Howie and Dennie Dowell
Howie and Dennie became believers in 1976. Eleven years before, as a young man and a new father, Howie was diagnosed with an adult form of muscular dystrophy. The disease is rare, hereditary, terminal and one of the few diseases known to man that worsens in succeeding generations. Facing the deep emotional pain of Howie’s and their son Peter’s progressive and incurable disease, they believed their future was obliterated. God’s sovereign unseen hand moved in spite of their circumstances and even as unbelievers, to adopt a daughter, Amy.
As new Christians, two significant things happened: both were given a great thirst for Scripture and deeply troubled people began flooding to their door. Previously they knew nothing about the true God or His Word, nor had they been involved with troubled people. As they read through the Bible several times, they noted many verses that related to God’s sovereignty in this vast universe and in individual lives. They applied these truths to the devastating disease that gripped them and their future in almost every area. Coming to rest on the irrefutable fact that God was totally in control of every facet of their lives, brought the unsurpassing peace of which Philippians 4:7 speaks. Yes, they could truly rest in the arms of the One who was not only ordaining, but also wisely guiding their earthly path. Because of His holiness and perfect love for His own, they had the assurance that He was always working for their good, according to His great purposes. Romans 8:28 became a reality!
Because of his disease and as a three-year-old Christian, Howie was taken out of the workplace and reluctantly thrust into the life of a trailblazer. God prepared him for this call by stripping him of many earthly securities: a job, financial stability, and his own health. Eventually, even his son Peter was taken home to be with the Lord.
Howie became a broken vessel, who was quickly cast upon the God and the Scriptures as his means for spiritual, emotional, financial and physical survival. Christ’s plan brought Howie to the end of himself, which was the beginning of an understanding of how to draw on His limitless resources (Phil. 4:19). As his helpmate, Dennie was also broken of dependence upon the world’s system and security for her well-being.
The Dowells took the Word of God at face value. As they discovered step-by-step ways to implement God’s commands and concepts in their own lives, they passed these principles on to others and witnessed His power to transform! By word of mouth, their house became an arena where the validity of God’s truth was modeled and taught. Surrendered to the Lord’s direction and in the face of Howie’s growing physical limitations, God created a home-centered ministry of biblical discipleship. They devoted themselves to sharing the gospel with the unsaved and encouraging fellow believers to experience the fullness of a relationship with Jesus Christ through living surrendered, obedient lives.
Although Howie was greatly weakened, often exhausted and frequently in pain from the crippling effects of the disease, he did not focus on himself or indulge in self-pity. Instead, he was thankful and happy about his Savior’s plan for his earthly existence and for the abundant life he had received because of it. Christ loosened Howie’s grip on a temporal focus and replaced it with an eternal perspective that was foundational to his philosophy of life. He viewed all that he possessed as belonging to his Master for the purpose of furthering His kingdom: his home, money, time, energy and material goods. Howie felt privileged to pass on to others the precious truths he had learned. God’s faithful servant went to be with His Lord on January 20, 1995. A phrase often expressed about him is, “There was no one else like him!” It was Dennie’s privilege to be his wife, friend and soul-mate for 33 years.
God unfolded a new part of His plan for Dennie and the ministry by bringing Tom Patton to serve as her husband and partner. They were married October 8, 1998. Tom, a long time friend of Howie and Dennie, is a perfect match for her. It is very evident that God has uniquely prepared Tom to love and lead Dennie and to share his life in ministry with her. Together they are serving God through discipling, writing, coaching and training leadership.
O Sovereign LORD, you have only begun to show your greatness and the strength of your hand to me, your servant. Is there any god in heaven or on earth who can perform such great and mighty deeds as you do?” Deut. 3:24