HANNIBAL — Vivacious, personable, gifted describe Lynda Randle as she testified and performed at Hannibal LaGrange University Nov. 22. Though on a raised stage, she drew the audience to her, often calling by name people she had met throughout the day.
The headliner for the school’s annual Booster Banquet, its primary fundraiser for the year, opened by reading a children’s book she has just written, Cab Driver’s Daughter, that shares a little about her childhood.
The gospel singer explained that her parents, Nate and Maxine Tait, were not Christians when they married. They separated when their firstborn was a small child. Maxine and the boy moved to North Carolina, while Tait remained in Washington, D.C., where the family had been living.
A D.C. cabdriver, Tait accidentally switched the car radio to a Christian station as he was driving around the city just to think. He heard the gospel, and then stopped to pray and ask for forgiveness. He went home and called his wife, sharing Jesus’ story with her. The pair was reconciled, and Tait became a bivocational pastor.
The middle of seven children, Randle described how she sometimes rode with her father as he worked. But she “got off track,” she said, and began to rebel. Though she wasn’t explicit in her public testimony, in an earlier press conference she noted that she had gotten into behavior that she shouldn’t have, that she had made “wrong choices.”
A brother and a sister also had chosen the wrong path through life and had paid the consequences, she told the media.
Randle credits her parents’ decision to send her to a Christian school for her turnaround. She didn’t want to go and admitted she went “kicking” against it. But she had made 37 F’s and had gotten into trouble as a 9th-grader and barely made it through 10th grade in public school. Her parents believed the private Christian environment would make a difference.
Primarily white children attended. “I had only seen white folk on television mostly,” Randle laughed. She had developed her opinion about whites from the media — that they were “rich and smart.”
Her parents sacrificed to provide a private education. “They didn’t have the money really to send their kids to a Christian school,” she said. “I’m frightened to think about what might have happened” if she had not been enrolled, she added.
The late Jerry Falwell arranged scholarships for her and brother Michael Tait, a founder of the Christian pop group D.C. Talk and now lead singer for the Newsboys, to attend Liberty University.
“Don’t take lightly how important it is to spend time with your kids, your grandkids with the Word,” she emphasized. The sacrifices parents make, and the work they and Christian educators do “is not in vain.”
Randle scattered songs throughout her testimony, pausing to perform those that have been especially meaningful.
Her mother had passed away 70 days earlier, Randle said. Her parents had “planted positive words” into her life, and she encouraged listeners to do the same in the lives of their children and grandchildren. She sang “God is There,” a song she had written and one that has helped her get through difficult times.
Though she had planned to go into fashion design (she had been sewing since she was 12 years old) and cosmetology, the Lord had other plans, she said. God opened her musical talent to share the gospel.
“It’s [salvation’s story] not old to me…. I’ve been to lots of places in the world…. I’ve seen people hungry for the gospel…, but people in the U.S. are full…content,” she said.
Randle shared an experience in Kansas City in which a couple invited her to live with them. “Invest in people’s lives…even if you don’t see the results here,” she said.
She also performed “God on the Mountain,” one of her most requested songs. The piece saw her through two years of grief in which she lost a sister, a brother, her father and two uncles.
Randle said she wants to impact lives, not just on stage, but everywhere. She challenged listeners that their legacies would be to make a difference in the lives of others.
The Dove Award winner was part of the Gaither Homecoming series for 14 years. She is married to Michael Randle, lead pastor of Mosaic Bible Fellowship, a new church plant in Kansas City, near the 18th and Vine Jazz District. They have two daughters, Patience and Joy.