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Interview: Jeff Rogers
Posted March 09, 2007 at 09:16:57 AM by Bean in the Interviews category
A few weeks ago, I had an interesting conversation with my friend John's good friend Jeff. He agreed to rehash some of the good stuff for interview number 3.
Q: Are you a minister?

A: Yes, I've been officially ordained by the Christian Church (an independent nondenominational denomination (oxymoron I know, but what can you do?))

Q: What do you do (at your job)?

A: There's a lot involved... I work with G.O. Ministries, Inc. Our organization is a non-denominational Christian non-profit 501c3. Our core work is partnering with nationals (we develop relationships with Dominican/Haitian Christian workers and connect them with American churches who in turn envision these nationals as their missionaries on the field). We further those partnerships by coordinating short-term teams of individuals who go and serve for week-long stints in various capacities: construction, medical/dental clinics, sports clinics in each of those communities where we have established partnerships.

I represent these Christian workers and the needs of their broader communities in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The work that we do I consider to be "holistic Ministry." We make an effort to serve the people by meeting all of the basic physical and spiritual needs as we are able: food, shelter, clothing, medical treatment, clean water, education, and instruction in a life characterized by following Jesus (if they so desire, it is not necessary to adopt our understanding of faith to be served by us). We currently finance (through the various partnerships mentioned above) 5 feeding centers on the island in terribly impoverished areas where we are able to feed about 600 children one hot nutritious meal a day. We have one in Quanamenthe Haiti, Guan Dules DR, Hoya de Bartola DR, La Mosca DR, and Batey Nuevey DR.

In addition to representing the ministry in various churches, conferences, schools and other organizations state-side, I take frequent trips to the Dominican and Haiti to help facilitate some of the teams that come down. I also lead a few "exploratory trips" a year with leaders from new churches or businesses who have developed an interest in our work.

I also coordinate the on-going training for our national pastors. Many, because of poor education and difficult economic realities that led them to work full time at a very early age, have little more than an 8th grade education. They have very little formal ministry training due to lack of availability and the cost of what is available. We provide what we can for them free of charge. Training topics range from Biblical studies, theology, to church history.

In the midst of all this I am also a fundraiser. I help raise funds for the organization in general as well as for my wife, Vicki and I. 100% of what is raised for the ministry's various projects: feeding centers, child sponsorship, etc. goes towards that project. We take nothing off the top for overhead as we raise all of that separately. All of the staff working with G.O. raises 100% of their own funds. It is a continued work in progress.

Until we get back to the Dominican (living there full-time, a reality largely dependant on how well our girls to with their therapy) I keep regular office hours Mon-Fri 9-5 at our Ministry headquarters here in Louisville. If you want a little taste of what some of our work looks like check out www.heartsinhispaniola.blogspot.com

Q: A man of many hats, I see. So what does the "G.O." stand for?

A: Great Opportunities in Global Outreach. It should be GO GO ministries but as you might imagine that could make fundraising tricky among some more conservative churches :)

Q: Your twin daughters were born deaf, but can now hear. Explain:

A: Our daughter's, Sophia and Rena, were born deaf. This was verified for us in November of 05 (the girls were born in July of 05 two and 1/2 months premature, the deafness as it turns out is unrelated to the prematurity)when we had a follow up with an audiologist after failing the hearing screening at the hospital. Since then we have discovered the root of our girls' deafness thanks to genetic testing. The girls' test results came back and it turns out that it was as we suspected, Vicki and I are carriers of a rare recessive gene for deafness.

So, above is our Punnett Square. Remember those from science class in highschool. Remember thinking, "When am I ever going to use this stuff?" Well it just goes to show that you never know what might prove to be useful in your life. Anyway, as I said, Vic and I are carriers which means that our hearing genes are Rr (R=Typical Hearing, r=hearing loss and/or deafness). So combine the two above and we're left with the 25% chance to have a child with typical hearing who is not a carrier of Connexin 26 (our sneaky recessive gene), a 50% chance of having a child with typical hearing who is a carrier of Connexin 26, and a 25% chance of having a child with significant hearing loss/deafness.

So, there you go. And so what's the bottom line you ask? Well, quite frankly, we're a family of X-Men! So all you regular o'le humans, don't be haters!!

Anyway, the girls' deafness is nearly identical which is not a surprise really since they are identical; they both started hearing at 110 decibels in their left ears and 90 in their right. You and I start hearing at 5 decibels and the whole range of human speech is from 20 to 40 decibels.

We started out right away with hearing aids. It's not easy keeping those boogers on 6 month old babies. We think that with the hearing aids we were able to bring their hearing down to 60 decibels, still not even close to hearing speech but they would respond at bells wringing and pots being beaten together.

We had to get cat scans done to check out the anatomy of the girls' ears. There was no deformity which meant we could move forward with a device called a Cochlear Implant. And what is that you ask? Well, time for a science lesson...

Your natural ear takes in sound. The sound waves pass through the outer/middle ear to the inner ear and at last the cochlea. The cochlea is a snail shell shaped part of your inner ear that has millions of microscopic hairs (cilia) lining its walls. These walls are intertwined with nerve endings stemming from the auditory nerve which is the bridge between the ear and the brain. The sound waves are naturally transformed in the cochlea to electric impulses that are picked up by the auditory nerve which carries this information to the hearing part of the brain which then gives us the sensation of sound.

The Cochlear Implant is an electronic device that bypasses your natural ear to artificially stimulate the auditory nerve which in turn stimulates the hearing part of the brain. There is an internal device that is implanted behind your ear. A small hole is drilled through the skull behind the ear, being cautious not to come in contact the facial nerve (which could lead to paralysis in the face) in order to get to the cochlea. A small whole is then drilled through the back wall of the cochlea. The internal device contains a receiver that is connected to a little probe that is spotted with 32 electrodes. This little probe is threaded through the cochlea and winds itself around the cochlea. A small area of the skull is hollowed out, enough to make a little seat for the receiver, and the receiver is placed there and the incision is sown back up. After four weeks the device is activated with its external hardware.

The external device consists of a controller (about the size of a very small mp3 player) that is used to change various settings on the implant, a processor that is programmed by the audiologist that picks up environmental sounds and transforms them into digitized information, and a coil which magnetically connects with the internal receiver implanted on the surface of the skull. The coil transmits the digitized information from the processor to the receiver via radio waves across the surface of the skin. The receiver takes that information and transforms it into electrical impulses that then pass through the electrode making contact with the auditory nerve in the cochlea. The auditory nerve receives these impulses and carries them to the hearing part of the brain which then creates the sensation of sound. All of this happens within fractions of fractions of a second.

Thus, the girls are able to hear artificially. It is a different kind of coding from natural hearing. The quality of hearing compared to our natural ear is quite crude. They do not hear with the distinction or nuance that is a privilege we naturally hearing folks enjoy. But they can hear music, wind, language, etc. With the implant they are able to hear as low as 20 decibels now which is a blessing to be sure. Our therapist tells us that the girls are at a point in four months of hearing that it takes most implanted children a year to get to. We are grateful for how far they have come so quickly.
It is important to remember that at the end of the day the girls are still deaf. When the magnet falls off they are immersed in silence. They do not wear the device to bed. They can't wear it in the water or while doing water sports. With this in mind we are going the route of total communication with the girls. We are teaching them to use sign language (Signed Exact English rather than American Sign Language) as well as speech because we want them to be able to "hear" us and others who are able through our hands in contexts where the implant can't be used or, God forbid, if our world should go to hell in a hand basket and batteries or electricity becomes something difficult to come by. When they have gotten old enough and have mastered English we will learn American Sign Language as a family so that we and especially the girls will be free to move about the deaf community with ease.

Sorry it's a rather lengthy explanation but brevity has never really been a gift of mine. Here are links to some pictures of the Cochlear equipment if you're interested in using them.All pix are available at http://www.cochlear.com/Corp/Press/186.asp

If anyone's interested in following the girls' progress from implantation to date they can check out www.bionicduos.blogspot.com

Q: Fascinating stuff. I wish you and your girls nothing but the best of luck in the future. Okay - last question: What's the funniest joke you've heard in the past month?

A: I heard this on NPR on the Prairie Home Companion a few weeks ago. It was their joke show. And as a bit of a disclaimer, I realize that some might find such a joke inappropriate for a "minister" to be telling but you asked me about the funniest joke I heard recently and this was it. It's the only honest answer to your question. Hee hee. Enjoy.

A man and a woman are in a bar. They are strangers to one another but strike up a conversation. After a little small talk the guy gets around to asking, "So, what's your name?" "Carmen," she said. "Wow, what a beautiful name, is that a family name or what?" "Oh no," she said. "I changed my name to Carmen because it's a blending of the two things I love most in the world, cars and men. So, what's your name?" she asked.

"Golftits," he said, "Pleased to meet you."
1 comment
Bad Andy (March 10, 2007 at 12:33:26 PM):
Ask him if he uses any software to track his fund raising. I might know of someone who could help....
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