Revive Our Hearts Podcast

An Invitation to Surrender

Leslie Basham: When Craig Owen first agreed to visit a church, this long-haired, gang member purposely tried to look like he didn’t fit in, but he was greeted at the door by a man with a tough outside but a tender heart.

Craig Owen: He greeted me with a double hand-over-hand handshake and said how great it was to see me in church. He was glad I took the risk to come on in.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts, with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, for Tuesday, October 1.

Today, we’ll continue hearing the conversation Nancy recorded with Terri Owen and her late husband, Craig. I know our listeners were riveted by this story yesterday. Here are some highlights from the previous program.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So, you left Canada . . . by yourself?

Craig: Yes, I got a ride out of the city in the trunk of a car and took a bus from outside Niagara Falls and crossed over. I went to California, and through some common friends, we determined I needed to get an American identity.

Nancy: So, you’re not talking about just getting American papers; you’re talking about getting a whole new identity.

Craig: Yes, this was a thorough identity. So, we started going through California, through Nevada, Utah, Colorado,Texas. I got into some trouble; I stole some credit cards. Short story . . . I got caught, and they gave me three months in the county jail.

I knew not one person in the state. I had no connection, no address, so when I was released I left the state and went to Oklahoma.

Terri Owen: I met Craig at my husband’s birthday party. Shortly thereafter, my husband was murdered. I sort of fell apart and Craig sort of rescued me.

Craig: We decided to make our way north. We went on the road with the kids and a U-Haul trailer. . . . I was working on one of my guns. The spring popped, and sure enough, the hammer dropped and away went the gun. I shot myself just above the knee in my left leg. The bullet came out down above my calf on the other side.

Leslie: Let’s pick the conversation up between Craig and Terri Owen and Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy: So you’re a man on the run—Canada, California, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nevada—I may have missed a state, I’m not sure. But you end up in Indiana, which was where the Lord really changed your course. Can you get us there?

Craig: We actually ended in Illinois first, right on the Indiana line. They didn’t fix my leg. There were a lot of issues with my leg, and they didn’t know what was going on. But we traveled, regardless. In Illinois they did some more research, medically, and found that it was nerve damage in the leg.

They thought they could correct it with surgery, and so there was a government grant that paid for it. If I couldn’t work because of injury, they could get a grant to help get me back to work, that’s how they do that. So I had major surgery on the leg around Christmas of that year, but we had no income.

Terri had Social Security for the kids, which kept the house over our heads, but food and other stuff like that, we were pretty tight. So I would write checks occasionally to get things like that done. Those would be bounced checks. As those were collecting up, we knew the police were going to be knocking around, looking for us, saying, “You’re going to have to answer for these checks.” 

Nancy: By this time, you’ve become adept at deception.

Craig: Oh, yes. You move between the roles as needed, and you adapt. But we realized we had to get out of Illinois because otherwise I’d be locked up for these checks. So, we were crossing the state line from Illinois into Indiana and were in Danville, Illinois.

The closest city to cross over there was Covington, Indiana. We kept looking for a place over there that we could to find to rent, and there was just nothing available. Eventually one day, this guy called back and said he had a house that he was working on that he would be willing to rent. It was under renovation.

Terri: This was March sixteenth . . . no running water, no bathroom, no kitchen, no heat, and four children.

Nancy: Were you married by this time?

Terri: Yes, we had married the November before in Illinois. We signed the lease and moved into it.

Craig: That put us into the little town of Covington.

Nancy: Which a lot of people probably have not heard of, but that’s actually where we first met. Unbeknown to you, the Lord was moving you there, and moving by His Spirit mightily in a church you were about to be connected to.

Craig: Yeah, we were trapped, I think.

Nancy: The Hound of Heaven was after you.

Terri: We were surrounded.

Craig: Good point. The Hound was there. We were on a corner lot, and on the opposite side of the street was the deacon chairman of First Baptist Church. On the opposite side of the street from them was the senior pastor’s home. On the other corner, one house removed, was an associate pastor, and three houses down was the other associate pastor.

Nancy: So you landed in this little Baptist corner, Baptist “commune.” Did you meet your neighbors?           

Craig: No, not at first. Nobody wanted to come see us. The kids met kids, and Terri, through the kids, made some connections.

Terri: We used to go get water from the deacon’s wife, from their garden hose. We’d fill up buckets and take the water back, so we’d have water. That’s how the initial contact was made. So the kids went to Awana, and the church had a mother-daughter banquet. Being a mom, I went to the banquet. I got saved at the banquet.

Nancy: The first night you went to the church?

Terri: Yeah, but I had a background. I knew the way; I had just rejected it. So it didn’t take me long to realize, “I need the Lord.” But I didn’t go home and tell Craig about that. Instead, myself and some of the other ladies just started praying. I told him I wanted him to go to church with me.

I told him that I had always dreamed of us, as a family, going to church. I knew if I said that to him, he would go, and he did. Three weeks later he was saved.

Nancy: Did they know you, did they know your background? Did they know what they were getting?

Craig: No. What they did know by what they could see of me was one of the reasons that I agreed to go to church when she asked m. I went to prove that I could not stay at church. I didn’t want to go. I had my long hair. I looked like a biker.

Nancy: Is it safe to say that there was no one else at this church that looked like you?

Craig: No one else. I was very disruptive looking. I made it a point to make it that way deliberately. I figured I’d stand out. It would make it easier for them to reject me, and therefore, I wouldn’t have to be there. I had stereotyped church. I figured it was there for . . . they want your money or whatever. I didn’t see the personal living God context or anything.

Nancy: So what tore down your resistance?

Craig: My first visit, there was an old gentleman that greeted me—Claude. He was a retired railway guy. He looked tough as nails. He had the rugged look to him—except his eyes. He had such a deep love in his eyes. He greeted me with that double hand-over-hand handshake, saying how great it was to see me in church and he was glad I took the risk to come on in.

He acknowledged that he knew I didn’t want to be there, but he was genuine. He was actually saying, “I’m glad you’re here.” There was a connection between understanding that he had a toughness in him from his past, that gave him merit, yet on the other hand, he had this compassion and this love in his eyes, saying, “I’m so glad you’re here.” It was authentic—he really meant it.

There is no more descriptive way to say it. What he said was coming from the core of him, and he was being as transparent and authentic as one could be. I knew the way I looked. I knew I was stand-offish. I knew I didn’t fit anywhere at all there. People gave their kids a wide path around me.

There was a strong presence of, “What do I do with this?” That threw me. Now, that was just one introduction, but it carried a lot. Then, going into the church service, I ended up near the front row, second row from the front. I figured if I could discredit the pastor—he’s just talking and has nothing relevant to us—then we don’t have to stay there anymore. We can just move on.

The first service wasn’t really memorable. I was more focused on Pastor Curtis, to see what he was saying. Did I make him nervous? Was I intimidating him? I was looking for anything I could to find a chink in the armor, to add to my cause of why I didn’t have to be there. And nothing happened—I found nothing.

So we finished the service, and that was when Claude greeted me—after the service. A few people greeted me, shook my hand and said, “Good to see you,” and all that. But it was Claude that broke the ice in that very unique way. The second week I agreed to go because, really, my intent was to try and discredit everything, and then that would be the end of the story—no more back-and-forth.

So I agreed to go the second week and, same thing. This time, Claude was there again and greeted me on the way in as well as on the way out. A couple other people did, and they seemed to have a genuine interest in seeing me there, looking beyond what I looked like.

This was a small town, a conservative Bible-belt area. What I looked like at the time was something of a time warp. The second sermon, there were things in it that I don’t remember to this day, but I remember being challenged by a few of the things he was saying.

He was talking about the issues of acceptance and who we are before Christ. The fact that there is this personal God, a living God, was something I had not heard before. So we went from talking church to talking about a relationship. I think that was what made my radar go off. That was something I’d never heard.

So now we were talking not about history, not about church from the past, or what things should have been from the commandments, we were talking about a Savior that’s there, living, that wants to be part of your life in a proactive, living way. And this is God Almighty, this is the Supreme Being.

I recognized at that point, that if this were true—if there actually was some Thing or Somebody that had authority over my life, because they’re real . . . I recognized if God was real and He created me, then He had authority by that very nature. My whole life I had always struggled with authority.

I felt it was all man-level—whoever controlled it . . . The following week, I don’t know if I was eager, but close to it, to go back because I was really challenged. The third week it was like God was saying, “I’m here. Whether you like it or not, whether you accept Me or not, it doesn’t change the fact that I am here. I am your God.”

That’s when He broke me. There was an altar call. I left my crutches there and took the first step I’d taken in a year—maybe a little melodramatic, but it just felt so lifting and freeing. I went forward and said, “Yes, if this God is talking to me and He’s real, then I need to yield to this. I recognize that.”

There was an associate pastor who took me and went back to the prayer room, explained to me, went through the Scriptures, and I accepted Christ into my life.

Nancy: Did you have a sense or knowledge that this was going to be a major, radical change in your life? Did you think you could continue living the lifestyle that you had been?

Craig: At that point, I hadn’t even considered that, to be honest with you. There was so much emotion going on. I kept going back to recognizing, “This God is real. There’s a God of heaven, and He’s alive. Here’s this Christ. He’s alive. There’s this Holy Spirit that indwells you.” Being overwhelmed with these things is what I was thinking.

I wasn’t looking at, “Okay, what do I have to do now?”

Nancy: Was there a sense that this was a surrender to an authority other than yourself?

Craig: Oh, yeah! That’s probably ninety-nine percent what it was.

Nancy: For the first time in your life, it sounds like.

Craig: Oh, yes. I’d never surrendered to anyone like that in my life. I mean, you may surrender in a fight or something like that, where you’re pinned down, but this wasn’t that context.

Nancy: But you’d never really recognized another authority.

Craig: No, definitely not.

Nancy: With the relationships you established there in the church, and with some guidance and counsel, you began to deal with some of the issues in your past.

Craig: Yes, the small issues, like the checks I had written in Illinois. I talked about that. They helped with that, as a church. They helped us go back and I surrendered because of that, just to deal with them. I surrendered in the sense that it wasn’t a big case, it wasn’t felonies or anything like that, it was more restitution.

Nancy: So you started in on the process.

Craig: Yes, those things, because it was local. I did not tell them about the Canadian aspect of things. That was not being dealt with initially. It was much more about reintegrating as a new Christian. The church body started then to close in around me in a positive, supportive measure asking, “What things do you need?”

There were some tangible things, with kids. We were living hand-to-mouth, pretty close, so there were things that they helped with in practical terms. Claude became a very close friend and mentor, and people like him connected. Guys offered work in the area; they tried to help me get a job.

There was a lot of personal discipleship. Pastor Curtis had a new believer’s class he was teaching from his home to help me understand this “new” God. He was new to this new believer, who God was.

Nancy: So they really enveloped you, brought you into the family.

Terri: Yes.

Nancy: And then, seven months later, approximately, Life Action Ministries shows up in the church parking lot with one of their teams.

Terri: That was so huge.

Nancy: You were brand-new believers. Did you have any concept of what they called "crusades" in those days? Now they call them “summits.” Did you know what this was going to be about? I think it was originally scheduled for two weeks. Do you remember hearing about that, or what you thought about it on the front side?

Terri: I was excited because as a child in Chicago, I had been to revival crusades, and they were always exciting. So that was my reason for being excited about it.

Nancy: Your children at this time were elementary school age?

Terri: Yes, five, six, seven, eight.

Nancy: There were special programs for the children.

Terri: Yes, so we could actually sit in the services by ourselves, which was nice. That in itself enticed me to want to go.

Nancy: Some of our listeners may not be familiar with the format of these meetings, but essentially you’re in church for two weeks, every night—with programs for the children. There is an emphasis on our vertical relationship to the Lord, and how that works out in our horizontal relationships with people.

Today, the thought of going to church every night for two weeks . . .

Craig: Well, there was a lot of preparation beforehand, I do remember that. There was a lot of prayer time put in in advance, so we were learning about that.

Terri: . . . for weeks . . .

Nancy: So you participated in that?

Craig: We did, because we were new Christians, we were still “sponges,” soaking it up. We didn’t know what the norm was or what abnormal was. The idea of every night was—I wouldn’t say overwhelming—but it was different and unique. It had costs. You’re tired at night after work and stuff like that.

Nancy: So you came to the services?

Terri: Oh yes, I don’t think we missed any of them.

Nancy: I know it’s a lot of years to think back, but do you remember the impression that was being made? What was God dealing with in your hearts as you got into those meetings?

Craig: I remember more the analogies used with farming, the cultivating, the filling, the fallow ground, because of the agricultural community. I was learning about that aspect in the normal sense. Then the teams were using those analogies of how God uses that in our hearts to break through that hard ground to get in . . . how we need to dig up those barren areas in our lives. I don’t remember all the specific details, but I do remember making those connections in a very vivid sense.

Nancy: At that time were you very responsive to truth . . . whatever God said?

Terri: Very much.

Craig: Naively so . . . almost naively so.

Nancy: So you had really gone from being rebels with a cause—or without a cause—to being submissive to God.

Terri: We were hungry.

Craig: We knew God then, and we wanted to be part of it, because we were learning about this God.

Nancy: I was with the team at that time, and I remember, this is where we first connected. I was leading women’s prayer times during the mornings. Were you able to sit in some of those, Terri?

Terri: Yes, I was.

Nancy: What particular things . . .? 

Terri: Forgiveness was a big thing in my life, because of my background. There was a lot of hurt, a lot of anger toward my family, and I needed to learn forgiveness. I actually went to your hotel, at the chalet there, and you counseled me for a while on that.

That was a huge turning point in my life, that I had to learn to forgive, and I couldn’t move on with life from there until I did. I was stopped; there was no going on. The bitterness was so huge, it held such a grip on me. That was the big thing in my life, learning to forgive—which I did. I learned.

Nancy: What kind of a difference did that make in those relationships?

Terri: It made a huge difference. I took the kids after the crusade to meet their grandmother (my mother) in Tennessee. She had never met the kids. I think this was in 1986. So the kids were ten, nine, eight, seven by then—and she’d never met them. It was huge. It had been probably fifteen years since I’d seen my mom.

Nancy: And virtually no communication.

Terri: No, absolutely none. And we made the trip there, found her, I knocked on her door and told her I forgave her.

Nancy: Can you give us an idea of what the issues were that had created the problems?

Terri: Well, my parents had divorced, and my mom married my sister’s husband, and he was very abusive to me, and my mom knew it. It was a big mixed-up family, and there was a lot of anger and bitterness there. He was very abusive to all of us. Because my mother knew it, I couldn’t forgive her for that.

Literally, it was destroying my life. I would have nightmares. I couldn’t sleep, and I just couldn’t let it go. So in going back to Tennessee and facing that and telling them that I was forgiving them, it was so liberating. It totally changed my life.

Nancy: How did your mom handle all that?

Terri: At the time, it was like, “Forgive me for what?” Now she understands, because there has been a lot that’s happened since then, but at the time she didn’t see why she would need to be forgiven—it didn’t seem wrong. So I was the one who was set free from that.

Nancy: So the Lord had a lot to do in both your hearts. I know one of the emphases of the messages during that time was on the clearing of conscience—making sure there was a clear conscience with God and all others. What was going through your mind, Craig, as you were hearing this?

Craig: Well, the clear conscience messages dealt with coming clean in our lives about things that could be obstacles to our spiritual growth, or other areas of our life that ultimately affect growth. I mentioned we had already dealt with the local stuff, the checks and stuff like that.

The issue of who I was in Canada, the bigger baggage of my full identity, I went and talked maybe with Del first.

Nancy: Del Fehsenfeld, Jr, was the founder of Life Action (he's now with the Lord). He was preaching the messages.

Terri: Yes, it was Del you spoke with first.

Craig: I went and talked to him and gave him an overview. I said, “Okay, my name is Craig Owen—this is who you know me as, but here’s this other identity. I’ve lived here for these years in the States. Here’s the source of where it came from.

Nancy: Did you talk to Terri before going to Del? Did you say, “I need to do something about this?”

Craig: Oh, yes. We discussed it. We knew that this was an area God where was working on us. As a Christian, I can’t hide this. I have to deal with it one way or another. I didn’t know what to do with it, though. You feel trapped because it seems so insurmountable.

Nancy: You’d been gone from Canada for how long at that point?

Craig: About six years. I’d pretty much just cut off all those ties. My parents knew where I was, and we periodically had contact with them—but that was it, nobody else.

Nancy: Were you terrified where all this was going to take you?

Craig: Pretty well . . .

Terri: I was!

Nancy: What were you thinking?

Terri: He’s going to go and not come back—to Canada, and not come back.

Nancy: Was there any thought of, “Let’s just leave well enough alone”?

Terri: Part of my heart thought that, but the other part said, “We have to do what God is telling us to do, and let Him control it.” We’d seen so much already, that God was in control of it, so when you know God’s in control, you let Him have that control.

Leslie: Most of us are not facing circumstances that dramatic, but that issue is real for every one of us: Who is in control? We’ve been listening to an interview Nancy Leigh DeMoss recorded with Craig and Teri Owen, before Craig passed away from cancer. We’ll keep hearing their story all week.

I hope you’ll take some time to think through that question, even when you’re done with this podcast. Nancy will help you understand this issue better in her book Surrender: the Heart God Controls. She’ll help you develop a biblical understanding of surrendering to the Lord, and she’ll show you practical steps of surrender to take.

We’ll send the book Surrender to you when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount. Ask for Surrender when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Have the programs this week brought up an issue in your life you’d like to share? You can interact with other Revive Our Hearts listeners when you visit the daily transcript at ReviveOurHearts.com. Scroll to the end and leave your comment or question. You’ll see what others listeners have said as well.

The daily transcript, along with audio of today’s program—and archived programs—are all at ReviveOurHearts.com.

So, what happened next? Did Craig go back to Canada and turn himself in? We’ll return to this story tomorrow. I hope you’ll be back with us 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.

Join the Discussion