This is the story of how a carpenter who lived 2,000 years ago transformed a present day forester into a devoted follower. Years ago, when Nicholas "Nick" Greear was a rebellious teen, he walked away from his nominal Christian upbringing. He had no idea that within a decade he would embrace a fulfilling existence as a biblical Christian with a strong personal commitment to Jesus.
"I went from the notion of humans reaching up to God through prayers and good works to a firm belief that God is reaching down to humanity in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These are historical facts which I have intellectually accepted and they have transformed my life," he explains. Through the influence of his father-in-law and his own love of scripture and history, Greear became a committed Christian at the age of 25 and he has been growing in his faith ever since.
Which is why, after a busy working life that encompassed two challenging careers, he retired to pursue his diverse hobbies of big game hunting, restoring vintage motorcycles, and woodworking. And he also found time, in his late 60s when most men are content to focus on leisure, to earn a master of arts degree, summa cum laude, in biblical studies.
Earlier this month, Nick and his wife Judy, who have been married 47 years, journeyed east to receive his diploma from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, a part of Michigan's non-denominational Cornerstone University. The trip allowed the couple to take their trailer and spend a month exploring middle America.
Nick is a third generation Coloradan (his paternal great-grandparents homesteaded in Norwood). He was born and raised in Denver but found he didn't care for city life. After high school graduation in 1967 he attended Mesa Junior College where Judy and he met. He then attended Colorado State University and earned a bachelor's degree in outdoor recreation and forestry.
He began his initial career with the U.S. Forest Service working in Steamboat Springs, Fort Collins, Alamosa, Rapid City, Carbondale and then Fairplay where he served as district ranger. Eventually he and Judy relocated to Delta County where they lived in Cory while he worked at the Forest Service office in Delta.
In 1990 the couple moved to Baker City, Ore., where he used his woodworking skills to renovate the interior of an historic mansion which he and Judy operated as a bed and breakfast. The Baer House (constructed in 1882) reflects the Victorian architectural style of the Pacific Northwest from the late 19th century. While there Nick served as the fire chief on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and one term as a city councilor.
In 2002 the couple made their last official move, this time to Milwaukee, Wis., where he was in charge of fire operations for the national forests from Minnesota to Maine. In the fall of 2003 he retired from the Forest Service and they moved back to Delta County, where they had previously purchased a lot and subsequently built their home in Cedaredge.
He then embarked on career number two and became a partner in a private firm, Organizational Quality Associates (OQA). Working with OQA, he traveled through the nation teaching local firefighters and other emergency responders to certify them in the particulars of the new federally-mandated Incident Command System (ICS). The ICS was mandated by the first Bush administration in the wakes of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina -- two tragic national incidents that exposed the need for more systematic coordination of disaster responses.
During his years with OQA, Nick helped train responders and continued responding himself to large-scale disasters requiring high levels of coordination. Dubbed "Area Command," these highly coordinated responses helped manage huge incidents including fires, hurricanes and oil spills. Finally, after 12 years with OQA, he thought to himself, "I've been working since age 14 so I think I might really retire. That idea lasted about 10 minutes," he laughs. So that's when he decided to further his education and enroll in seminary.
He has enjoyed his work in the outdoors and the intellectual challenges of his instructional roles training emergency responders. He also enjoys reading history -- especially American history -- but most of all he loves the scriptures. At age 69 he feels that his two years of diligent online study for his graduate degree have been some of the most satisfying months of his life. Asked what he learned, he said two things: "How much I don't know and (quoting the traditional Christian hymn) 'Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.' "
What will he do with his degree? Friends wonder if he'll become a pastor.
"I don't have the gift of preaching," he admits, "but I love to teach." So he plans to continue to teach Sunday school at his church, Grand Mesa Southern Baptist Church in Cedaredge. And he feels that continuing to study the scriptures and share the message of the Bible carry their own rewards. To demonstrate this belief, he opens his well-worn Bible and reads the words he has inscribed on the inside cover. It is a quote from Charles Caldwell Ryrie, the eminent biblical scholar and Christian theologian who died in 2016:
"The Bible is the greatest of all books; to study it is the noblest of all pursuits; to understand it is the highest of all goals."