In the land of fairy tales, Peter Pan was the boy who refused to grow up--the hypocrisy and humdrum day-to-day routine of adult life just didn't seem all that appealing to someone who could fly. And he was probably right. Sometimes grown-ups take things just a little too seriously.
Consider Randy Stonehill. While some of his contemporaries were singing about the hopeless road to hell, Theology 101 in three verses and a chorus and the plight of their own lost generation, Randy hit it big with a ditty about Amercian Fast Food, complete with digestive sound effects. It's not that Randy ingnored the more critical issues, it's just that he seemed to click best with the more offbeat and funny observations on life in the 20th century. And while those "clickings" didn't earn him any Pulitzers, they did win him the reputation for being one of the biggest kids-at-heart in Christian music.
He may be closer to turning 40 these days, but time has left Uncle Rand even more a child-at-heart now than at any other time in his long career. His latest effort, Wonderama celebrates the child-like wonder he finds in himself, discovering a little more each day. Says Randy, "This life and this world are miracles from God, but I think that we need to open our eyes in faith if we're realy going to experience the beauty of it all on a daily basis. I called the album Wonderama because that's what I think life is; it's like this miraculous kinda roller coaster trip we go on. There are ups and downs, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and there's real hope because God remembers our names and God's love is real. You don't have to become burned out, closed, and cynical in the name of being an adult. You can go though thte grand adventure of life and still retain some sense of innocence and wonder about it all.
If adulthood really does bring with it a touch of cynicism, Randy learned to leave that behind him [a] long time ago. Like a kid in a candy store, the affable Mr. Stonehill grabs up all the opportunities that come his way--beyond the usual concerts, recording and writing parts of his job. As a spokesperson for Compassion International, he has travelled to several third world countries including Haiti, where his own sponsored child lives. Closer to home, last year he performed a series of concerts on Navaho reservations. The native Amercians were so receptive to Stonehill's brand of charm that the concert organizer invited Randy to join him on a jaunt to Mongolia, where a new work with the Mongol people was in its seminal stages. Says Randy of the initial offer, "The Bible says that as followers of Jesus, we're supposed to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, and by golly, that's gotta be Mongolia." And before you could say Ghengis Khan, Randy was on his way.
So how does a guy who gets his yuks by singing about the folly and foibles of Western civilization, bring any light to a performancece in front of a basically non-English speaking audience? "The Mongolian people do love Western music, so they were really receptive to the whole performance. But I knew going into this that it would have to be the Spirit of God communicating--I invited [H]im to be front and center. During one show, right in the middle we had a black out. A few of the missionaries there had flashlights and I ended up doing the rest of the show just standing on the edge of the stage, singing as loud as I could, with people holding flashlights on me. But you know, by God's grace, it actually turned out to be one of the best parts of the whole evening. It sort of unified everybody and they saw that we cared enough about them to keep on going no matter what."
Ten days on the Tundra, surrounded by a world caught in a time-warp would probably change anybody's views on life and nimistry, but for Randy, the experience only solidified what he already know. "When I travel to other countries, it reminds me of the basic truth again and again. No matter where you go, there are really only two kinds of people. It doesn't matter about the culture or the color of your skin or what language you speak, there are only two kinds of people: those who are coming to know Jesus and those who are perishing. Even with all the complexity and differences in the world, it is as simple as that. You either know Jesus or you don't. That's why I go to places like that, so I can introduce them to [H]im.
With the Mongolian experience behind him now, Randy looks ahead to life and his music stateside. He's still got a house down by the ocean and most of his hair and he still does love to rock 'n' roll, but you might be surprised to find out the new twist he's putting into his stage show. "I've been growing up over the years, but the fact is I still want to retain a child-like sense, and I want to share that in concert. I didn't really sit back and plan it consciously, but what I've found is that I can continue to challenge adults, but at the same time I can make an inpact with a kid. I mean even kids as young as five. They've memorized lyrics and they're jumping up and down...so I can see that lately I've really been able to do something that relates to the whole family." Family concerts? Wait a minute! Isn't this the same Randy who epitomized the rebel generation as one of those "Jesus People Hippies?" "Now you gotta understand. I think as a Christian, that 'rebelling' is something you hold onto your whole life, becauase that's something we're called to do--rebel against the darkness around us. So, I haven't lost my teeth or anything...I've just learned to brush them better. (long pause) I have no idea what that means."
Life in the nineties might be confusing, fast-paced and laced with just a little too much reality to handle, but somehow, Randy has managed to bring the spontaneity, vulnerability and wonder of childhood smack dab into the dawn of his (dare we say) middle age. Not a bad balancing act. Which goes to show, you can take Peter Pan out of Never-Never Land, but you'll never get Never-Never Land out of his heart. Steven Spielberg's latest flick showed us what growing up could do to a person, but with a few reminders from a guy like Randy (and maybe just a sprinkling of fairy dust), some of us might also get to discover that little boy or girl living inside.