Everyone has a story, and every story deserves to be shared. One freshmen twin duo is using their talents to showcase the diversity of the kingdom of God by telling their stories and the stories of others.
Raena Rogers is a film and media arts major living on Third North English. Her identical twin sister, Sophi, is an illustration major on Cellar English.
Appearance aside, the two are surprisingly different. Raena is the social butterfly of the pair, while Sophi is a bit more reserved. Raena’s primary art form is photography, while Sophi focuses more on drawing and painting.
Despite their differences, both siblings use their art to tell stories of grace, redemption and hope. Sophi spoke about the connection between Scripture and storytelling and how that informs her vocation and calling.
“One of the ways (Jesus) preached was through parables, and that's a form of storytelling,” Sophi said. “I just feel like he's called me into a field to tell stories that can empower other people.”
When the twins were eight years old, their family moved from the rolling hills of rural Kentucky to the Dominican Republic to serve as missionaries. There, they were able to see the differences between the church in the Dominican Republic and the United States.
Sophi reflected on the beauty found in the diversity of the universal church.
“(God is) not just the God of America or the Dominican Republic, he’s the God of all his people,” Sophi said. “It’s beautiful to see that unity. That’s how the world should be.”
While they were in the Dominican Republic, they fell in love with the people there and gained an appreciation and a heart for people’s stories. This was when they realized that they could tell people’s stories with their talents.
Raena reflected on her and Sophi’s love for people from different cultural backgrounds, and how their stories affect her personally.
“Since I lived overseas, I have a big heart and passion for people who (come from) different cultures or live very different lives than I do,” Raena said. “I feel overwhelmed by the beauty of many people’s stories, despite our differences.”
Raena and Sophi have unique stories themselves. The twins are both deaf and use cochlear implants to “hear” the world around them.
The twins are sharing their stories here on campus. An especially notable way that has happened is through signing songs in American Sign Language during chapel, as well as during Mosaic Night.
Raena recounted how it felt to see the campus community worshiping with her and her sister.
"It was beautiful and overwhelming seeing the kingdom of God come together and worship through sign language,” Raena said. “It was really fun.”
While approximately 11 million people in the US are deaf or hard of hearing, many people haven’t met a deaf person, which is why Raena and Sophi enjoy answering questions and educating people about deafness.
Unfortunately, people sometimes have misconceptions. Raena corrected a common one about cochlear implants.
“My cochlear implant doesn’t make me hearing,” Raena said. I’m still deaf with it. But my deafness also doesn’t mean that I’m broken. It just means that I’m a little different.”
Those differences have influenced their art and faith. Both of the sisters’ portfolios feature paintings, drawings, short films and poems that communicate how they uniquely experience the world.
Sophi shared one of the ways that being deaf has shaped her relationship with God.
“(Being deaf has) helped me see him more clearly in some ways,” Sophi said. “There's a gentleness and a sacredness in our relationship, and I love that.”
Being deaf has also strengthened Raena and Sophi’s conviction that all stories deserve to be told.
That doesn’t always happen. For example, minority groups are often underrepresented in film and other forms of media.
“Growing up, I didn’t see a lot of representation of deaf people in society, especially in movies and animations or children’s books,” Sophi said. “So what I want to do is make people feel seen, known and loved.”
The Taylor community has made Raena and Sophi feel seen, known and loved as well. The twins say that the accommodations process was smooth, thanks in part to Accessibility and Disability Resources Coordinator Scott Barrett.
Students on campus have also been very understanding and supportive as they’ve transitioned to Taylor. Raena reflected on the community’s kindness and how it has pointed her to Christ.
“I’ve fallen deeper in love with (God) as my creator and my Father,” Raena said. “God has met me through … the way people choose to love me and meet me where I’m at.”
The Rogers twins are excited for their next three and a half years at Taylor.
It is their hope that God will continue to use them to make an impact on campus one story at a time.
“I think stories are meant to be shared,” Sophi said. “So I'm excited to keep sharing mine.”