By Debbonnaire Kovacs

“He was a really imaginative guy,” reminisces Dennis Nickel’s wife, Jenny. “He found that the gospel came alive for him if he put himself in it. So he was the paralytic, he was the blind man, and so on. He used his senses to imagine the scene. During his devotional time in the morning, he went through the four gospels chronologically. He would go online and research the distances Jesus had to walk to get from one town to another, etc. He did all that in the morning, then he’d write the story. He decided to write a devotional book, but he didn’t plan or outline, he just wrote. He was really excited because it just happened that Day 365 was the last thing he wanted to say!”

So began the story of a remarkable book. It is billed as “a daily devotional that takes you on a chronological journey through the Gospels from the perspective of those who interacted with Jesus. See life through the eyes of the people who walked and talked with Jesus as they share their first-person accounts of what they heard, saw, and experienced. Each day features a Bible reference and corresponding story based on the accounts of the four Gospels.” [https://www.teachservices.com/day-in-the-life-of-jesus-a-nickel-dennis-kindle/]

Dennis Nickel was born in British Columbia and spent part of his youth in Washington and California. When he was twenty-one years old, he returned to Canada and worked for several years in the logging industry. Educated in theology at Canadian University College and the Seventh-day Adventist Seminary and Andrews University in Michigan, Nickel spent a brief period in the mission field (teaching English in Thailand), but spent the rest of his career, 30 years, pastoring in the Alberta, British Columbia, and Upper Columbia Conferences. He married Jenny Nielsen in 1977, and together they raised one daughter and two sons.

It was in the final years of this long and faithful career that his devotional book was written. His dream was to edit and publish it, but besides being the pastor of three churches, he was deeply involved with the local church school and with the community. It seemed he never had time. On top of that, for the last ten years of his life, he had a slow-growing form of cancer, and before the Publish the Book dream made it to the top of his list, his time had run out.

Adventist Today spoke with his wife, Jenny, about those days. Besides the struggle of caring for and watching the death of a beloved husband, she was well aware that his dream of publishing the book wasn’t going to happen. She was the one who had typed up his handwritten stories for him, and she began to wonder—might she be able to accomplish his dream in his honor?

After his death on August 4, 2011, Nickel says, “I was kind of here and there for over a year. His dad was sick with leukemia, and his mom wanted to stay home and care for him. I went down [where they lived in California] to help with that. Then his dad passed away, so I stayed with his mom for a while. Then my daughter in Alberta was pregnant, so I hung out and helped her some when possible. I didn’t really have a home of my own. So I would edit and work on the book whenever I was in one location for a while.”

Finally, she says, she moved to Alberta and had a place of her own. By this time it was 2013, and “once I found work, I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to do this!’” She completed the editing and put all the stories together in a notebook as a present for Dennis’ mother’s 90th birthday in August 2013.

“It was so great to be able to do that for him,” Nickel says, and this writer believes it was probably a richly healing activity for her as well.

She bills the project as one done by Pastor Nickel’s wife and children, because their children, as well as Dennis’ sister, were so supportive. They also contributed financially to the publishing.

The book wasn’t the only project the family worked together on for their husband and father. Both he and their youngest son shared music in common, and the son, Brad, had a small studio. The pastor had recorded some songs, but hadn’t been able to get that out either, so that was first project, Nickel says. “Brad got it all mastered and ready, we did a cover, then I just let people know about it that knew him and would want one. I would send it to churches, [in the areas where he had worked] and ten people or fifty people might want one. Also, individuals would contact me from Facebook, and I’d send them out. It was a real pain, and I didn’t want to do that with the book. I wanted someone else to be responsible for all that.”

She had read about TEACH services (www.teachservices.com) so she chose them and they agreed to publish the book as A Day in the Life of Jesus, now available on TEACH’s website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or you can order it from any local bookstore. In the near future you will read a review of the book in these pages.