Roger Marsh: Welcome again to Family Talk. I'm Roger Marsh, and for the last two days we've been listening to Jessa Dillow Crisp share her story of how she suffered abuse at the hands of her biological family and became a victim of human trafficking. Today we'll hear the conclusion of this powerful three-part conversation featuring Jessa, her husband John, and our own Dr. James Dobson. And this program is extra special, as our three panelists will be joined by Linda and Jody Dillow, the godly couple who took Jessa in after she escaped her traumatizing ordeal. The Dillows will share with Dr. Dobson about why they brought Jessa into their home. They'll share their hearts, and also how they helped her process the trauma and began the healing process. Jessa Dillow Crisp is the co-founder and CEO of Bridge Hope. She co-founded this ministry, along with her husband John, to serve as an anti-trafficking nonprofit organization based here in Denver, Colorado.
In 2022, BridgeHope merged with the Avery Center, the National Trafficking Sheltered Alliance, and HopeBound Collective. In the meantime, Jessa continues pursuing her PhD in Counselor Education and supervision, and she has her own private counseling practice. John Crisp, her husband, serves as the next gen director and young adults pastor at Crossroads Community Church in Colorado. Now, before we get back into today's interview, remember that the content contained in this program is definitely not intended for young listeners, so parental discretion definitely advised. Here now is the conclusion and final installment of this three-part conversation going back to 2018 right here on Family Talk.
Dr. James Dobson: Well, I hope that our listeners today heard what's happened in the previous two programs because I think they're among the most moving of any that I've done in 40 years. And maybe that's because my personal experience on the Pornography Commission and my heart for people who are abused sexually and especially trafficking of children, it moves me more than almost any other subject. And as we concluded the second program last time, Jessa mentioned that she was adopted. And I didn't realize it, but her adoptive parents were in the control room on the other side of the glass. And so we ended that program with those folks coming in the door to join us here in the studio, and they are here now. They are Jody and Linda Dillow, who have played such a key role in Jessa's life by not adopting her legally, but in every other context. She is a member of your family now, isn't she?
Linda Dillow: Absolutely.
Dr. James Dobson: I think that our listeners would like to hear that part of the story because it is an essential ingredient of what you've been through, isn't it, Jessa?
Jessa Crisp: Yes.
Dr. James Dobson: All right. Sit right there. Jody Dillow, that's your adopted father.
Jessa Crisp: Correct.
Dr. James Dobson: And Linda Dillow, who's been on our program a number of times both here and at Focus on the Family. And we're going to start with you, Linda. Tell us how you came to be involved in Jessa's life and how you, Jody, the two of you came to adopt her. I mean, you've made an unbelievable contribution to her life. How did that come about? Linda, I'm starting with you.
Linda Dillow: Jody and I were on the board of the safe house where Jessa fled, and so we knew Jessa when she was curled up on the stairs and wouldn't even look anyone in the eye because she was so broken. And you're looking at her today, Dr. Dobson, seeing her as a put-together young woman. But Jody and I saw her as a very broken, broken 21-year-old. And yes, we knew what she had been through and our hearts were broken. And-
Dr. James Dobson: Did you feel the Lord pulling you in that direction to do what you could to help?
Linda Dillow: Yes. God had very directly asked me years previously if I would be available for His most wounded women. And there had been many that had come through our home on a short-term basis, but God brought Jessa on a long-term basis to live with us. And my husband was the one really that suggested that she come live-
Dr. James Dobson: Were you in favor of it, Jody?
Jody Dillow: Oh, very much so. I'd gotten drawn in to the issue of wounded women because Linda had them in and out of our home for about 15 years, and she was spending 15 or 20 hours a week with various women. So, my heart had gotten drawn into this whole problem of trafficking and woundedness. And I remember the first time I saw Jess, Linda alluded to this, I came down the stairs of the safe house and she was down at the bottom of the well, just kind of curled with her fist to her chest. A man. Danger. And it just broke my heart. So, anyway, I can't remember the exact sequence, but she needed a place to live. The place that she was in closed down because they had to move out of the neighborhood. So, I said, "Honey, look, let's just take Jessa in. We've already got a connection with her." And she needed a dad, and I was one of the first men that she had met that she could trust.
Linda Dillow: No, I would say you were the first man that she ever trusted, and it was so exciting for me to watch as-
Dr. James Dobson: Did she begin to blossom?
Jody Dillow: Oh, yeah.
Linda Dillow: Oh, yes. And Jody would take her out for dates, and-
Jody Dillow: It was exciting. I had someone that was just really excited about the Scriptures and about the Lord minister to me. So, we'd go out on dates and talk about the Lord and the Bible and what she's studied in her classes and whatnot, and it was just a rich, endearing experience for me as well.
Dr. James Dobson: How many abused women have you dealt with?
Linda Dillow: Quite a few, Dr. Dobson, and I've seen other miracles, but Jessa is a truly-
Dr. James Dobson: She's one of a kind, isn't she?
Linda Dillow: She is, and God is truly at work in her.
Dr. James Dobson: Well, when you came through the door, I moved John and Jessa over to the other side of the studio here. We have a large studio. And she's sitting over there crying because of what you did in her life. Jessa, I want to hear your side of this story now because it is really important to understanding where you are today and the wholeness that we hear in your voice and from your passion. Tell us about Jody and Linda and what did they mean to you and what contribution did they make in those transition days?
Jessa Crisp: Yeah. So, they early on were called my Auntie Linda and Uncle Jody. And yes, I was in a state of great trauma when I first met them, and I-
Dr. James Dobson: Do you remember being on the stairs curled up?
Jessa Crisp: A lot of things have happened over the past years and I don't remember every single incident just because a lot's taken place. But I-
Dr. James Dobson: That's characteristic of abuse. Your mind protects you from it.
Jessa Crisp: Yep, completely. But I do remember other instances where Auntie Linda at the time or Mom now would take me to the doctor and would be part of that, part of my healing journey. Because my brain, my emotions had to heal, but also my body had to heal. And so she was a part of that and going out and going to Panera with dad and studying the scriptures, and I was in Bible classes at the time and learning-
Dr. James Dobson: Well, what was it like to have a father figure who was safe, loved you, would not touch you, would not abuse you? What was that like? Did you bask in that safety?
Jessa Crisp: At first I was really scared, and trauma does that to a person, and I can say that it was a journey of me learning to trust Uncle Jody at the time and my dad now. And it was a journey. It was a process. But as I learned more about his character and the ways that he treated my mom and saw that and saw the ways that that took place, it really changed my eyes. And then seeing the ways that he treated me with such love and kindness, but also too in a very safe manner and never went past my boundaries, but also just really taught me what a man should be treating a child like. And so that was a huge part of that journey. I remember one day in particular, I was living with them at this point and I actually had a small car accident.
It was just a small fender bender, and I was crying and did not know what to do. And I called him up and I'm like, "Dad, I don't know what to do." And he came over and he just gave me a hug and he's like, "It's going to be okay." I thought he was going to respond with extreme anger and like, "Now you don't have a car, and what are you going to do about that?" But he responded in a completely opposite sense, and that really was another just part of the picture of me leaning to trust and seeing him as a person who loved me and cared about me in a very pure way.
Dr. James Dobson: Well, I want to know more about that man and his passion for a broken little puppy. Don't mean that disrespectfully. Jody, you are a missionary, right?
Jody Dillow: Yes. Linda and I have been missionaries all of our lives. I was with Campus Crusade for Christ. We both were for about eight years, and then we taught Marriage and Family Life seminars around the country for a number of years. Then I went and got my doctorate in systematic theology at Dallas, went on the faculty at Trinity Seminary, but God laid out our heart's missions. So, we moved to Vienna to launch a covert extension biblical training ministry behind the Iron Curtain. And so that's my background.
Dr. James Dobson: Now, let's go back to the relationship between John and Jessa. Did you come on the scene before their relationship developed?
John Crisp: Yes.
Jody Dillow: Oh yeah.
Linda Dillow: Yes.
Dr. James Dobson: Did you support it?
Linda Dillow: Oh, yes, but I was scared. I didn't want Jessa to get hurt. And I remember being on my knees when she went to tell him about her background, and I was just praying for him to be gentle and to be understanding. Because she had been asked by her college to share some of her story at a big event, and John knew nothing about her story, and so she told him. And I remember she came back and I said, "What did he say?" And she looked at me and she said, "Mom, he said, 'I think you're the bravest woman I've ever met.'"
Dr. James Dobson: Really?
Linda Dillow: And I just said, "Oh God, thank you, thank you, thank you."
Dr. James Dobson: The Lord was in that conversation, wasn't it?
Jessa Crisp: He was.
John Crisp: Very much. Yeah, very much.
Linda Dillow: But that's the kind of man John is.
Dr. James Dobson: Well, John, it's time to hear from you. Let's go back to that moment. We touched on it before, but were you turned off by what you'd heard? Did you see her as a broken vessel? How did you approach her?
John Crisp: One of the things that I've learned is that I've had my own past and my own brokenness that I've journeyed through. And as Jessa was bearing her heart to me, I just felt like it was the time to communicate love and grace in light of the brokenness that I had experienced. And so that really gave me a perspective.
Dr. James Dobson: What'd you say to her?
John Crisp: Yeah, I told her that she is not defined by her past and that she's a beautiful creation and that she's a brave woman, a very brave woman. In fact, as she went to speak at the conference, I gave her a mug, a travel mug, that had courage engraved on the side of it, and Jeremiah 1: 17-19. And it just communicated what I felt like her testimony was. It's one of hope and courage, and that God is our healer and our redeemer.
Dr. James Dobson: How soon did you all marry?
John Crisp: So, we got engaged six months after we started dating, and we were engaged for nine months before we were married on June 6th of 2015.
Dr. James Dobson: Did you go into marriage with apprehension, Jessa?
Jessa Crisp: I did, and I had a lot of questions. I also went into marriage very broken because about five or six weeks before we got married, I actually found out that I had a tumor that required surgery. So, we had that surgery. And so I walked into marriage with question marks and not really knowing what was going to happen. And I think that was for both of us.
Dr. James Dobson: Linda, did you have long talks with Jessa about where she'd been and about where she is going? Did you help her adjust? Was that part of your role?
Linda Dillow: Jessa was interested in learning God's perspective about marriage and God's perspective about sexual intimacy, and she wanted to study that as a single young woman and study it after she got married. And she just said, "I want to be prepared. I want God to change all of the tapes I have in my mind." And so she was studying it. She has a very special mentor, Dr. Julie Slattery.
Dr. James Dobson: Oh, she's a great friend, and we've worked together.
Linda Dillow: I know you did. And so both Julie and I prodded Jessa and said, "Just learn all you can before you get married." And she did. And she's continued to learn after she's gotten married. But Jessa just always wants to learn, and she's not afraid to ask the hard questions and to just tackle things and take them on. And that's been an example to me.
Dr. James Dobson: Jody, being in the clergy, being a missionary, you know that when people go through hard times like this, they often get angry at God. And I mean, "Who is God that He didn't rescue me? There I was, a little child. I had nobody, and it continued." And yet she has not fallen into that trap because if a person who's been through this needs anything, it's knowing that Jesus Christ cares and He has brought her through the fire. Have you found that people often lose their faith at a time like this?
Jody Dillow: Yeah. In fact, I'm meeting with various individuals right now, that they've pretty much lost faith simply because of trials and difficulties in their lives. It's a very common thing. And it's something that I struggled with most of my Christian life, the problem of evil, so I can really empathetically identify. And I found answers that were mostly satisfying for me. But yeah, it's a big issue.
Dr. James Dobson: Well, that's why I wrote the book When God Doesn't Make Sense.
Jody Dillow: Right. It's a good book.
Dr. James Dobson: Because I observed that. So many people hit the wall. They hit what I called the betrayal barrier, and they feel like God has really turned His back on them. And Satan uses that. He uses the pain of an experience like that to separate them from the Lord at a time when they desperately need Him. And I hope that's one of the takeaway values from this conversation, these three days, to say to others who are out there, maybe you thought you went through something difficult. I don't know if it would compare to what Jessa has gone through, but it's probably pretty awful because life is tough. Life is hard, and it involves separation and death and disease and sickness and disappointment and all of that. It just does. But if you let Him, the Lord will bring you through that and make you stronger. Or you can turn your back on him and say, "I can't trust Him." The only trouble with that is, there is no other answer.
Jody Dillow: No the place to go. That's what Peter said. "Where else should we go? You have the words of eternal life." And for me, an aha moment was something that I knew, but God spoke it to me in a different way. The fact that God Himself entered into this horror in the person of Christ and went through the things and worse than we go through. And it must have been important. It must have been necessary that suffering be allowed, or God would not have arranged things so that He Himself in the person of His son would come into this horror and go through it.
And the message of the book of Hebrews helped me a lot because it talks about how, because He went through that, we have a sympathetic priest in Heaven. So that when I'm struggling, when I'm in my unbelief, He's not up in Heaven pointing His finger saying, "Now, Jody, you really blew it." But instead, we have a savior who's been here and He's saying, "Jody, I know what you're going through. I've been there and I'm sympathetic and I'm praying for you."
Dr. James Dobson: Oh boy.
Jody Dillow: And that stuff helped me a lot.
Dr. James Dobson: How powerful.
Jody Dillow: It was an emotional answer to the problem of evil.
Dr. James Dobson: Jessa, did you ever experience that?
Jessa Crisp: I did. And the ways that God has met me in the midst of that is when I was going through my healing journey, I went through different times where on my knees I saw God crying for the pain that I went through. So, when I was angry at God, I knew that He could handle that because He showed me so tangibly how He had been so hurt by the things that I experienced as well.
Dr. James Dobson: Did you find comfort in that?
Jessa Crisp: I did. Because it wasn't like I had to pretend with God what my emotions were with what I was feeling, but rather He could handle what I was going through and the rawness of what I was going through, and He could experience that. And in His gentle hands not only could He hold that for me, but that He could carry it until I was able to continue to walk through.
Dr. James Dobson: I would think you would have a mission now, which is what you told us about earlier, that you're doing your doctorate in this arena.
Jessa Crisp: I'm working on my master's right now as a step towards my doctorate.
Dr. James Dobson: Your master's, and then next that the Lord would help you help other people to deal with the unanswered questions-
Jessa Crisp: That's correct.
Dr. James Dobson: ... the why's that hang out there.
Jessa Crisp: Yes. And so, one of my prayers is that God would not let my pain go to waste. And so God has called my husband and I to start an organization to help survivors of human trafficking. And so we co-founded an organization called Bridge Hope not too long ago. And-
Dr. James Dobson: Oh, we got to talk about that. That's your organization, John, is that right?
John Crisp: Yes. Yes, sir.
Dr. James Dobson: BridgeHope.
John Crisp: That's it. Yeah.
Dr. James Dobson: Describe it for us.
John Crisp: So, BridgeHope exists to collaborate resources for survivors of human trafficking through training. So, we do a number of trainings throughout the United States, but also internationally. We are also working right now to develop technology that's going to help with collaborating those resources for survivors. And the last thing that we want to do is, we looked at Jessa's life and we saw what elements were pivotal in creating an environment where she could thrive. And so we hope to recreate in some aspect the mentorship opportunities that she had and the resources that were made available that helped her get to a place of thriving. And that's what BridgeHope is.
Dr. James Dobson: Well, we have come to the end of the third program now. We started out with a one-part program that we were planning to do, but we couldn't stop. This is just too relevant to too many people. And your story is so passionately told, Jessa. I just admire you for being able to confront the evil of the past. And now surprisingly, we had your adopted parents in the control room, and I finally saw them there and invited them in, and you have joined us on this. We're really out of time now. God be with you all as you reach out to a hurting world. And Jessa, I do hope that there will come a time when you can't even remember that horrible past.
Jessa Crisp: Thank you.
Dr. James Dobson: But you've forgotten a lot of it already, haven't you?
Jessa Crisp: God has done an amazing amount of healing in my life, and so I praise Him.
Dr. James Dobson: Thank you all. And stay in touch with us, will you? And Linda, so good to see you again.
Linda Dillow: It's a privilege to be here.
Dr. James Dobson: Any last thing that's on your heart that you want to say?
Linda Dillow: God is the healer.
Dr. James Dobson: You've seen Him heal a lot of people, not just Jessa.
Linda Dillow: I have been privileged to see Him heal a lot, but Jessa is a miracle.
Dr. James Dobson: And Dr. Dillow, God be with you.
Jody Dillow: Thank you, sir. It's a privilege to be here with you. Thanks.
Dr. James Dobson: Well, we will talk again.
Roger Marsh: As most of us are aware, human trafficking is a problem, and we hope that the programs over the last three days have opened your eyes to how deep that problem really is. If you or someone you know has been victimized by human trafficking, call the National Trafficking Hotline. The number is 1-888-373-7888. That's 888-373-7888. Or just text the word "help" to 233733. Now, if you missed any part of these programs over the last three days, remember you can visit our broadcast page at drjamesdobson.org. That's drjamesdobson.org, and you can hear them again in their entirety. By the way, while you're on our website, consider signing up for Dr. Dobson's 10-Day Marriage Series Challenge. To join the challenge, all you have to do is visit our homepage at drjamesdobson.org and then select the 10-Day Marriage Series image in the upper right-hand corner. You'll then be directed to the signup page where you can type in your email address and then click the signup button.
It's really that easy. After you're all signed up, you'll receive one email every day for 10 consecutive days featuring words of encouragement from Dr. Dobson, and a few exercises that you can do with your spouse. Again, to sign up for the 10-Day Marriage Series challenge, simply go to drjamesdobson.org. I'm Roger Marsh. Thank you so much for joining us this week, and be sure to tune in again Monday for another edition of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk. Till then, may God continue to richly bless you and your family as you grow deeper in your relationship with Him.
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