At first it almost seems too crazy to believe. An American, on his way out the door for a month’s vacation, hands over his house keys to a Filipino he’s never even met. A worship pastor who’s never written a song suddenly gets inspired, and writes 100 songs in less than a year – eight of which have been recorded, published, and distributed worldwide in a matter of months. »
“The only way I can explain it, I could really feel the Lord was working in me,” says Randy Banas, an Owensboro worship leader who can now add songwriter and composer to his list of accomplishments. Before coming to the States, Randy was a successful businessman in the Philippines, where he volunteered as the worship leader at his home church in Cagayan de Oro City. Randy developed a love for music when his uncle gave him his first guitar at 11 years old. Later, he worked as a disc jockey at a local radio station and had a career in marketing and public relations.
Fast forward several years, and Randy’s sister, who had relocated to Owensboro, invited him to visit her in Kentucky. “I had been to many places and other states, but I immediately felt connected to Owensboro,” he remembers.
During his three-month visit with his sister, Randy joined her for worship services at Church For All. When pastor Garswa Matally found out Randy was a worship leader back home, he offered Randy an internship. After returning home, Randy says he felt the Lord calling him back to Owensboro, and Church For All offered him a position as worship leader in February of 2018. All he needed was a place to stay.
That’s where Aubrey Nehring comes into this amazing story. Nehring is retired, attends River City Church, and says he’s just looking for ways to be used by the Lord. “We have a mutual friend who worships at Church For All, and she explained that the church was looking for a host home for Randy,” Aubrey recalled, laughing about their first meeting when he gave free reign of his house and the keys to his car to a total stranger for a month. “I trusted my friend. I felt in my spirit it was the right thing to do. It’s amazing how God brings people together.” The two are inseparable now, laughing and shaking their heads at the way things have transpired.
Up to that point, Banas had never written a song. But as Randy explains it, living in America with no worries freed his mind to think and be inspired. The first song, “I Will Rejoice,” was written at 9:15 in the morning, and finished the same day. “Healer of My Soul” came to him the next day. The title track was written after a Bible study. And the songs just kept coming.
Aubrey was usually the first to hear those new songs, and was impressed by each one. “When I heard ‘I Will Rejoice,’ tears came to my eyes. I knew this was an important thing, and that other people needed to hear it,” he recalled. So the next day, Aubrey called his friend, Jody Hulsey, of Double Windsor Records, who introduced them to Matt Gray of Gray Sky Music. With Aubrey’s enthusiasm, Jody’s experience in Nashville, and Matt’s technical skills, a solid team was in place to record and publish Randy’s first album, The Gospel.
The entire album, start to finish, was completed right here in Owensboro. Banas composed the lyrics and arranged the music to the songs on acoustic guitar. Matt Gray produced the songs in his studio, adding drums, piano, bass, additional guitar and backing vocals. Jody published the songs and began working on distribution through Double Windsor, making them available through iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, Google Play, and just about every other outlet.
For the record release party, Banas flew back to the Philippines, where he was able to leverage some of his old DJ connections and business acquaintances to promote the launch party. “I wanted my friends and family to see how the Lord is blessing my music ministry.”
The goal, he says, is to share the Gospel message through songs. “More than anything I want people to know that God is always in control of everything. God is alive! God is here.”
What’s next? Since he’s employed by Church for All, the church is applying for a religious visa on Randy’s behalf so he can move his wife and children to Owensboro permanently. “I really do see Owensboro as my home now. When I went to the worship leader conference in Nashville, I told them I’m from Owensboro. My past led me here, but this place has become part of my journey. And my songs were born here. This is where my ministry is now.”
Randy plans to continue writing and performing songs in any church or venue that will have him, which is where the Hong Kong connection comes in. Worship Leader Magazine recognized “Healer of My Soul” as a “Discovery Song” for a new artist, and invited Banas to perform the song at a conference in Hong Kong in 2019. “I’m blessed. Humbled. I never expected all this. I’m just letting God control it. And now I can’t wait to take a little bit of Owensboro outside the U.S.!”