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.
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.