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Sharing the Story: An interview with Joel Dillon

Those whom you serve tell your story best.

As president and CEO of Jill’s House, Joel Dillon believes in the power of story. He seeks ways to share the story of Christ with the families he serves and to share their stories with the world. In this excerpt from the 2017 Summer edition of Outcomes magazine, Joel shares more about his ministry.

Can you tell us about Jill’s House?

The best way to get to know Jill’s House is to learn a bit about the families God has called us to love and serve. In short, we serve families who are raising children with intellectual disabilities. The constant stress of raising children with intellectual disabilities takes an enormous amount of effort, and they have almost nowhere to turn for relief. Typically, they can’t just call babysitters or send their kids to the grandparents for the night or the weekend.

Most importantly, more than 90 percent of the families we serve are outside the church. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not Christians, but it does mean that they are cut off from the body of Christ in a significant way. They are, essentially, an unreached people group. And like all of us, they are in desperate need of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

How do you serve these families?

Several times every year, parents drop off their kids with us for 24 to 48 hours at our “respite resort” in the Washington D.C. area or at one of our camp locations around the country (currently, we serve in Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Indiana, Texas, Arizona, California and the state of Washington). While the kids are with us, they get an amazing experience in a safe, fun, loving and celebratory environment.

Meanwhile, parents get a break. They get to sleep through the night. They get to go on a date — often for the first time in years. They get to give undivided attention to their other kids. One mom even scheduled her child’s stays with us around her chemotherapy sessions.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have helped us empirically measure our work. Years of data show that regular overnight respite brings and keeps down the stress level of these families. Relationships are strengthened. Health is restored. Marriages are saved.

Where does evangelism fit into this?

I’d probably describe it as “relational evangelism.” As long as a family’s child has an intellectual disability and we can serve them safely, they are welcome at Jill’s House, and we will love and serve them unconditionally.

We do this through Bible studies, support groups, social outings, etc. We host evangelistic retreats, where we take the whole family (parents, kids with disabilities, and typical siblings) away for a long weekend and provide childcare for the kids, so parents can hear from a speaker (generally someone who has raised a child with a disability) who presents the gospel and calls them to faith in Christ Jesus.

How do you make your story connect?

The most effective way we’ve found to tell our story isn’t to tell “our story” at all. We simply let our families talk about themselves and the difference Jill’s House has made in their lives. Our families are our best spokespeople.

Learn more about Jill’s House!  


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