Missionary supported in hour of need
The Tampa Tribune/1999-05-23
By Michelle Bearden
TAMPA - A family depends on faith and community support to survive a tragedy.
When Siegfried Friezer of Germany learned that a good friend lay in a coma at Tampa General Hospital, he got on a plane and came here to pray at his bedside.
He didn't think twice.
"He's a very good man who lives to help other people," Friezer says of Glen "Jasper" Rogers, 47. "It was the least I could do."
Such has been the outpouring of love for the Tampa-based missionary whose future hangs in the balance after a car accident April 18 in La Paz, Bolivia.
Doctors say he suffered extensive brain damage and are reluctant to predict his chances of recovery. He remains dependent on a ventilator at the hospital.
Since a Tampa Tribune story last month, friends and strangers have raised more than $43,000 toward his medical and family expenses. One anonymous donor, who doesn't know Rogers, wrote a $10,000 check, inspired by his own wife's recovery from a coma.
There's even a collection under way among villagers in Cuba, where Rogers made missionary trips to deliver Bibles and medical supplies. People whose lives he touched are sending money to help.
A major source of financial and emotional support has come from the Executive Ministries Men's Bible Group. Rogers, a father of six, is a member. Members have cleaned the home that Rogers rents in south Tampa.
"Everybody who knew Jasper knew that he would be right there, had the same thing happened to us," says Tampa financial planner Steve McConnell. "How could we do anything less for him?"
A missionary for 25 years, Rogers traveled to Bolivia last month to meet with people who could help him with his evangelistic efforts in Cuba. He was joined by fellow missionary Adella Chadwick of Ocala.
Two days before his planned return to Tampa, a Toyota Land Cruiser driven by a Bolivian businessman crossed a median and struck a taxi in which Rogers and Chadwick, 38, were riding. Chadwick, a native of Peru and mother of eight children, died at the hospital two hours later.
It was 12 hours before Rogers, who wasn't carrying his passport, was identified.
"That was one of the hardest things," says Kathy Rogers, his wife of 26 years. "To think he was all alone for all that time. He knew better than not to carry his passport."
The Bible study group sprang into action. One of its members owns Care Flight, an air ambulance service based at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. He arranged to fly to Bolivia on April 20 to bring Rogers back to Tampa.
Family members had no idea how they would pay for the $39,000 flight. Like most missionaries, they have no medical insurance or income. They depend on donations, including money, food, clothing and automobiles. What they don't need they donate to other organizations.
Contributions have poured in.
"They say something good always comes out of something bad," Kathy Rogers said. "And this experience has shown the incredible goodness of people. I just wish Jasper could begin to know how much he's loved."
For most of their married life, the Rogerses were independent missionaries, living in the Netherlands, Spain, Chile, Puerto Rico and Miami. They came to Tampa five years ago to establish Tampa Family Mission, a branch of the California-based Family Care Foundation.
The Rogerses also take in and teach teenagers who aspire to be missionaries. Their three daughters have followed in their footsteps. They've all come home - along with four grandchildren - to support their mother through these difficult times.
"FEARLESS, YET gentle" is how Tampa commercial real estate appraiser Dennis Noto describes his friend Jasper Rogers. For Easter, they distributed 500 Spanish-language Bibles in Cuba.
"He had more of the Holy Spirit in him than any person I've ever met," Noto says. "You should have seen how the Cubans flocked around him. He was bringing a new light into their lives."
Tampa engineer Juan Lopez, who went on an evangelistic trip to Cuba with Rogers at Christmas, says Rogers is a good listener with an incredible knowledge of the Bible - which Lopez says made him a powerful evangelist.
"He has such a sweet tenderness about him," Lopez says. "You can literally feel God's presence in him."
For Kathy Rogers, seeing the man she considers her best friend in a coma has been a tremendous shock. Her husband is a man of boundless energy who can rarely sit still, she says.
"He was driven to do the Lord's work," she says. "I don't think anyone is as fanatical about faith than my husband. Now everything he's given is coming back to him."
Medicaid is picking up some of the costs for now, but she has no idea how she will pay for long-term care. Two school-age sons are still at home, and she will have to take over as the main source of financial support.
"I believe in miracles," she says softly. "Whatever happens is in God's hands. We've always trusted in him, and that hasn't changed."
PHOTO 3(2C); Caption: (C) Siegfried Friezer, background, flew in from Germany to be by the side of critically injured friend Jasper Rogers along with members of the Tampa Bay Men's Bible Study Group at Tampa General Hospital. BRUCE HOSKING/Tribune photo; (C) Eldest daughter Christy was not available for this 3-year-old portrait. Back row, from left, mother Kathy, Felicia, Hope and father Jasper. In front are Francisco, Andrew and Jonathan. Photo from family; Kathy Rogers, wife of Jasper, prays with Tom Blake at Palma Ciea Country Club recently near the end of a Tampa Bay Men's Bible Study Group breakfast. Kathy Rogers thanked all for the financial support and prayers for her husband, seriously injured in a traffic accident while on a missionary assignment in Bolivia. The group and others have raised more than $43,000 for his care and medical flight back to Tampa. BRUCE HOSKING/Tribune photo