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How a Raging Grizzly Bear Healed a Man’s Wounded Heart

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Author, Wild Awakening, Howard 2019

US Army Corps of Engineers Southwestern Division anti-terrorism officer

Founder, Chase What Matters ministry

Former US Air Force and Civilian Firefighter, Emergency Medical Technician, Special Operations Rescue Technician, Rescue Helicopter Pilot, Fugitive Recovery Agent, etc.

A first responder to World Trade Center attack

Married to Rhea, 17 years

3 children

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For over a year, Greg and younger brother Matt planned the adventure of a lifetime: a bull moose hunting trip in a remote area of Alaska!  There were 2 predators to be worried about: wolves and grizzly bears.  They cleared their camp area after a 6-hour drive into the Alaskan wilderness.  On Tuesday, September 22, 2015, the brothers headed out for the day and took positions on the top of a knoll.  Through his binoculars, Greg saw something move.  As he readied to shoot, Greg realized he was looking at a mother grizzly, the apex predator of Alaska, accompanied by her two nearly adult cubs.  “She was over 8 feet tall and 600 pounds,” says Greg.  “Each was staring in my direction. They were hunting me.”  Sheer terror overcame Greg and he froze.  The bears were sniffing more intently, and Greg was running out of time.  He called out to the bear.  She dropped to all fours, tucked her ears back and the hair along her back stood straight up.  Every muscle in her body flexed into attack posture and then she charged.  Greg aimed his gun at the bear and squeezed the trigger.  She didn’t even slow down.  “There was no time to dodge or run,” says Greg.  “My rifle shot didn’t even faze her.”  The bear smashed into him.  “It was like being hit by a pickup truck,” he says.  He was on the ground and the bear was on top of him.  “The smell was horrendous, a mixture of rotten meat and feces that made me gag,” says Greg.  She pinned him on his back.  The bear bit down on his face.  Three-inch canines sank deep into his neck, face and jaws, barely missing his carotid artery.  “I couldn’t breathe,” says Greg.  “My face erupted like a pomegranate, sending a shower of blood into the air. I couldn’t believe this was happening.”  

The bear took Greg’s entire back of his head into her mouth.  Blood was flowing and whether from shock or blood in his eyes, Greg couldn’t see.  His ears were ringing, and he couldn’t hear and could no longer defend himself.  The grizzly thrashed him and dragged him around like a rag doll.  Greg’s survival training kicked in as he tried to apply pressure to the gaping hole in his throat to slow the bleeding.  At one point, Greg punched the bear’s snout to get her to release his head but instead she bit down harder.  Greg thought he would never see his family again.  He closed his eyes, saw his family and felt the Lord’s presence.  “I sensed Him reassure me that I would see my family again,” says Greg.  “As I lay on the ground, I felt the Lord speak to me, Greg, I love you. You are my son. I have shown you this vision of your family because I need you to fight right now.”  In the midst of his crisis, Greg was amazed that God loved him enough to meet him in that helpless moment.  In that instant, Greg says his hearing magnified and he was aware of every move the bear made as she circled him.  Greg tried to keep the vital areas of his body protected.  The bear outmaneuvered Greg and pinned him again and tore into the side of his head above his left temple.  Greg felt the Lord tell him to keep fighting.  Shock was setting in and Greg was losing touch with his senses.  “The bear was relentless,” he says.  She tried to flip Greg over with her huge claws.  The bear picked him up in her mouth and slammed him on the ground.  “She was not giving up,” says Greg.  “But neither was I. The Lord assured me I would see my family again.”  Just as Greg was about to pass out, he heard his brother yell at the top of his lungs.  The bear still didn’t let go of Greg.  When Matt got within 25 feet of the grizzly, she dropped Greg and charged at Matt who raised his rifle and fired several times.  The last shot hit the bear in the neck and she suddenly dropped on all fours and bolted into the vegetation.  The vicious attack lasted almost two minutes.

Matt had to work quickly as shock was setting in on his brother.  Greg, previously trained as a first responder, was coherent enough to tell Matt what to do. They walked through the brush back to their boat on the beach but still faced a 10-mile boat ride for help.  Matt saw two fisherman who called for help and moments later a helicopter lifted Greg to a hospital where doctors performed surgery. 

Greg’s parents divorced when he was 8.  In high school, he attended a youth meeting and gave his life to the Lord.  Greg spent most of his life striving to be valued by his father and felt he could only earn his dad’s affections through daring, high-stakes, “alpha male” achievements.  After the bear attack and surgery, Greg says something supernatural happened in the recovery room.  He had a vision of not only his dad, but Jesus appeared to him also.  In the vision, Greg says he thanked his dad for being at the attack because over the years, his dad taught him to never quit fighting. The Lord showed Greg that He was with him through the whole attack. “Incredibly God had shown up in His perfect timing,” says Greg. “To not only save my life, but permanently heal my heart.”  Greg had always relied on himself to overcome any crisis.  “But when that bear pinned me on the ground, I was helpless,” he says.  “I had nothing to fight with.  I was at God’s mercy.”  After he was released from the hospital, Greg’s dad visited with him at his brother’s house.  “Just knowing my dad was flying up to meet me gave me a powerful sense of peace,” says Greg.  “On the inside, I felt like a scared little boy, desperate to be held by his daddy.”

Greg didn’t realize it at the time, but he says he needed “heart” surgery.  “The surgery was to remove a malignancy that spread long ago to every part of my mind and body,” he says.  “It was blocking my ability to love myself or trust the love of a father.”   As he tortured himself through the years, believing he was the reason for his parents’ divorce, Greg says those lies prevented him from enjoying the love from other people and realized for the first time that his dad loved him and so did God.  “For the first time in my life, I was free.  God loved me completely, without reservation, just the way I was.”

Guest Name / Person Interviewed or Featured in Article or Video: 
Greg Matthews
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