Category Archives: Uncategorized

Serve #30 – Eric S.

Serve30V.1 Serve #30

This “Serve” started with Eric S. of Rachel Contracting driving up in a large bulldozer at a Minneapolis, Minnesota construction site. Needless to say my inner child was enthralled at the site of a massive, metal earth mover that was closing in on the site of the photoshoot. Eric’s story was no less awesome than the bulldozer. Eric served in the Army National Guard as a heavy equipment operator in both Bosnia and Afghanistan where he helped to rebuild roads and explode ordinances and/or IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in previously war torn areas. Out of Eric’s desire to serve, he found a sense of belonging which helped to define his reason for serving which was, as he said, ”to bring freedom to others. ”Eric’s military service helped to bring safety to communities where burried explosives might take the lives of loved ones. He also built roads to safely move troops into areas that were potentially unreachable. Those very roads are now used by communities full of people whose lives continue to be positively impacted by Eric and many other military personnel.

The leadership qualities that Eric learned are what helps him in his job for Rachel Contracting; he enjoys mentoring others and doing an honest days work. Eric is worthy of honor for his service to others around this globe. I was blessed to shake his hand and say “thank you” for your service, as we closed our time.

When men and women just like Eric engage in the act of service such as this, you get a glimpse into what valor really means

Thank you Eric!

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen
Mobile. 612.750.2593
Studio. 763.498.7375
Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com
LinkedInhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1
Webhttp://nielsen-studios.com
Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nielsen.studios.inc/
“Tell Your Story      

Serve #29 – Terry B.

Serve29V.1
Serve #29
In this fast-paced world, we so often drive to the nearest big box store to get the stuff that fulfills our needs. It might be lumber at a warehouse, or groceries at the “members only” giant shopping establishment. All the time, we pass by local gems, filled with people just like you and me, people with a desire to make a living doing what they love.
One such “gem” is a traditional archery store called The Footed Shaft in Rochester, MN. This modest store, with a front porch reminiscent of a southern cabin, is owned by Terry Banitt. Terry is warm and inviting, with a grin that rarely leaves his face, whether he’s cutting arrows in his shop, or handing you one of the hundreds of traditional bows adorning his shop. The Footed Shaft is covered from floor to ceiling with bows, arrows, fletching and just about any archery accessory you can imagine (and many you didn’t even know you needed!).
Terry is the willing subject of Serve #29. I wanted to do this “Serve” for two reasons: because I love the sport of traditional archery and the people who are a part of it; and to understand what draws a person to operate a small shop in the hills of Rural Minnesota.
When I asked Terry why he keeps a store like The Footed Shaft open he said, “People need a place to get traditional archery supplies, and maybe more important, they want a place to belong. In here, they know they can talk hunting and swap archery stories.”
I also asked him why he serves people in his way. He said he wants to be a place for people to slow down in this high-tech, mobile world and enjoy a simple, ancient hobby, and to be still, breath and escape for a while.
So, take some advice from Terry: slow down and fling a few arrows with a bow made of wood. Or maybe ride a bike on a back road, or go for a hike where the trees are close. Whatever it is, set the phone down, and go share that adventure with someone you care about.

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen
Mobile. 612.750.2593
Studio. 763.498.7375
Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com
LinkedInhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1
Webhttp://nielsen-studios.com
Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nielsen.studios.inc/
“Tell Your Story” 

Serve #28 – Dan M. – A man with a heart.

Serve28V.1

Serve #28

Over the past 12 years I have had the honor to watch Dan Monson as a pastor at NorthRidge Fellowship. This man is filled with a passion to reach out to the people of this world. Dan currently serves as Missions Pastor for NorthRidge Fellowship. He is one of those kind of guys who gives 110% of himself. You see that 110% heartfelt passion for the people when he does outreach events at a mobile home park in the Minneapolis Metro area, you see it as well when he is on a missions trip to Nett Lake Reservation, you can also see it when he takes a missionary team to a long-term mission trip site in Honduras. Over the years, I have seen this heavily bearded man cry because of his heart for people to be made whole.

Serve28_0006He knows that inside the walls of NorthRidge Fellowship is a place for people in need of help to restore relationships, get back on their feet, or learn how to better speak English through an ELL (English Language Learners) class that is held regularly within the walls of the church.

I asked Dan why he tirelessly serves with so much heart and he shared that he does it so that people might know Jesus. He knows how a church that has a heart for making a difference can restore homes, be a safe place for the hurting, and create a place to become what you were meant to be and not what the world thinks you are. In simple terms…Dan loves people with his whole heart.

I am continually blown away by Dan and his heart for the people of this world. He wears his emotions on his shirt sleeve, or maybe better said from his eyes as he pours his heart into those he serves.

Thank you Dan for the glimpse of what Jesus must have looked like.

 

NorthRidge Fellowship is a Converge NorthCentral church that meets in rogers, MN.

 

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen
Mobile. 612.750.2593
Studio. 763.498.7375
Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com
LinkedInhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1
Webhttp://nielsen-studios.com
Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nielsen.studios.inc/
“Tell Your Story” 

Serve #27 – Randy E.

 

Serve27_FINAL

Serve No. 27

 

Tradition draws my family and me to Oakwood Cemetery in Rockford, Minnesota every year for the annual Memorial Day celebration.  This year, 2017, was no different; Memorial Day is also the day that a good share of the town of Rockford lines Bridge Street for a small town parade that concludes in the cemetery.  It was during this parade that Randy E. caught my eye.  I noticed his hat had the Purple Heart symbol on it, I also noticed a little dog poking its fuzzy head out from Randy’s jacket.  I knew I had to approach him to see if he would be willing to be my subject. I could see in Randy’s caring eyes, his proudly worn hat, and a wonderfully trimmed grey haired mustache that he would be a great subject for Serve #27.

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Rockford, MN
I asked Randy why he served.  He said without hesitation that it was his duty to his country.  I then asked him about the Purple Heart award and he shared that he was wounded in combat while being a part of the infantry.   He also shared that he has residual effects of Agent Orange as well as working through PTSD which still affects him to this day.  The little dog that I mentioned before helps him work through the hard times that PTSD brings on.
     I am always blown away by people who have served in the United States Armed Forces in times of war.  I am especially impacted by those that have been awarded the Purple Heart.  I think what touches me the most is that these individuals’ lives brushed death in a battle and in some foreign country when they were young adults.  I am honored to be in the presence of a Veteran like Randy as I knew I was standing in the presence of a great man who served his country well. He sacrificed for our freedom, and the freedom of others.  There is amazing power in that last sentence that is easily looked over.  So I want to say it again.  Randy sacrificed for our freedom and the freedom of others.
Thank you Randy!
Give thanks to someone who served today.  They are all around us!
Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen
Mobile. 612.750.2593
Studio. 763.498.7375
Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com
LinkedInhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1
Webhttp://nielsen-studios.com
Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nielsen.studios.inc/
“Tell Your Story”

Serve #26 – Larry S. (Vietnam Veteran)

Serve26_FINAL

Serve #26

Elk River, MN was the foggy April destination for Serve #26.  My subject Larry S. and I met at the Olde Main Eatery over a tasty egg breakfast and a hot cup of coffee served in an old fashioned ceramic mug.  This story however, actually began a week prior when I met Larry in an auto repair shop in Elk River.  Larry caught my attention when he walked in wearing a Vietnam Veteran baseball cap, a local VFW jacket, along with his warm smile.Serve26_LarryS_0008_LR
I could see this man with a bit of silver hair and a few more years lived on this earth than myself, had served our country and had a story. His Serve story began as a patriotic call to duty in the fall of 1967 after enlisting when he was 18 and lasted until the fall of 1973.  Larry served three tours of duty in Vietnam in roles that ranged from truck driver, to mechanic, to infantry during those tours.  In these various roles he was a boots-on-the-ground guy doing whatever he was asked to do while in the service.  Larry shared that returning from his third and final tour was the most difficult due to the protesters spitting, hurling insults, names, and actual stones at him and his “Band of Brothers” as they walked across the tarmac.  These young men who went to battle a bit wet behind the ears  came back seasoned warriors and deserved much more than insults and injuries when they were back stateside.  I guess that is a big reason why I was drawn to photograph Larry and listen to his story about his service in Vietnam.  I feel that every person who has served our country deserves respect.  Just say thank you, when you see a hat, a jacket, or even a military tattoo; there are lives that were given for what you and I take for granted.

As my time with Larry was ending I asked the question; “How would you encourage the next generation?”  He said ; “Join the military. We still need to have a strong military.”

In closing I want to encourage each of you to have the courage to walk up to a veteran if you see one on the street, or even start up a conversation with a relative and hear their story.  Your life will be made better for it.  As your moment with a veteran comes to a close,  shake his or her hand, say thank you and walk away knowing your life was made just a little richer.

 

Best wishes,
Shawn Nielsen
Mobile. 612.750.2593
Studio. 763.498.7375
            “Tell Your Story” 

Serve #25 – Kevin & Natasha L.

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Serve#25

I have tried to figure out how to best write this Serve and I must say that I have been totally stumped. The reason, I think, is I did not want to point out the difficulties that are found on the Nett Lake Ojibwe Reservation, near Nett Lake, MN. As I thought about it more, I realized that nowhere in the world is there a people group without difficulties. So without dwelling on the difficulties, I choose to dwell on the hope and light Kevin and Natasha Land along with three children bring to the people of Nett Lake. I met the Lands in 2016 while on a mission trip with my church NorthRidge Fellowship. I was blown away by how they live out being a light and hope for the men, women, and children of Nett Lake on a day to day basis as they live and make their home on the reservation and serve in the local church. The story does not stop there; Kevin and Natasha are bus drivers if needed, life counselors, Vacation Bible School teachers, worship leaders, but more than that they are friends to the Nett Lake Ojibwe. As I spent time with Kevin and Natasha I knew they were woven into the lives of the people by how they spoke of the community. The love for the people of Nett Lake is in the DNA of this wonderful couple and their children; it is seen in their actions, and heard their words. Kevin and Natasha are people to admire for their dedication and ministry approach to the Ojibwe/native culture.

When I meet people like the Lands I am humbled. Not humbled by their greatness, but humbled by their humbleness and their willingness to serve out of a free flowing heart.

May we all add a more hope and a more light to this world which needs it! Thank you Kevin and Natasha.

 

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen

Mobile. 612.750.2593

Studio. 763.498.7375

Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1

Web: http://nielsen-studios.com

Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

Instagram

            “Tell Your Story”

Serve #24 – Rayanne

serve24_round1_lr~ Serve #24 ~

Guest post by Aimee Libby

Kids these days…”

That’s a familiar phrase we often hear with not-so-great connotations. Well, I’d like to tell you about a particular “kid” who’s breaking the stereotype of this younger generation.

Meet Rayanne.

Rayanne always has a smile on her face. She’s a high school student. She loves music. She loves people. She has a quiet, servant’s heart. How do I know Rayanne, you ask? It’s an interesting story, actually.

A little over a year ago, I was helping put on our annual Ogni Voce special needs choir performance in conjunction with the STMA Stallions Special Olympics team. Rayanne showed up that chilly winter night with several other students who were told they’d receive extra credit for choir class if they stopped in to hang out and sing with our Special Olympics group. Seemed like an easy way to get extra credit, right? Later that night, as Head of Delegation for our STMA Stallions Special Olympics team, I received an email from Rayanne saying how much fun she had with our group. She wanted to know what else our group did and how she could get involved. There was a lot going on and I hadn’t really even met Rayanne that evening, so I couldn’t put a face with a name. Honestly, my first thought upon reading her email was, “Sure, we’ll see how this plays out – probably another teen who’s ‘interested’ but never follows through”. By noon the next day, Rayanne had submitted all of the necessary paperwork and completed the required online certification to become a volunteer coach with our STMA Stallions Special Olympics team. She was at the next team practice with a big smile on her face, ready to assist wherever needed.

Now, some of you are probably reading this and are thinking, “Hmmm, so…big deal. A kid came to something for extra credit – what makes them ‘so great’ for doing that?” What makes Rayanne so great and such an asset to our group is this: She’s always there. She shows up week in and week out. She shows up at all of our team’s competitions and tournaments. She shows up at all of our social/community events. She even checks in regularly with me so she can make sure to align her work schedule with our team’s calendar. She connects with me ahead of events/outings to see where I need her to help out. She eagerly shows up bright and early on a Saturday morning, hours before any other teenager would rollout of bed, so she can support and cheer on an athlete one-on-one for a competition. She’s something that so many people in our day and age, both kids and adults, lack – she’s consistent.

Not only is Rayanne consistent with our group, she continually demonstrates her dedication and heart for our Stallions athletes outside of what is truly expected. Shortly after getting involved with our team, Rayanne started volunteering regularly in the special education classroom at STMA High School where many of our Stallions athletes attend. The high school special education staff adores her and are so impressed by her genuine desire to meet each kid where they’re at. Rayanne is constantly seeking out ways to include and embrace the athletes within the school setting. Anytime I stop in at STMA High School and see Rayanne in the halls or at a school pepfest, she’s hanging out with a Stallions athlete…as friends, not because she has to. There’s no obligation beyond weekly practices for our Stallions coaches, but that doesn’t matter to Rayanne. Her heart shines through the most in settings outside of our regularly scheduled team practices.

By now, it’s probably pretty obvious that I’m a “fan” of Rayanne, but, I have kind of a unique perspective on all of this above and beyond what I’ve shared already. Yes, I’m the Head of Delegation for the Stallions Special Olympics group, and volunteers like Rayanne are invaluable to our team – we wouldn’t exist without them. But, I’m also a parent of an almost-13-year-old Stallions athlete. This perspective is the one that’s the most important in my opinion. I can honestly say, seeing Rayanne with our Stallions athletes puts a lump in my throat and makes my eyes “sweat”. In a world that typically views people’s value and worth by how great their abilities are, Rayanne sees each one of our kids as the unique, joy-filled, perfect individual God designed them to be. She doesn’t get caught up in the often-unpronounceable name of a certain syndrome or disability an athlete may be afflicted with. Nope. All she sees is a person…with personality, incredible abilities, and with so much love and joy to give. That’s all any parent wants. For their child to be seen, valued and loved. Rayanne does that effortlessly, and in the process, blesses so many families within the community.

 

stallions2017_lrAthletes and Coaches

In a world of constant change and uncertainty, our athletes who thrive on routine find comfort and security in knowing they’ll see Rayanne’s smiling face any time they show up to a STMA Stallions event. And that makes all the difference in the world. Her consistency across the board shows athletes and parents alike that she’s the real deal. As the old saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words”. This couldn’t be truer of Rayanne. Her quiet demeanor may not be flashy and scream out to others, but her actions are seen and heard loud and clear.

Rayanne, you’re a one-of-a-kind world changer. Thank you for serving our group in this way. We’re forever grateful for your heart to serve, and that you came out in search of some “extra credit” that brisk winter night.

Thanks for being consistent. No matter what.

 

 

 

 

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen

Mobile. 612.750.2593

Studio. 763.498.7375

Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1

Web: http://nielsen-studios.com

Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

            “Tell Your Story”

Serve #23 – Landon L.

serve23_finalServe #23

Serve #23 is about a young man named Landon. I’ve known Landon since he was an eight years old and now he’s the ripe old age of seventeen (almost 18). He was a regular cast member along with my daughter, of a local musical theater group, Front Porch Musical Theater. Landon always been a wonderfully polite young man with a chivalrous demeanor; qualities I don’t see often in today’s youth. My story isn’t about that though. It is about his decision to become a part of the Army National Guard, for which he currently holds the rank of Private E2. He is making this decision to prove to himself what he is made of as well as to have the opportunity to figure out how he is supposed to impact the world. Once Landon finishes basic training and additional educational requirements he desires to gain employment in the law enforcement field at the local level, transitioning to a higher government and/or intelligence level, continuing to serve throughout his life.

As we spoke he shared that he also wants to be a role model for others. If a seventeen year old musical theater student can join the army, so can they. He added that whether or not you are joining the ranks of the armed forces or not, there is not a valid excuse for not going after something. His words were, “You are what you allow yourself to be”. Landon also inserted one last encouragement by saying “People need to know that they must work hard for their future”.

Landon I salute your service and am very excited to see what he future holds for you.  May we all follow your lead!

 

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen

Mobile. 612.750.2593

Studio. 763.498.7375

Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1

Web: http://nielsen-studios.com

Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

            “Tell Your Story”

Serve #22 – Tracey T. the Encourager.

serve22_finalServe #22

I met Tracey Tischler just under a decade ago when I needed a makeup stylist for a high level executive photoshoot.  My original stylist who was booked backed out the day of the shoot with no warning.  Tracey stepped right into the role that morning like we had worked together for many years.  Needless to say I was impressed by her ability to mold into any situation, and talk to anyone no matter their status or job role.  She has a great rapport with nearly all of humanity (I think even if they spoke another language she would still make them feel comfortable).  I think what has brought me to write this “Serve” about Tracey is her ability to talk to anyone, better said her ability to be an encourager.  I have seen her encouragement played out as she gracefully applies makeup to a mother and daughter preparing them for a photoshoot.  The amazing part was watching Tracey apply her art to a little girl who was fighting a battle against Leukemia as well navigating life with the struggles of being a child with Down’s Syndrome.  Tracey gave time to the pair as well as loving words of encouragement.  To Tracey this mom and daughter were royalty, and it was her role, maybe even her honor to care for them.  Tracey much like all of us has a story that defines who she is, but that story does not hinder what she has to offer the world; ENCOURAGEMENT!

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I think a lesson we can glean from Tracey is to be a person of encouragement to a world that desperately needs some.

 

 

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen

Mobile. 612.750.2593

Studio. 763.498.7375

Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1

Web: http://nielsen-studios.com

Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

            “Tell Your Story”

 

 

Testing!

Sometimes you just need to do a test on a set concept!

Serve #21 -Emerge Mothers Academy

This is my first collaboration combining video and stills in the “Serve” series.  It was an honor to team up and tell this story alongside Josh and Anna Cisewski.  Take a few moments to watch the video and read the story.  It might just change the day for you.

Serve #21

Guest post written by Anna Cisewski

Since its conception, Emerge Mothers Academy has changed the lives of over 120 single mothers and their children. By providing much-needed classes and life-changing community, Emerge is able to partner with single mothers and equip them to be confident women for their children and communities.

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Becca

Becca Erickson founded Emerge with her mom, who was also a single mother. She saw a need for an organization like Emerge after her husband left her shortly after their baby was born. Suddenly alone and with very few resources and little support, Becca knew she couldn’t do it on her own. Looking back, she wishes she would have had access to the kind of support Emerge provides.

 

 

 

Dre Barthel and Becca met at the church they attend, Open Door. They connected and Dre learned more about Emerge; she knew she wanted to be a part of the organization.

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Dre

Becca says that Dre helped open up a new facet of the organization and is able to reach people through different avenues and mediums.

The lives of hundreds of women are being changed because of the vision and passion of Becca and Dre. They serve because they see how important the strength and confidence of a mother is and they want to stand beside those women and show them what a strong mother is.

It only takes a small bit of your love and passion to change the whole world of another person. Where can you share yourself?

Learn more about Emerge Mothers Academy at emergetwincities.org

 

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen

Mobile. 612.750.2593

Studio. 763.498.7375

Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1

Web: http://nielsen-studios.com

Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

            “Tell Your Story”

Serve #20 – Joanne Kersten

serve20final

Serve #20

Written by Scott Whitman

 

Joanne Kersten

Co-Founder WOVEN (With One Voice Energizing Neighborhoods)

North Central University

For professor Joanne Kersten, music is more than an art or vocation, it’s an instrument of hope.

Joanne is a co-founder of WOVEN (With One Voice Energizing Neighborhoods), a program she launched in 2002 with fellow North Central University professor, Larry Bach, in response to the desperate need they saw in the neighborhoods surrounding their downtown Minneapolis campus.

They saw children living under the heavy burden of poverty, abuse and neglect – children who could see no future for themselves, other than what drugs or gangs might offer.

But in the midst of the abuse and poverty, Joanne also saw potential. She asked, “What if we can help these children see something more in themselves?”

WOVEN matches college music students with neighborhood kids in a unique mentoring partnership. The children commit to meeting the attendance and conduct standards of the program, and in turn receive free weekly music lessons and one-on-one mentoring from a college student. These partnerships, which often extend for many semesters, have created a safe-haven for more than 100 neighborhood children since the program began, transforming the lives of many along the way.

Joanne says the process of learning music theory, and the practical discipline of preparing for musical performance, lays a foundation for greater literacy, personal responsibility, confidence and self-worth.

For many of the children, participating in WOVEN gave them a different view of what was possible.

“The program helps them know they can be something else. It becomes a form of drug prevention, or pregnancy prevention. They begin to want something more for themselves,” said Joanne.

“The children – and even their parents or guardians – are surrounded with positive ideas, positive people, and cannot help but be inspired by these talented and energetic college students,” said Joanne.

The benefits go both ways. The NCU students, immersing themselves in the lives of their young charges, learn what it means to serve with humility.

“Our college students come here from their own towns and schools where they were stars. They get thrown into the competitive college environment and often struggle to find their footing,” said Joanne, “By serving as teachers in WOVEN, these students begin to see themselves as contributors with something to offer. It gives them perspective, and a vision for their own future,” said Joanne.

But ultimately for Joanne, and everyone involved in WOVEN, it’s really about hope – finding it, and giving it.

“We all need the same thing, whether privileged or poor,” says Joanne. “Children can live through some pretty dark stuff. God’s made us pretty resilient. But to really grow, children need light.”

Joanne urges us to invest ourselves in shining that light: “Do whatever you can, no matter how simple, to bring people light and hope. Do it for the children.”

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen

Mobile. 612.750.2593

Studio. 763.498.7375

Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1

Web: http://nielsen-studios.com

Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

            “Tell Your Story”

Serve #19 – Joel Hanson

serve19_final1

Serve#19

Guest post by Anna Cisewski

A lot can change in 25 years. For Joel Hanson, worship pastor at Church of the Open Door in Maple Grove, MN, this has never been truer. He is a much different man than the kid he was with a talent for music and a need for fame a quarter of a century ago.

In 2004, Joel became the worship leader at Open Door, but he didn’t quite feel like he fit. To him, his job was to “sing in front of a large group of people and be good at it.” But he discovered that being a worship leader went far beyond the stage and the microphone. He needed to be a pastor, a shepherd.

After three years working at Open Door, Joel’s life seemed to be unraveling. After a series of poor and hurtful choices, the church leaders sat down with him and gave him the option to resign. He left.

But the next day, something happened that surprised him and in the years to come became more significant: the lead pastor, Dave Johnson, called him to ask how he was doing. Suddenly Joel realized that what he had expected of the church simply wasn’t true. He wasn’t ostracized or rejected because he had failed. Dave told Joel that he just couldn’t imagine “not being around the fire of life” without him. So instead of abandoning Joel to the humiliation of being released from a church, he was pulled back in.

“[They] helped me, not put myself back together, because those parts weren’t going to work anymore, but they helped me figure out what I was meant for.”

And then they hired him back. Instead of creating a safe distance, the church asked him to serve with them again. And throughout all of that, they redeemed Joel’s perception of what the church really is.

Now, almost ten years after the second time he was hired as worship pastor at Church of the Open Door, he fulfills his job very differently. Now, he views himself as a shepherd; a leader with the opportunity to partner with other people and equip them to use the profound impact that they have within the church and take it out to their communities.

Joel serves because to him, it’s not about the performance or the fame that he had when he was younger. It’s about the fact that there is a beautiful story in the hope he shares every day.

“I’d rather be known for being a normal human than have to continually prove that I’m someone else. Because God works in the ordinary and that’s the story I just can’t get away from anymore. It doesn’t matter who I’m talking to, it’s always true. And to me, that’s the most beautiful part about the Good News, is that is happens everywhere.”

Twenty-five years ago, Joel thought he had to hide behind himself and his music. But now, he doesn’t carry that burden, he feels like a free man. Even in a church, where so many seem to feel the need to put on a clean face and a clean shirt to be accepted, the real and messy parts of life are what matter to Joel.

“What if we just showed up as we are, because that’s the only thing we actually can be and that’s the only place where good can actually happen.”

Have you been exhausting yourself by trying to hide? Take a note from Joel Hanson, tell your real story. You might be surprised by how healing and freeing it can be.

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen

Mobile. 612.750.2593

Studio. 763.498.7375

Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1

Web: http://nielsen-studios.com

Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

            “Tell Your Story”

Serve #18 – Ben & Larry L.

 

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Serve #18

Just a short fifty mile drive southwest of the cities is the rural town of Glencoe where the subjects of Serve#18 live.   Twin brothers Ben and Larry L., who grew up near the neighboring town of Silver Lake, are Army Veterans.  Both brothers served stateside during the Korean War. Their story is one that I hear often from men who grew up in rural towns that dot the Minnesota countryside.

 serve18card_0067-1When asked about their growing up years prior to the Army, they mentioned that they were regular farmboys.  They also mentioned  their reason for serving was because their family members served as well and “We wanted to”.  Both of these gentlemen lead productive lives in the area once their service to our country was done.  Maybe when you look at someone who served our country and stop to think about it…they never really stopped serving.

I am often moved by the strength and courage the men and women who served our country display; there is often a selfless demeanor that pervades each word they speak.  I find myself thankful for their bravery to serve.  Take a few moments to say thank you to a vet or currently active person.  There are stories out there people.  Maybe you need to hear one!

 

Best wishes,

 

Shawn Nielsen

Mobile. 612.750.2593

Studio. 763.498.7375

Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1

Web: http://nielsen-studios.com

Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

            “Tell Your Story”

The reddish hues of winter.

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A wintery snow is cold and crisp, yet the reddish hue of maple leaves breath life into an otherwise bleak landscape.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Mounted Patrol. Minnesota State Fair style.

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2016

 

The Minnesota State Fair is always a good place to take a photo. The buildings often create a great background and the subjects are plentiful. The photo you see here is of a mounted patrol who helps to part the seas of people so that vehicles, parades and animals can travel through the streets. I do not know his name, but I do know he has been at the Fair for many years (as told to me by my wife Cristine Nielsen). Sometimes I think it would be a grand idea to sit down with a man like this and hear the tales of all he has seen in his years at the fair.

 

Best wishes on your day,

 

Shawn Nielsen
Mobile. 612.750.2593
Studio. 763.498.7375
Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1
Web: http://nielsen-studios.com
Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/
“Tell Your Story”

Serve #17 – Morrie M.

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Serve # 17

This Serve centers around a man named Morrie Melchert. He was a shop teacher and coach from my hometown of Rockford starting in the fall 1968, and retiring in 1999. He always had a handlebar mustache, and many of us wondered what held it up. The story doesn’t end there though. He to me was an instrumental part of my life in 1988. He was my photo class teacher as well as my small engines shop class teacher as well. I would be in error to say I did well in small engines class. Photo class though is where my world began to open up. It was there that Morrie helped me to see that I could express my self through photography. I owe much to this man, this teacher, this molder of dreams. He had a gentle spirit with students. Sometimes he was the smiling guy in the halls that served as an anchor for those of us going through our tumultuous teenage years, and other times he was the coach leading us on to become better people, athletes, students.

He has also faithfully served his wife in their 55 years of marriage, and helped raise 4 children. Morrie also served our country by joining the airforce before becoming a teacher. The years of service that Morrie has given to this world is many, and the impact on my life was and still is substantial.

Just before I took his photo I asked him why he served as a teacher.  His answer was immediate, “I served to teach others to respect, do what’s right, and to improve as a person”.

Thank you Mr. Melchert for being my teacher, coach, and the guy who was the first to unlock my photographic abilities. You changed my life!

 

 

Serve #16 – Mitch P.

 

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Serve #16 

The man for this Serve is Mitch P. He is a bike mechanic and sales guy at Ramsey Bicycle in Ramsey. He greets you with a warm smile and a genuine heart when he asks you; “what can I help with you with today”? So why a bike shop dude for a Serve? I think it comes down to the fact that deep down inside most of us is a kid that still love to have the wind on our face, and the back to the basics feeling that a bicycle beneath us can bring. When I asked Mitch why he serves the public like he does he said it in these simple words: “Corporate world stressed me out, helping people find a bike, or tuning one already owned is great. Rarely does someone come in with a bad attitude, or stressed out”. He ended by saying; “I like to help people”.

Many thanks go out to bicycle guys all around. You keep us pedaling with smiles on our face.
Also a big thank you to Jeff Comfort for introducing me to Mitch!

So grab a bike, maybe even make motor sounds like you did when you were a kid, and put some roadway behind you on a bike. You may just find the fountain of youth;-)

Serve #15 – Don V.

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Serve #15

Serve #15 has a small town Americana feel to it. It starts with the long time tradition of the Memorial Day Parade in my hometown of Rockford, MN.  The parade is woven into the fabric of local families, myself included.  This little small-town-parade has the high school marching band, fire trucks, and last but not least, kids carrying flowers and flags bringing up the rear of this meaningful yearly tradition. Stopping on the bridge overlooking the Crow River the band plays a hymn and the children throw their flowers in the river to honor those lost at sea.  It doesn’t just end there.  The parade continues a short, winding path through the streets, followed by the parade watchers, and up to the local cemetery that overlooks the tranquil countryside split by the Crow River. Once all assemble within the boundaries of Elmwood Cemetery, the Lions begin the yearly commemoration by asking the band to perform a couple musical pieces, then one of the Lions reads the names of those that have served and are buried under the headstones that dot the hillside cemetery.

     This year though was a different one.  One of the longstanding local guys by the name of Don V. was not present on his normal corner spot.  He has proudly sat at the corner of Bridge St. and Lieder St. for many years with a Korean Vet hat sitting on his head, waving to other locals and the children all while holding a small flag on a stick.  This year I found him sitting in the cemetery waiting for the crowd to assemble. There is a pride in this man that runs deep.  Maybe it is the farming blood that courses through his veins, or the service he gave to his country as a truck driver in the U.S. Army in the war in Korea, maybe it is being the only living charter member of the Rockford Lions, or maybe it was his years serving as a leader in the local  4H group that was in Rockford, or on the Wright County Fair board. Don served in so many ways that it was really hard to talk about just one.  I asked him why he served, he said, “Because.”  What wonderfully complex and yet simplistic response.  Meeting great people like him causes me to realize that we need to have a vision for the future, to change our communities by being more like this wonderful 84 year old man.

Thank you Don for serving your country,  your family, and the Rockford area.

 

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen
Mobile. 612.750.2593
Studio. 763.498.7375
Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1
Web: http://nielsen-studios.com
Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/
“Tell Your Story”

50mm Green

Sometimes it is wonderful to grab a camera, take a deep breath or two and view nature through a 50mm lens.  Loving the country life!

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