Written by Phil Cerroni
Joshua Experience joins Olympic champions to share their faith at London Olympics
By Elaine Paniszczyn
Meeting in Terminal A at Dallas International Airport July 25, a big band, an Olympian, a boxing champion, and members of Lay Witness for Christ embarked on a trip to the Olympics in London to share their religious beliefs and faith with the athletes, spectators and others willing to listen to their message.
Irving resident Larry Randall, formerly known as ‘the sax man,’ started the Christian big band named Joshua Experience ten years ago. He said their trip to the 2012 Olympics is a miracle and part of a vision that began for him on a mountain top in Rio de Janerio. But the road to that mountain top was long and winding.
After college, Randall toured the United Stated with The Big Beats, a rock band he still plays with several times a year.
“We started out doing the Dick Clark Show and Caravan of Stars,” Randall said.“We recorded with Buddy Holly, Buddy Knox and Roy Orbison.”
Returning to Irving, he formed the Larry Randall Group.
“We played at the Las Colinas Country Club for years and years,” Randall said. “We played for charitable events for the Irving community such as the Irving Ball and Irving Symphony.
“We built night clubs and had some big ones in the Dallas/Fort Worth area: The Place Across the Street, The Nutcracker, and Cowboy Bob Lilly’s The Other Place. We ended up having five of those including New Orleans, Memphis, Houston, San Antonio and Dallas. The last night club I owned was in the French Indies.
“You can see, I was not doing the Lord’s work at that time, but it prepared my soul to know the difference between good and evil,” Randall said.
Then, Comedian Ben Sanders convinced Randall that he should be working on cruise ships. After his first gig on the Crystal Harmony, they booked him for 300 days a year for the next 13 years.
“About 12 years into the 13, I was at sea in the Indian Ocean writing secular lyrics for a friend of mine from England, who I’d met on the ships,” Randall said. “Instead of writing ‘I want to dance on the beach, Baby’ I wrote ‘Dear Lord, won’t you come into my heart,’ and I said, ‘where did that come from?’
“My friend was writing for J. Lo. and didn’t want a Christian song, so I wrote some secular words for him and then wrote music to go with the words I had written for the Christian song,” Randall said. “After that, about 30 of those things came. The words and the music came at once. I have the manuscripts. You can see that there are no erasures from beginning to end.
“After a while, an inner voice came to me: You know, you’re not doing this, right? And I felt the Lord ask me: What are you doing to do with the music? And I didn’t know,” Randall said.
A year later, in Rio de Janerio on the tram up Corcovado Mountainon his way to see the Christ the Redeemer statue, Randall said he saw the world’s largest soccer stadium down below and felt called by God to fill the stadium. That may seem off topic form this year’s trip to the 2012 Olympics in London, but not to Larry Randall or his band members. The 2016 Olympics are in Rio de Janerio.
“London is a stepping stone,” Randall’s wife Orlando said. “We’ll know what to do and how to get there for Rio.”
The couple met at a bible study after Randall left his cruise ship career behind and returned to Irving.
The Joshua Experience band is a group of volunteers. The trip cost them $140,000 just for airfare. They do not belong to a huge, wealthy church that could help fund the trip.
“We have Catholics and messianic Jews and Episcopalians, just to mention a few,” Randall said. “We’re from Weatherford, Duncanville, McKinney, all over the DFW area. We’re lawyers, veterinarians, school teachers, accountants, pilots. We did not have any place to get the money, but there was never a doubt that God would provide that money for us, and He more than supplied the money.”
In London, they will sleep on mattresses on the floor of a girls’ gymnasium. Some band members said they hope to get to see at least one event and maybe see some of the sights, but that is not the purpose of their trip.
“We are working with Lay Witness for Christ, who has a team of athletes and pastors,” Randall said. “Some of our team members will be going out during the day with flyers announcing our evening events at area churches which will include Carl Lewis and Harlem Globe Trotters.”
“The athletes will be sharing their testimonies, and the big band will play some of the music for the evening,” Mrs. Randall said. “We are primarily witnessing to the Olympians. We have a 10-day span Two or three hundred of us will be with Dr. Sam Moon’s Lay Witness for Christ Ministries, a group who has been witnessing at the Olympics for 35 years. Dr. Cho’s church in Korea is also joining us.
“We have been working diligently to get ready for London for the last two years,” Mrs. Randall said. “Our band members may not be preachers or evangelists, but God gave them music. For 2016, we have the vision of going to the Olympics and filling up that stadium in Rio. That may not be the way it will happen, but that is our goal.
Through Aug 12 in London, Stars for Christ themed events will include concerts, performers, speakers, pastors, authors and athletes. Stars for Christ Teams will rotatebetween London churches. Athletes participating will include current and former Olympians, nationalchampions and other world-class athletes.
In 1988, Joe DeLoach won the gold medal in the 200 meters race and set a new Olympic record of 19.75 seconds. Also with that race, he won the distinction of being the only man to beat Carl Lewis in the 200 meters.
Lewis had recruited DeLoach for the University of Houston track team. They trained together in Houston and remain friends today.
“I received a debilitating injury that prevented me from competing after that,” DeLoach said.“But I have since gone back to help with these outreaches with the Lay Ministers of Christ Ministry every time.”
Lewis, who won 10 Olympic medals, will join DeLoach and other athletes in London volunteering for Lay Ministers of Christ.
Dallas resident Javier Alvarez, aUnited States Amateur Boxing Heavyweight Champion, is another of the athletes who will give his testimony during the trip.
“In the heavy weight boxing division, I won two gold medals at the U.S. Nationals in 1989 and 1990, and I won four silver medals consecutively from 1991 to 1995,” Alvarez said.
Today, Alvarez works with the City of Dallas as senior contract compliance administrator.
“I oversee developments for the housing department,” Alvarez said.
He no longer boxes but does some coaching on the side. This is his fourth Olympics with Lay Ministers for Christ.
“We do sports clinics for the kids of the community, and we do speaking engagements as well,” Alvarez said. “I tell stories about my boxing and about my sport. Other athletes tell about their sport.
“At the clinics, I don’t really help them with boxing because it’s too extreme of a sport. I bring my equipment, and I do exhibitions for the kids, and I tell them what the boxing program is about.
“We give them the opportunity to witness to them. We give them our testimony at various outreaches.”
Alvarez also traveled to the Olympics in Australia, Atlanta and Barcelona with the group.
“I am looking forward to watching the US boxing team,” Alvarez said.“This is the inauguration for the women’s boxing program, which started in 1994. I was one of the co-creators of the women’s boxing program here in the United States, and now it is going to be at the Olympic level for the first time. That is something I am proud of.”
Dr. Sam Ming, Lay Witnesses for Christ International founder, has been chaplain to world champions for more than 35 years.
“We are excited to be going to London.” Ming said, “This is our eighth Olympic trip, and we just believe in God for our greatest ever harvest of souls. They come to us because of the Olympic athletes, who will be speaking at high profile events each night on television. We’re doing 10 telecasts every night. The world is looking into London, and our desire is to share Christ with the world during that time.”