, but she is a completely new woman today. In describing her “absolute rock bottom,” Karen says she “slithered in” to a Christian bookstore, strung out on drugs and asked for prayer. People gathered around and prayed with her, they helped her find shelter and safety and a place to heal. She soon found true healing as she surrendered her life and began a journey of amazing transformation that continues today.

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Looking at Karen today, you see a woman celebrating 30 years of sobriety, a mom of two beautiful daughters and a talented singer using her gift to bless others with artistry and beauty. This woman is redeemed, restored and loved by her Savior. She has forgiven her past to heal the future.

Listen to Karen and the Heart of the City Worship Band perform a song that tells her story:

P.S. What’s not written into the lines above is a time when law enforcement helped to free her from her abductees. I include this as a footnote to encourage each of you to be watchful, and if you see something of concern, say or do something. Show love and care for a fellow human in need. You may just save someone like Karen Austin Brave Crow.

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