Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Terri Owen loved praying with her husband, Craig. But when he was diagnosed with cancer, Terri had to prepare to simply lean on the Lord by herself.

Terri Owen: It was even hard to pray or to read the Word, because we did it together, so to do all that on my own is so different. The verse kept coming back into my mind, “There’s only one Mediator between God and man, and that’s Christ Jesus,”—not Craig Owen.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, October 4.

All week we’ve heard a recording Nancy made in 2009 with Craig and Terri Owen. If you missed it, you’ll really want to visit ReviveOurHearts.com and hear the story.

Craig was on the run from the law in Canada. He forged a new identity in California and began to get in trouble across the southern U.S., where he met Terri. Finally, at a church in Indiana, this criminal-on-the-run surrendered to the Lord and to authorities. The archives from the past four days are at ReviveOurHearts.com.

When Nancy interviewed Terri and Craig in 2009, he was surrendering in a new kind of way. He’d been diagnosed with cancer. Craig went home to be with the Lord after this conversation was recorded. The interview we’re about to hear is a reminder of the radical change God can make in a life. It is a picture of staying surrendered to Him to the end.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You’re dealing now with a whole different set of circumstances—a bout with cancer and a six-year journey through that, with its own roller coaster of ups and downs. The prognosis was not good.

Craig Owen: My original prognosis was due to the pathology of the tumor that was on my foot. It was a melanoma. Medically and physically, anybody in that pathological staging had a twenty-seven percent chance of survival over three years (I think), based on the level of the cancer involvement. That was in 2001 or 2002.

They did a lot of surgeries. They did the intervention treatment, chemo . . . a lot of things. Lord willing, we made it through it all—that was six years.

Nancy: There was a point you thought you were cancer-free. You were rejoicing in that—I remember getting that email, Terri.

Craig: They don’t always like to say you’re cancer-free, but there was no evidence of disease (which is NED), which are always the words you love to hear, because if there is no evidence, then it is not there.

Nancy: But you knew there was a chance it could come back.

Craig: Oh, yes. By the time I got farther and farther away from that diagnosis, statistically means it’s better for you. It's less likely for it to come back.

Nancy: So, you found out it had returned—just months ago. Terri, what happened in your heart?

Terri: My heart almost broke, just because I know from experience with this cancer, that when it goes into the organs, there’s not much time left. My best friend died from melanoma—the exact same cancer Craig has—and I was her nurse. I took care of her, so I know the symptoms. It’s so much harder when it’s the one you love.

Yet, we knew we needed to trust God with this, too. We saw Him bring us through everything else, so we both determined that we will trust Him, regardless. It’s not been an easy journey, but God has given us a peace about it.

Nancy: They told you at the time . . .

Terri: Three to six months, and to look closer at three.

Nancy: And the update on that?

Terri: When we started to make this trip, they didn’t even know if he would be able to complete the trip. They advised us against it in the beginning, but we were determined to make the trip anyway. He wasn’t even able to get up out of bed at that point.

Craig: I had home care nursing at that point. I wasn’t a full invalid. I was still mobile, could get out of bed and move around with help, but was very sickly. My body was wasting away. I’d thinned out, had lost about forty pounds. Some of this was due to chemo, but some was after we stopped chemo as well.

Terri: You weren’t able to eat or keep anything down.

Nancy: And where has the cancer spread now?

Terri: It’s in both lungs, it’s in the spleen, it’s in the diaphragm, the liver, the spine, the bowel, and stomach.

Nancy: And you know that, humanly speaking . . .

Craig and Terri: . . . we’re talking weeks, now.

Craig: From the doctor’s point of view, you can only last so long before those organs start to shut down, and that’s what we thought was going on as I was shutting down, up to a couple weeks ago. But we decided we really wanted to make a trip to see our kids in Indiana.

As we prepared for this trip, a lot of our friends and family at church were doing anything possible to talk us out of this trip: “Let us fly you down there, so you don’t have to make this road trip,” or “We’ll ride with you. Let us send a team to go with you in case you need the help with your physical health.” It is a blessing to know that we have friends that are that willing to help out.

I’m a little stubborn, I guess, and I really felt that I wanted the time with Terri. It’s a special time for us, we bond a lot in our travel time. I really, really wanted to try and do that. So when we left Tuesday, two weeks ago, that morning I was telling my best friend, “I don’t know if I can make the trip.”

(I was kind of secretly telling him that, because I didn’t want to tell Terri—otherwise she would stop the trip.) I just didn’t know if I could do it. I was afraid I wouldn’t have the energy to just sit in the car, let alone deal with people.

Terri: And the pain was pretty intense.

Craig: Yeah, the spine can act up quite a bit. An average person can get sore in a car driving over a long road trip, but we started the trip. We made it to the border and funny things started happening right there. We stopped for a document check, about ten minutes before we got to the border, to make sure we had all our paperwork, and all the sudden we realized my birth certificate wasn’t there.

I’ve got my old driver’s license and some other things, but the requirement to cross over is that you show a birth certificate, to establish which country you were born in, as well as a driver’s license, or a passport or something like that. Terri had all her documents.

So, we were looking at turning around, and that would have added four more hours to the trip. I was so heartbroken, I said, “I can’t believe it.” We thought for sure God had ordained this trip, and for this to happen was such a letdown.

Terri said, “We’re making a decision here without even trying. We know that God ordained this trip. Let’s just drive forward, drive to the border, and see what happens.” I thought she was being a little foolish, because it’s not an option. You must have the birth certificate or a passport.

So we pull up and I gave over my driver’s license and her ID, and he says, “Where’s your birth certificate?”

I said, “I forgot it. I don’t have it on me.”

So you get that kind of look like, “Okay . . .”

Then he asked the regular questions, “Where are you going? What are you going to do?”

So we explained we would just be visiting and saying “hi” to the kids, our relationship to them, who we were seeing. He saw the guitar in the back seat and asked if we were doing any kind of concerts or anything like that. Terri made a joke and said, “I wish!” And he just smiled at us and said, “Go on through. Have a good time.”

He passed my paperwork back to me and acted like I didn’t tell him I didn’t have the birth certificate. For me, I held it together going through there, but as soon as I made it to the border, I started crying. I knew that was not something he had the right to do. It was not a judgment call for him.

The judgment call would have been for him to pull us over and check our documents further. If you have incomplete documents, that’s what he has to do, but God moved on his heart, whether he knew it or not, and we crossed the border and thanked God. That was the first thing, to confirm that God ordained something very special in that process.

That took place around the lunch hour. I was driving. I just thought it would be better for me to drive across. She said she would take over, but I was feeling okay. I thought I would continue to drive. We started this road trip coming through New York and Pennsylvania and Ohio. I can tell you, I’ve driven the whole road trip so far.

Nancy: Which nobody thought you’d be able to do.

Craig: I didn’t think I could even sit it, never mind drive it. And my demeanor and my health continued to get stronger each hour—not just by day, but by hour.

Nancy: I’m sitting here looking at you. You’re hooked up to medication?

Craig: Oh, yeah, I’m ported everywhere (laughs).  I’m “plug ‘n play” medical ports all over me . . . morphine pump, extra medicines from the cortizones.

Terri: IVs at night.

Craig: But this is stuff I had before, too. But the way my body is physically responding, it’s kind of like it’s moving away from the cancer effects and moving more into just a normal mode. I’m tired. It’s not like I don’t feel anything, but in terms of my functions, I went from a semi-invalid to where I’m getting up out of the car, going into restaurants. We’re talking. Every rest area we stop at, we go for a little walk. We brought a wheelchair, and we’re not using it.

Terri: Seldom has he used the cane.

Nancy: It really has been miraculous. 

Craig: It’s been incredible.

Nancy: And it’s been your heart’s desire to have this time.

Craig: We really, really prayed hard about this, because we wanted to have this time with our kids, to speak into their lives a little bit, to have that time of sharing as a parent, where we’re proud of them and encouraging them in their seeking of God, that they would love to seek God in their lives.

Nancy: Have there been some times since this last diagnosis where you know that unless God intervenes, the days are very limited, have there been fear issues for you, Terri, or Craig? I know there has to have been a range of emotions. What are some of those?

Terri: The fear of losing Craig is huge. We’ve been married twenty-five years, and he is my life. So, the fear of being alone, without him—what will I do? I had to come to grips with that about three weeks ago, that aspect. God laid it on my heart that I have to let go of Craig, and take hold of His hand. That was really, really hard to do.

I’m so used to holding on to Craig’s hand, almost living out my Christian walk through Craig. So the aspect that it was even hard to pray or to read the Word, because we did it together. So to do all that on my own is so different, but I’ve had to learn that that’s what I’m going to have to do.

The verse kept coming back into my mind, that there’s only one Mediator between God and men, and that’s Christ Jesus—not Craig Owen. So I really had a lot to deal with there. But I dealt with it, and I’m at peace with it now, but I was so scared: Can I do this without him there?

He’s my support; he’s my accountability partner; he’s my best friend he keeps me on track. But God has told me, “Yes, you can, because I’m here with you.”

Nancy: Any fears on your part, Craig?

Craig: There were. Terri mentioned about three weeks ago, and three weeks ago there was an event in our lives that was a watershed moment. We were in the ER at the hospital. I had gotten really dehydrated and sick from all the chemo stuff, so I was just in there getting rehydrated, stabilized.

There was this overwhelming sense of the Spirit that came to me—and this was not something that had happened in my life before. So for my background, this was completely new territory. God said to me, “Trust in Me; I will be with you. I am your Emmanuel; I am your Peace.”

We talk about peace that passes all understanding, and I know the Scriptures that speak highly of how we can have that faith, that trust. But this was a gift that I think God gave me, just to be able to trust that this is a journey that He’s on with me. I didn’t hear it audibly. I didn’t have any big lights or emotions. The emotion was there in the sense of the powerful feeling that His presence was speaking to me.

All I can say is that, from that point forward, every minute of every day that peace hasn’t left me. So, if I get home next week and everything returns and the cancer rapidly overtakes me, I know I have that peace. I have the peace that I know where I’m going, I’m secure in that. But I have a peace knowing that it’s not just about me. I have a peace about her (Terri), that her heart is where He wants her to have it andmy heart is where it needs to be.

My joy has been just talking with friends, sharing about this peace. A lot of them don’t understanding it. “You’re dying, and you know it.” Well, granted, God could still turn things around, but He didn’t give me a message of “Have peace and faith and I’ll remove this from you.” He said, “Have peace and know that I’m going to be with you.”

I know that I’m going to be with Him, here or home. God knows my heart. I don’t want to die, because I want to stay with my wife. The marriage He’s blessed us with, it’s been one that I cannot point to anything in my life as more successful and challenging. It's a love that maybe shows just a portion of the love God has for us.

But for me, I’m comfortable that whatever comes, I don’t have to worry, because He’s there with me. It’s not words to me, although I’m using words to describe it, but the indwelling feeling that goes with that surpasses words for me. It’s scary, but I’m honestly happy. I'm not happy to want to go home—God knows my heart would prefer to stay. But I’m happy to know that my God is that close to me. He has me in His hands, and no matter what goes on, this journey is something I’ll be doing with Him. So no, I can’t say I have any fears at all.

Nancy: You’re forty-eight years old, and you’ve lived a lot of life.

Craig: I have, haven’t I?

Nancy: As you look back over it all and see God’s hand and God’s grace and mercy in your life, what’s the message you want to leave—for your family, for your friends? You still have family members who don’t know the Lord. This is a chance for you to say anything that’s on your heart.

Craig: Give God a chance. I think so often we have so many preconceptions of what God is or isn’t that before you even give Him the opportunity, you’ve already got Him buttonholed somewhere. I was introduced to the personal, living God twenty-five years ago, roughly, and that same God is the One who has given me the peace now. He has brought me through all the things we just discussed.

There is nothing I have ever seen or encountered in my life that can point to having that level of trust, that you can count on somebody. We have good people in our lives we can count on, but they’re fallible and they will fail us, but God never failed—not once.

It’s not about getting what you want. You know, “I’m going to pray for this, and if I don’t get it, then somehow God has done something wrong.” It’s an understanding about who God is and what His holiness is. I get excited on the personal side—I’m going to meet Jesus in a whole other realm in Heaven.

Even though there will be that gap between here and now, I know my wife will join me at some point in the future, in God’s ordained time. I know that family and friends who have accepted Christ will also. I just encourage each and every one of them. It's not about wanting to meet me again but to think about who the Holy God is. Where else would you want to be?

Leslie: Craig Owen recorded that conversation with his wife Terri and Nancy Leigh DeMoss in 2009 before he went home to be with the Lord. Craig’s life could have ended so differently. God saved him out of a life of crime. Craig moved from a kingdom of darkness into a kingdom of light.

God used a Life Action summit to bring about this change. Life Action Ministries is the parent organization to Revive Our Hearts. Life Action teams visit churches and encourage everyone to seek the Lord for revival. Craig Owen experienced the joy of personal revival.

Now, let’s listen to the prayer he prayed, asking that more and more people will experience revival as well.

Craig: Lord, I just come before you with a grateful heart and an open heart—one that You touched many years ago in the revival in Covington. I'm grateful for the blessings we saw poured out there. Lord, it’s been my heart’s desire through those years to see that spread to other churches.

And though it did in that area, there are so many churches that need this. When the outpouring of Your Spirit in a manifest way goes into revival, it changes us from the inside out like only You can do. Lord, it takes our whole idea of what church is and puts it upside down.

We find that the things we think are important are many times very trivial. The things that we spend little time on, we find becomes very important. The area of prayer, Lord, is such a strong one. Having that corporate prayer and the commitment to bow before you and seek your face and your guidance in bringing revival is very important.

Lord, You know why and when you bring it, but I do believe You do it when Your people seek You out, cry before You, and ask You for that restoration of the right place of the church. May our churches hear that call.

Lord, You know that the corporate revival, the church revival, only starts in our own hearts. We must first come to the point in our lives where we recognize the need for it. Sometimes we get too comfortable, too insulated with what we do in our day-to-day lives. I just pray that, if it takes it, You would put us up in such a way that our comfort is removed, that we are challenged.

Lord, if it would be conflict, whatever the case may be, if it takes that to awaken the church, we pray that that would happen. We pray that You would open those doors, that You would shake those issues out. Help us as individuals, Lord, to face our sins, to bring them forward, to acknowledge them.

Then, Lord, help us to be obedient in dealing with them as Your Word tells us. Lord, for family and friends, we want personal revival. We can tell them about it, we can share visions of what things were like, but until our own personal walk is one that represents it, we must live before the people around us.

So, Lord, help consecrate us in such a way that we reflect Your true love—just a small reflection of the true Church of Christ that You want us to show. Just having the knowledge that before You, the Holy God, our relationship can be so much more, so much deepe; that it would be effective in so many different ways and would bring joy to You, would be honoring to You.

This would be my heart’s desire.

Leslie: Craig Owen recorded that prayer for revival in 2009 before he went home to be with the Lord. All week, we’ve heard his story of surrender. He knew what it meant to surrender to the police in the United States and Canada, but that was because he first surrendered everything to the Lord and discovered true freedom.

All week I’ve been letting you know that you can get a copy of the book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss called Surrender: The Heart God Controls. We’ll send you a copy when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. It’s the final day I’ll be making this offer, so let us hear from you.

If Craig could make the tough choice to surrender to a Canadian court, God can help you to surrender everything as well. This book will take you through practical steps of living a surrendered life. Ask for the book Surrender when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

All this week, we saw the radical step Craig took to clear his conscience. Next week, Nancy will take us deeper into that topic and teach on it. You can have a clear conscience; you can be free. Please join us again Monday for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts, with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, is an outreach of Life Action Ministries. 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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