He won’t remember, but I first met Randy Mayfield in the gymnasium of Central Christian School in the early 1990s, located across the street from Central Presbyterian Church, where Randy was on staff. I was a part of a non-denominational program called the Salt & Light Fellowship, and Randy was one of the movers behind it. With his guitar, he led us in songs, including one called “Lord, Don’t Send Me to Africa.” And I thought, who knew Presbyterians could be funny?
Ten years or so later, I was attending Central Presbyterian (still my church now), and Randy was still on staff, leading one of the church’s most successful outreaches – missions. The program involved a host of countries, an outreach to the St. Louis County Jail and a prison outside of St. Louis, schools and universities, a seminary, and more.
Randy believed in hands-on ministry, and he maintained a travel schedule that was exhausting just to read: Honduras, India, Philippines, Iraq, Ukraine, Russia, France, Italy, Hungary, Albania, Israel, Guatemala, Haiti, Cuba, Kenya, Sweden, Albania, Argentina, Mexico, Indonesia, Portugal, South Africa, Poland, Thailand, Tanzania, and a few places that can’t be mentioned because it would jeopardize people’s safety. He also led numerous vision trips for church members, for them to see first-hand what was happening.
At some point, Randy heard about Dancing Priest. He bought the Kindle version and read it while flying to some far-flung mission field (I think it was Iraq). He came a fan of the series, and the five novels about Michael Kent-Hughes have traveled all over the globe. He talked the series up with other church members, and others began to read it, creating still more fans.
Authors know what that does. Yes, it sells some books. But it also touches an author’s heart.
Randy has now published his own book, One Life, and I’ve reviewed it on my Faith, Fiction, Friends blog. It’s part autobiography and part stories about some remarkable things that have happened with church missions. He’s also a husband to Sharon, a father to Amanda and Justin, and a grandfather to a little girl named Afton who owns him and soon to be a grandfather again to Afton’s brother.
Randy does concerts; he can sing rock, country, and just about anything else, including Nessun Dorma. He’s had a band, called the All-Star Band, that’s performed in St. Louis and all over the world (my tenuous claim to fame with it is that my next-door neighbor is the band’s saxophonist). He’s performed at the Grand Ole Opry, and he’s opened concerts for Stephen Curtis Chapman, Jaci Valesquez, and the Imperials.
He’s been a chaplain to the St. Louis Cardinals. He’s come under military gunfire while on mission trips. He’s met with presidents and paupers, and if you know Randy, you know he treats them exactly the same – with a handshake, a smile, a laugh, a hug, and a song.
Randy’s retiring as Missions & Outreach pastor at Central Presbyterian; he gave an official farewell sermon this past Sunday (it won’t be his last sermon; Randy doesn’t retire from ministry). But it’s gratifying and encouraging to know him, and it’s been encouraging to know how much he’s liked the stories of Michael Kent-Hughes.
Top photograph by Paola Chaaya via Unsplash. Used with permission.