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Dennis and Cindi Cesone, pictured in the foyer of the Fairfax Church of Christ.
Inside Story
Photo by Robin Gough

The story that started with a ride to church

Behind the scenes of The Christian Chronicle's profile of Dennis and Cindi Cesone.

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FAIRFAX, Va. — Readers often ask where The Christian Chronicle gets its story ideas.

The totally honest answer: All over the place.

Ideas arrive via text and telephone call, email and snail mail. They pop up in Google alerts, social media feeds and random conversations.

Related: Faith through hearing — and signing — the Word

Church bulletins used to be a major source of news — but not as much anymore.

In the case of Dennis and Cindi Cesone, the deaf elder and his wife profiled in a just-published Chronicle feature, the inspiration came via a Sunday morning ride to worship.

I’ll explain: Over a year ago, I traveled to Bethesda, Md., just outside Washington, D.C., to attend the annual meeting of the Religion News Association.

Attorney Lori Windham, an Abilene Christian University graduate and Church of Christ member, represented the plaintiffs in the Fulton case.

Prominent religious freedom attorney Lori Windham, an Abilene Christian University graduate, is a longtime member of the Fairfax Church of Christ in Virginia.

The meeting ended on a Saturday, but I decided to stick around Sunday to pursue a few stories in the D.C. area., including a profile of prominent religious freedom attorney Lori Windham.

Windham is a longtime member of the Fairfax Church of Christ on the Virginia side of Washington. That congregation is about a 25-mile drive from the Maryland hotel where I was staying.

Many members of the Fairfax church commute to services, so I asked Robin Gough, one of the ministers, if anyone might live close to Bethesda and be willing to pick me up. Gough connected me with the Cesones, and Dennis texted me to make arrangements to stop by my hotel Sunday morning.

I was a little apprehensive when Gough explained that Dennis and Cindi are deaf. I wondered how I’d communicate with them. I don’t know American Sign Language.

But they immediately allayed any fears when I slid into the front passenger seat with Dennis driving and Cindi in the back. I discovered that — just as Gough had told me — they read lips exceptionally well. And their verbal skills are probably better than mine.

As Dennis steered, Cindi kept the conversation moving, talking about their family, church and work.

Chris Jackson provides American Sign Language interpretation during a Fairfax Church of Christ worship assembly. Cindi Cesone can be seen on the front row.

Chris Jackson provides American Sign Language interpretation during a Fairfax Church of Christ worship assembly. Cindi Cesone can be seen on the front row.

She pointed out that she needed to see my face to understand what I was saying. So I tried really hard to look at her when my lips were moving.

On the half-hour drive to Fairfax, I found myself enthralled by the Cesones. The story of their lives and faith journeys was so compelling.

“I should be writing a story about you,” I told them at one point.

Related: Making Jesus more accessible

But they brushed aside any focus on themselves. 

They were eager, though, to talk about Windham — who, besides being an attorney, is active in Fairfax’s deaf ministry and learned American Sign Language to help connect with all her brothers and sisters.

Fast-forward to this spring: I returned to Bethesda for RNA’s 2023 annual meeting. 

Once again, I stuck around an extra day to report — and this time I wasn’t going to miss my chance to write about the Cesones.

Dennis had a scheduling conflict, but Cindi swung by to drive me to Fairfax. I was excited to see her again.

I couldn’t help but chuckle when Cindi informed me she could talk to me but probably shouldn’t twist her face to read my lips while driving 70 mph down the highway.

I assured her that was just fine.

I pray the Cesones’ story blesses you as much as it has me.

BOBBY ROSS JR. is Editor-in-Chief of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].

Filed under: D.C. deaf ministry Fairfax Church of Christ Godbeat Inside Story National Opinion Religion News Association religion writing The Christian Chronicle Top Stories Virginia Washington

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