Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Forgiven Criminal Surrenders

Leslie Basham: Craig Owen knew that if he left his family in Indiana and went home to Canada, he may never get to come back. But he also knew what would give God the most glory.

Craig Owen: I made the decision and said, “I know I need to go. I have to go on the faith that whatever is going to happen, God is going to be there ahead of me, and He’s going to take care of us.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, October 2. Here’s what we’ve been hearing from Craig and Terri Owen the last couple of days.

Craig: So I had a major surgery done on my leg at Christmas. About a year that we had no income. All the food, all the stuff like that we were pretty tight on. So I would write checks occasionally to get things like that. There were bounced checks. As those were collecting up, we knew the police would be knocking, looking for us, saying, “You’re going to have to answer to these checks.”

We were in Danville, Illinois, and we would cross over, the closest city there is Covington, Indiana. We were on a corner lot and on the opposite side of the street was the deacon/chairman of the First Baptist Church, opposite side of the street from them was the senior pastor’s home, and on the other corner, one house removed, was an associate pastor, and three houses down was the other associate pastor.

Terri Owen: The kids went to AWANA, and they had a mother/daughter banquet. So being a mom, I went to the mother/daughter banquet. I got saved at that banquet.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: The first night you went to the church?

Terri: Yes. But I didn’t go home and tell Craig about it. Instead, some of the other ladies and I just started praying. I told them how I wanted him to go to church with me. As a family I have always dreamed of our family going to church. I knew if I said that, he would go. And he did. And three weeks later he was saved.

Nancy: Seven months later, approximately, Life Action Ministries shows up in the church parking lot with one of their teams, and the Lord had a lot of work to do in both of your hearts.

Terri: That was so huge.

Leslie: This week we’re listening to a conversation Nancy recorded with Craig and Terri Owen. At the time of the interview, Craig had been diagnosed with cancer and has since gone home to be with the Lord.

Craig and Terri have been telling us how their lives were changed. A team from Life Action Ministries held a revival summit in their town. Life Action is the parent organization of Revive Our Hearts. They send teams around the country working with local churches. A revival summit usually lasts for a couple of weeks, but sometimes God has other plans. Craig, Terri, and Nancy all remember that summit in Covington, Indiana.

Nancy: This was a very unusual summit. I can remember back to this. It actually ended up extending beyond the scheduled two weeks.

Terri: Yes.

Nancy: . . . into I think maybe four weeks there at First Baptist?

Craig: And then it moved from even there over to Danville, Illinois.

Nancy: Over to Danville for another three weeks. So we sat in that location for seven weeks with many types of restitution taking place. I know this is a little bit of a rabbit trail here, but do you remember what some of the issues were?

Craig: Well, I know the church at Covenant First Baptist was a church from a split. They took the original group of people that were involved in that split, and they went and asked public forgiveness of the other church. That whole process was huge.

Terri: A lot of healing.

Craig: There was a lot of bitterness there. People would cross the street to avoid crossing the path of one from that same church. So in a small town that’s pretty rough.

Nancy: Do you remember that night when the churches got together?

Craig: Yes.

Nancy: I was there. You were there. That was an amazing night. Grown men hugging each other who had been totally in such a breach in their relationship.

Craig: That’s powerful when you see the Holy Spirit work in that way. It’s not the people doing things out of the flesh saying, “Oh, this is the right thing to do.” It’s the last thing you do out of the flesh because it is so contrary to basically yield and humble yourself. That’s contrary to what we like to do.

Nancy: I remember there was such a conviction of the Spirit. I remember people being awakened at three o’clock in the morning because God was pressing in on them. It wasn’t like there was just this emotional stuff going on in the services.

Terri: No, no. It was all day long.

Craig: You could be at the corner store and having people talking about issues of what’s going on, issues in their life relative to the crusade or to the summit, how their lives were being changed, how people were doing things around town. What was going on here was other churches were connecting and asking, “Can we get involved in this?”

Nancy: I think about fifteen of them did in the Danville meeting. They came together for that. These are fairly small communities. You hadn’t lived there long, but were you aware of the impact this was having on the community?

Terri: Oh yes, we were.

Craig: Yes. The ripple effect was so strong that it was, like I said, if you went into any local grocery, corner store, hardware store, the talk of the town wasn’t the traditional talk. It was all about what was going on with Christ and what we were calling a God-given revival. The Holy Spirit was moving on people’s lives that like it or not things were in motion, and it was fascinating. Some were scared. Some were intrigued. But most were just in awe of this manifestation of God doing something here. We didn’t know where it was going, but it was both fearful but spiritually in a positive sense.

In my case the “what’s next” was the disclosure of my past and my background. Then I asked Del, and he talked to my pastor. “What do I do with this? How do I make right what I’ve done wrong in the past?” And that was a hard one.

Nancy: Had it ever entered your mind before that you were going to have to deal with all this or had you just thought that’s behind?

Craig: I had put it behind me. I don’t know if that would have been a rational thought in retrospect, but I think at the time it was rational. I just felt that I had the ability to live as Craig Owen, and I was living it. I had a new life, and I maybe somewhat myopically thought that would just stay there.

Nancy: So this thought that the Spirit then brought to your heart that you needed to go back and make those things right, this was a new thought.

Craig: Going back to what? I’d have to surrender, and surrender meant I had to go back to prison. I mean, I was a parolee when I left. I was still on parole. My parole time had to be finished. That’s an automatic. 

Nancy: So you knew if you came clean with the authorities in Canada that this was going to mean prison for you?

Craig: Oh, absolutely.

Terri: Without a doubt.

Craig: That was a given. Yes. With my record here, with the charges that were still outstanding and the fact that I was a parolee, a violated parolee, yes, there wasn’t a question of doing time. The question was, “How much?”

That was where I was working with Del. At that point I transitioned over to our pastors of our church and our board to try to find a way to negotiate a surrender to Canada.

Nancy: It’s probably something your pastor or board hadn’t had to deal with before.

Craig: Yes, they actually brought in . . . One of the members of our church was a city attorney for Covington. They actually asked his professional help to navigate through this process of how do we go about contacting the Canadian authorities and seeing if we could negotiate some type of a surrender deal.

Nancy: So you had come to the place, Craig and Terri, of saying, “Whatever we have to do to be right with God, we’re going to do it.”

Craig: For that, our choice was made. It was more of what to do after that choice was made; it was done fairly close up front. The conviction was there.

Terri: Heavy.

Craig: The conviction kept saying that I had these transgressions from the past. I had to deal with them. I had to trust that God would work with me in dealing with them. That was where the conviction was that I had to trust Him.

Nancy: Regardless of what happens.

Craig: Yes. And so obviously, a blind trust.

Nancy: And you were both were on the same page on that?

Terri: Same page.

Craig: Yes.

Nancy: How did you make the next contact then with the Canadian authorities?

Craig: The city attorney did the contacts and basically approached through a third-party lawyer in Canada and had that be a representative to what we call the Crown Prosecutor in Canada, which would be like a district attorney here. He identified that I was out there wanting to make amends and come straight but would like to have some assurances of what kind of deal could they run.

The initial responses were, “When you surrender, we’ll see.” But they would not negotiate anything in advance.

So we said, “If I came back and accepted all charges as is, plead guilty to them all, would they accept a two-year prison term?”

And they said, “No. We don’t want to deal until you surrender. You surrender, and we’ll look at sentencing after the fact.”

Then we did it again to five years. And if memory serves me correct, we went as high as either eight or ten years.

Terri: Ten years was the highest we offered.

Craig: Because I knew the crimes that I had, I knew had I been just arrested up here in Canada, my prison term would have been somewhere around the ten-year mark, give or take a couple of years plus my parole time. So we knew the range, but even then they still declined it.

Nancy: Even at the ten-year offer?

Craig: At the ten year. At that point now we’re really afraid.

Nancy: So you’re saying we go back, and it’s going to be at least ten years.

Craig: Yes. We figured we were actually looking for fifteen. We didn’t know that, but that was where our mindset was. The attorney said there was no use continuing the negotiations. They’re not going to.

At that point we realized under a lot of prayer, that at the very beginning of the process when God brought the conviction on to deal with this, He said I had to trust Him. This was an area of trust. I don’t remember who brought it up, but somebody brought up the idea that if we’re talking about trust, maybe we’re going about this the wrong way. Because we are trying to negotiate the deal in advance which doesn’t really allow for the providence of God to move. Because it’s just saying, “Well, God, we trust You, but let us set up this deal ahead of time so we know what’s going on first.”

Nancy: And isn’t that the way we try to live?

Terri: Oh, yes.

Nancy: Lord, show us what’s going to happen. Let us figure this out, and then we’ll go it.

Craig: Let me know all the corners and crevices of what’s going to happen, and I’ll say, “Yes, I can do it.”

Terri: But that’s not God’s way.

Craig: That doesn’t leave an element of trust. Or really more so, it doesn’t allow God’s free reign in the whole situation. We try and compartmentalize it and control it. So it was at that time that I made the decision. I said, “I know I need to go. I have to go on the faith that whatever is going to happen God is going to be there ahead of me, and He’s going to take care of this.” 

Nancy: And that’s when you sat your children down?

Craig: Yes.

Nancy: Did you tell them really what the worst could be?

Terri: No we didn’t. We just told them that we were leaving it in God’s hands. And that God cares for us, and He would take care of us, and He wouldn’t let anything bad happen to us. They were young, so they didn’t really understand the depth of it. They knew we had peace.

Nancy: So did they go with you? Or did you and the kids stay?

Terri: The kids and I stayed there in Covington. Craig and Pastor Glen drove to Canada.

Nancy: What was the goodbye like?

Terri: I was so angry. As Craig was pulling off, I just dropped to the floor and just cried. I was so angry.

Nancy: Angry at . . . 

Terri: Angry that he was leaving. I knew he had to go, but that part of me just felt I wasn’t going to see him again, and anger took over. It took me a couple of days to pull myself back together and trust God again. It was hard. It’s hard.

Nancy: I know the church came around you at this time.

Terri: They did. Major. Yes.

Craig: Actually, when the church came around, it was right before we left, it was another manifestation of where God was in control. When I knew I had to leave and go back, I remember asking Pastor Curtis, “We know that I’m committed to going back to make restitution and surrender here. I thought that was God-led. But God didn’t tell me about my family.”

I couldn’t take them with me. I didn’t have the money, and I didn’t have the logistic support and didn’t have an understanding of what to do with them. But I knew that this was my family. I can’t just  abandon them and say, “Yes. I’ve got to go do this, but you guys stay here and help yourself.”

He prayed with me about it, and he said he felt that’s when the church body would come together. And so he said, “But let them do some prayer and some research on this.” Then he came back and it was on a Sunday. He said, “The church is going to have a church business meeting. And that weekend we want you to go to a cottage, a cabin, some place church members had for us and the kids to have some of our quiet time together and kind of a farewell time, a bonding before I left.”

The church as a whole was going to meet to see about this issue of support for my family. They would take on the support of the family in the interim and come up with a package.

And they did that. What they did is they took a one-time love offering that weekend after they discussed what they would do. The plan was as that fund would be depleted, they would have another one and keep things going until such time that we had a resolution to whether how much time I was going to get and whether or not it would be feasible to have a love offering to actually have her and the kids relocated to Canada or what the case may be.

So that was the last stumbling block that I had in terms of, “Okay, now I know there’s a mechanism in place for my family, and I wasn’t just abandoning them. That was an important one to remember because it came back to play in a very important role.

Nancy: So you’re with your pastor friend. You’re heading to Canada. You get across the border. Are you dreading this? Are you like let’s just get this over with? Are you just facing it? Are there emotions or thoughts going through your mind?

Craig: Trying to pull back on the memory of most of the emotions, there was a lot of trepidation. But yet, there was an understanding that we did this because we were trusting in God. And we really felt the fact that God said, “Trust.” But yes, I think the emotions cover the gamut.

Nancy: Was there any sense of freedom? I know you didn’t know what was going to transpire.

Craig: At that point, no, because I was still very unsure of how much time I would be getting.

Nancy: So this was an act of faith and obedience.

Craig: Yes. I really did anticipate that I was going away for a long time. I’d figured basically that my mind was calculating, and I’m saying, “Okay, if I have no deal at all, then I still have a deal. I don’t have a deal, but it doesn’t mean I can’t plead before the court.” I was hoping maybe we could get a five-year term or something like that. So your mind is also still looking at the tangibles, the possibilities, the “what if’s.” But I wasn’t relieved at that point. I think apprehension was more building than it was settling.

We got to Toronto, and we actually went and visited my parents. That was an arranged deal to go visit them.

Nancy: They knew why you were coming?

Craig: Yes.

Nancy: Were they in favor of you doing this?

Craig: No.

Nancy: You weren’t getting encouragement there.

Craig: Well, they weren’t mad. What it was was my father felt that if you had finally changed your life around, why come back and stir all this up and deal with it. Just let it be. He had actually, once he knew that we were going to continue through with this, he had interceded on our behalf because of his background. He had asked a favor of the police chief that when I surrendered if I could surrender to somebody at headquarters versus just going in to a local police station and having no point of context. That was agreed upon.

Actually, I surrendered at an attorney’s office. Then, these two detectives from headquarters met us at the attorney’s office and took me into custody there. First they took me down to a local police station to do the processing. The police officers are headquarter detectives, so they aren’t actually based out of that division.

But they took me to a local division, and then they debriefed me. They went through all the files that were under my name from the years back and they said, “Okay, this is what we believe we had you on. These are the charges we have filed against you. This is what we had in our files that we suspected you of.”

So we spent a full half day going through all these cases. If I remembered the detail and it was something I had done, I said, “Yes, I acknowledge that.” There was a few that came up that didn’t ring a bell with me. So I said, “No, those weren’t mine.”

Nancy: But different than the earlier years of your life, you are now telling the truth.

Craig: Exactly. I’m actually assisting them.

Nancy: What an evidence that you’re a new creature in Christ.

Craig: They wanted to know why I was doing this. We were there for probably at least six hours of interrogation—just discussion. At least two of those hours I gave my testimony as to why I was doing what I was doing. It was intertwined throughout the whole process because they would keep coming back saying, “Yes, but you didn’t need to do that. Why would you? You know, if you’ve got your name over here and you’ve got this I.D., why would you do it?” I mean, I’d already answered it, but it was like they were really struggling with, “This is weird.”

Nancy: Because this is not the way you’ve ever been before.

Terri: Exactly.

Craig: Yes. And it’s not me. It’s not my background. My profile would be counter to everything that’s going on here. But these were professional police officers. I’m not saying that a regular police officer in a division isn’t. But these guys were at the upper end of their career. So they’ve seen a lot of things, but not this. They were very nice to me. We had very informative talks, but at the same time, we dealt with the realities of the criminal cases that were before us.

Nancy: So at the end of that day, did you have any sense of where this was going?

Craig: No, not in terms of the court. 

Nancy: Did they hold you?

Craig: Oh, yes. I was placed in a cell for the night.

Nancy: Were you able to talk with Terri or stay in touch with her at all?

Craig: No. Once I surrendered, I was incommunicado with everything on the outside.

Nancy: But Glen, did he stay up there?

Craig: Not during the interview. He had to go back to my parent’s place. He stayed there. Even the attorney didn’t stay for this. I opted just to deal with the police direct because I wasn’t looking for protection, and I wanted to just get everything resolved. And the fastest way to do that was to just go direct, so we did it that way.

I was put into custody after that day’s interviews, and I think it was the day after I appeared in court which is your initial hearing. Normally, nothing happens other than just it’s a hearing. They bind you over for another hearing. But because of the issues of time and the fact that Glen Ray, Jr. was there with me and he’s wanting to be a part of this process, we said, “We want to move to an immediate plea of guilty on all charges.” Which the court was a little shocked at. The prosecutor wasn’t prepared for.

Nancy: It’s not every day they hear that.

Craig: Yes. And especially with the seriousness of the charges. It was really threw them off. So the prosecutor asked for a week or a two week adjournment. Glen Ray, Jr. asked if he could read the court’s document file. He wanted to submit paperwork that came from our community leaders in our area of support for me. We had a ton of letters of community support from congressmen, from business leaders, from church leaders and just from various family and friends that were in the area.

He read into the record his statement on his behalf of me. So that was all done during that day. The court allowed him to do that which was nice because they didn’t even have to. Then that basically finished that day. I was remanded back into custody, and Glen went back to the States after that, and I’m there by myself.

Nancy: You’re sitting back home, Terri, with the kids, holding your breath, praying, others are praying. Was somebody keeping you up on what was happening?

Terri: Not until the point that he was sentenced, then he was able to call.

Nancy: So you’re really not knowing. You’re still trusting the Lord.

Terri: Yes.

Nancy: And the church was coming around you?

Terri: Very, very supportive. Actually, the day after Craig left, we headed to Buchanan, Michigan, to come to one of your retreats. You were doing the book of Ruth.

Nancy: One of the ladies retreats we did.

Terri: One of the ladies retreats. I was with that group.

Nancy: I’d forgotten that. Wow.

Terri: Yes. So that sort of kept my mind off of it for that few days anyway. Then I went back home and waited to hear.

Leslie: Craig and Terri Owen have been talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss about a process of surrender—not just surrender to police in Canada, something much deeper—surrendering everything to the Lord and trusting Him with the outcome. Most of our listeners aren’t facing possible jail time, although some might be. Regardless of the specifics, we all need to deal with this and surrender everything into the Lord’s control.

In Nancy’s book, Surrender: The Heart God Controls, she walks you through this topic. What does Scripture say about it? What does a surrendered heart look like? How do you deal with the fear of giving up control?

We’ll send you a copy of Surrender when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. It’s gifts from listeners like you that allow Revive Our Hearts to provide the free podcast each weekday. If you’ve benefited from the podcast and want it to continue, I hope you’ll consider helping us with your donation. Just visit ReviveOurHearts.com. Make a donation of any size and indicate you’d like the book Surrender, or ask for it when you call 1–800–569–5959.

Well, maybe you know someone who would be intrigued by this story. Maybe they would be challenged in this area of surrender. You can get them a copy on CD by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com, or send them to the transcript or online audio. Again, it’s at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Okay. Craig is in custody surprising the court with his blatantly truthful answers. Terri is in Indiana wondering when she’ll see her husband again. Tomorrow, we’ll find out what happened next. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

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

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