Ohio Church says Abuse Allegations at Orphanage Untrue, Attack by Former Friend
I wrote a few weeks ago about several sexual abuse allegations at an orphanage founded by an American missionary. I’ve been trying to find a response to these allegations from his church, Christ Community Chapel. I did reach out to them, but they preferred not to comment to an anonymous blogger. So this post goes through what they said back in 2014 when this story was breaking.
To recap: Authorities in the Philippines shut down an orphanage on January 13, 2014, due to allegations of sexual abuse. The orphanage director, Toto Luchavez, and his son, Jake Luchavez, were arrested. Tom Randall, the orphanage funder and founder, was also arrested. The 31 wards of the orphanage were taken into child services custody and interviewed.
In the days and months following the arrest, Joe Coffey, senior pastor at Christ Community Chapel, defended Randall and the orphanage workers on his blog, on social media, and in the news.
January 2014 — Joe Coffey defends Randall, Luchavez, blames rival missionary, spiritual attack
On January 14, the day after Randall’s arrest, Joe Coffey wrote on his blog that Tom had been betrayed by a former friend, “Joe M”:
I think everyone reading this knows that a friend gone bad makes the very worst enemy. Joe M has become that for Tom. … Joe’s original charge was that a worker at the orphanage had kissed one of the girls. That ended up to be untrue.
Coffey wrote that an official investigation had cleared the orphanage staff. The girl had recanted her allegation, he said, but then Joe M had gone to the U.S. Homeland Security office and falsely accused the orphanage of sex trafficking, resulting in the raid and arrests.
“Joe M” was Joe Mauk, a missionary in the Philippines who had been friends with Randall for over thirty years. Coffey’s post initially called Mauk a “rival missionary” and “a single man with a vendetta”. The Akron Beacon Journal reported, “Coffey, who has since removed the negative descriptors of Mauk, said he has been operating on information that he received from Randall, who is a close personal friend. He said he understands that there are two sides to every story but that he trusts Randall.”
For the rest of January, Coffey’s Twitter was devoted to updates about Randall. He asked for prayer for Randall’s health and safety. Church members started a Facebook page called “Free Tom Randall”. By Saturday, January 18, it had over 15,000 “likes.”
Tom Randall’s arrest made American news. On January 17, Joe Coffey defended both Randall and Luchavez to Fox8:
To know Tom Randall, I mean, we have sent literally hundreds of our people on mission trips over there. I mean, we built that orphanage for him, we have seen him interact with the kids, we have seen Mr. Luchavez’ interact with the kids — there is no possibility that it is a sex trafficking thing, I mean, that is beyond the pale.
Coffey believed Randall and the church were experiencing a spiritual attack. On January 17, he tweeted, “We knew when CCC decides to attack sex traficking we were declaring war on the powers of darkness. We shouldn’t be surprised when evil comes.” And on January 19, Coffey reiterated the point from the pulpit. “We climbed into the ring with one of Satan’s favorite things, which is human trafficking. It should not surprise us that he has attacked. We just didn’t see this coming.”
Some question the no-abuse narrative
Not everyone at Christ Community Chapel was convinced. A cousin of Joe Mauk was a regular attender at the church and told the Akron Beacon Journal, “I just wish people wouldn’t rush to judgment, before hearing both sides. … My cousin acted in the best interest of the children, and I don’t want people to lose sight of that. We need to pray for the children and for the truth to be revealed.”
The “Free Tom Randall” Facebook page continued to grow in “likes”, but reports also say the page administrators deleted any comments that veered off topic. A user wrote on January 28:
Pardon me for noting that our prayers should be directed towards TRUTH being revealed and JUSTICE prevailing. Our prayers should be directed towards the CHILDREN who are behind the complaints, for their healing. Because no matter who did what, and when, something happened at some points in the girl’s lives for them to be in the position they are now in. Do we know that something did or did not happen at the orphanage? No. Do we know if it was b4 their time in the orphanage? No. *But clearly they are troubled* and should be held up in prayer. If they really were molested then they are troubled. If they weren’t ever molested they are still clearly troubled. The bottom line is that no-one but GOD knows the full truth and we should be praying that The Truth be revealed. And for the children caught up in this horrible mess. Too often the Christian Community rushes to invalidate the reports of sexual impropriety without even really knowing The Truth. As for me, I continue to marvel at how God uses Tom in even the most dire of situations. And for this I rejoice.
I pray for the children that have been abused and for Joe Mauk and other adults who refused to look the other way.
Scene reached out to Randall supporters on the Facebook page with the intent to get some personal anecdotes about Randall for this story. One responder, a woman named Diane Kavalchek, who attends Christ Community Chapel, said that many Facebook comments had been removed, including a link she posted to a recent Akron Beacon-Journal piece which featured extensive quotes from Joe Mauk.
February 2014 — Randall released, Luchavezes charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse
On February 3, 2014, the charges against Randall were dropped and he was released. Coffey tweeted, “Aftr 22 days tom Randall is free.all charges dropped! Praise God! Still prying for all truth to come out and 4 welfare of the children.”
Randall returned to the States. That Sunday, February 9, Joe Coffey and Tom Randall spoke to the church. Coffey said there was a lot of “misinformation” in the news and on Facebook and told congregants, “Time and truth go hand in hand.” He said, “And the first part of time and truth going hand in hand is after twenty two days, all the charges were dropped against Tom and he was set free. The second part of the truth that’s coming out is that the charges against Jake and Toto have been downgraded and they’re out on bail now.” The congregation applauded.
Coffey and Randall defended the orphanage, saying it was a “family” and “one of the finest orphanages in the world”. Randall said the children who had been removed from the orphanage wanted to come home.
Notably absent from Coffey and Randall’s presentation was any mention of abuse allegations from some of the orphans. Coffey didn’t say what the charges against the Luchavez men had been downgraded to.
June 2014 — Church refuses offer to meet with Mauk
In June 2014, Joe Mauk was planning to be in the Hudson area. He offered to meet with Joe Coffey to discuss the situation.
Coffey refused. “I forwarded your email to some of our Elders and frankly we don’t understand the purpose of the meeting. It doesn’t seem like your desire is to reconcile with a Christian brother. Instead it sounds like you want to go over exactly what you told the press here in Ohio. To rehash old ground doesn’t seem to serve any God-honoring purpose.”
Coffey made it clear he was aware of the charges against the Luchavezes. “Please don’t assume we are relying on presuppositions. We have followed the investigation and the charges very closely. We trust that the authorities are doing a thorough investigation into the situation and our prayer is that the truth is revealed. If you have something to add to what you previously stated please let us know. Otherwise we prefer to decline your invitation.”
August 2014 — Coffey and Randall announce all charges dropped, ignore corrections
On August 29, 2014, Joe Coffey tweeted, “News frm filipines.all charges dropped against toto and jake.raid deemed completely unjustified by judge #timeandtruth.”
Two people replied immediately. Both said they knew people in the courtroom who said nothing of the sort had happened — the hearing had ended with a continuation. The court transcript is now public, so it’s easy to verify they were correct.
Joe Coffey did not reply to them publicly. A reporter asked for Coffey’s source. Coffey responded, “@SceneSallard Tom heard from his attorneys today regarding the hearing last night.my guess is news won’t cover.”
Coffey never retracted his tweet or posted an explanation for the error. Two days later, Tom Randall announced a softer version from the Christ Community Chapel pulpit:
Speaking of good news, I have good news. Everybody likes to hear good news, don’t they? And my good news is — at least, for Karen and I, big news is — in the Philippines, we got a call just the other night, late in the morning, about 2:30 in the morning — that the hearing is finished, and the lawyers say they’re going to drop the charges on Toto and my godson. So that’s good news, isn’t it?
Rest of 2014 — Back to normal…?
For the rest of 2014, little was said from the pulpit about the ongoing criminal case against Toto and Jake Luchavez. Tom Randall continued to preach at Christ Community Chapel and other churches. His sermons now included stories of his time unjustly imprisoned. He still spoke fondly of his kids in the Philippines.
One of the big accomplishments for this year has been to have World Harvest Ministries come under the umbrella of Christ Community Chapel. … The church’s ability to handle receipting, mailings, audits, taxes, and legal things at no extra cost to World Harvest is a tremendous blessing! … This opportunity allows us to continue being good stewards of the generous support you have invested and trusted us with. We will continue to reach the Philippines for Christ with this increased and improved system of support.
What on earth is going on?
I have so many questions about the 2014 response from Christ Community Chapel. Some of them:
- How could Joe Coffey have been so sure the allegations were all false, within a day of the arrest? Coffey says he was operating on information received from Randall, but how could Randall have known?
- In February 2014, when the Luchavezes were charged with sexual abuse, why did Coffey omit that information and instead say that their charges had been “downgraded” — to applause?
- Why did Coffey and Randall announce in August 2014 that the charges against Toto and Jake Luchavez had been dropped? If they had been misinformed by their lawyers, they were corrected.
Perhaps the bigger questions are around what the church hasn’t said. Why didn’t any of the church’s statements mention the young people who gave sworn statements about being abused?
I haven’t found any public comments about this from Joe Coffey since the August 2014 tweets. I hope Christ Community Chapel releases a statement soon.
I try hard to check facts and link to sources in my posts. If you find an error, please let me know so I can make a correction. You can reach me at at firstname.lastname@example.org.