The Tom Randall Orphanage Case: What were the abuse allegations?
In January of 2014, Philippine authorities shut down an orphanage founded by American missionary Tom Randall amid sexual abuse allegations. Tom Randall says there was no abuse at the orphanage — that the raid and what followed was due to gossip and slander. The orphanage director, Toto Luchavez, and his son, Jake Luchavez, were both charged with sexual abuse. The criminal case against them went on for nearly three years without reaching a verdict, but it is no longer active. Tom and his supporters celebrated the case’s dismissal, but others say the victims chose not to continue after years of delays and pressure not to testify.
At this point, we are left with two very different narratives:
- Tom Randall, his pastor Joe Coffey, and others affiliated with them say the orphanage workers are innocent: no abuse happened, but another Christian missionary spread slander and lies that it did.
- This other missionary, Joe Mauk, and his daughter Miriam, and others affiliated with them say multiple children disclosed to them credible allegations of abuse, which were never properly investigated.
This matters urgently to everyone who wants to be the hands and feet of Jesus. If children were abused, they need support and therapy now. Their abusers need to be caught and prevented from hurting other kids.
There are many other claims and counter-claims flying around, and I’ll address them in a future story. This story collects the documented abuse allegations so far with any rebuttals I’ve been able to find.
Victims 1 & 2: Letters alleging sexual harassment
Joe Mauk says that in November 2013, he reached out to Tom Randall with letters from two girls at Sankey. Both girls wrote that the orphanage director, Toto Luchavez, had sexually harassed them. One of these girls told her full story in an interview (starts at 15:30). She also gave a statement in 2018:
Hi, I am (name redacted), and I am one of the girls in Sankey Samaritan Mission. I was in Sankey from 2000 to 2013 and I am one of those girls who had an abuse of sexual harrassment. And I am the first one who wrote the letter of what happened to me because I realize that I am not the only one who is going through that. And with that, after the letter, everything just came out. I didn’t know that there was so much more. There was no proper investigation done, so if someone tells you that there is, there never has been, never. And I want to thank you for those who are helping us to make the truth known. It’s a real big help and I pray that God will bless you all the way. I’m praying for you all too. Thank you.
In her 2014 interview, this first victim talks about how she found out about the second:
Then one time, I had a talk with the other girl, and then I started to tell her also about it. Then later on, after telling it to her, she started to open up that, hey, I also experienced that three times in there — in his house. While mine happened office, hers happened in the house. And that made me think that no, I cannot just shut up, not speak it to the others, because I realize, well, I wasn’t the only one. There was the only one, and she was younger than me, so if I didn’t open up, then she wouldn’t.
Tom Randall and affiliates have said clearly that at least one girl’s allegation was recanted. At times, they have also said that two allegations were recanted:
- Joe Coffey’s January 14, 2014 blog post says, “The original charge was that a worker at the orphanage had kissed one of the girls. That ended up to be untrue. The girl recanted the story and said she made it up because she was angry that privileges had been taken away as discipline.”
- Joe Coffey’s January 19, 2014 sermon first mentions one girl: “And the rumor itself that got to Tom, because he and I sat and talked about it, was that the worker who is in charge of the orphanage, a man named Toto Luchavez, had kissed one of the fifteen year old girls.” Later in the sermon, though, he says, “The two girls who made that accusation have recanted and said they made it up because they’re mad at being disciplined for a privilege being removed.”
- Tom Randall’s October 2017 blog post is back to one girl: “Even the girl who accused our staff member of a kiss has asked forgiveness from him and Karen and me.”
But one of these girls stands by her claims today. I have not found a response to this.
Regarding the letters themselves, I can’t find anything where Tom Randall confirms he received letters with allegations from the girls.
- Joe Coffey’s January 14th blog post says Tom received “calls” with “accusations”. The “accuser” referenced is Joe Mauk.
- Joe Coffey’s January 19th sermon says Tom received “rumors of misconduct”.
- Tom Randall’s February 25th post on FreeTomRandall says he was “warned … that there were existing allegation of abuse at our children’s home”.
Victim 3: Allegation that prompted emergency raid
Around the time Tom Randall and local authorities were investigating the first two allegations, or soon after, the national NBI also began to investigate the case. In their investigation, at least one other victim came forward. From Joe Mauk, “The NBI found a former Sankey boy who gave first person testimony of being raped by the administrator’s son [Jake Luchavez] and two other staff members. This young man testified anonymously at first since his sister was still at Sankey and he feared for her safety. The NBI assured him that they would keep his sister safe after conducting a raid to stop the abuse.”
Hi. My name is (redacted). I came at Sankey when I was 8 years old and lived there for almost 9 years. I was abused and molested while staying at the place for several times. There was no proper investigation done by Tom, and he wouldn’t listen to anyone except for his director, Toto. I want to tell about it, but in my mind no one would listen anyways, so I just kept it for a couple of years until I got the courage to speak it out. I pray that justice would be done to those who done it to me.
Tom’s February 25, 2014 post probably refers to this allegation (emphasis mine):
Unfortunately, the national DSWD and the NBI Headquarters in Manila were not communicating and unaware of the ongoing investigation by their local counterparts in Lucena where we are located. This lack of communication and confusion between agencies and the very serious but completely untrue allegations urging an emergency raid culminated in my illegal arrest and the kids being detained.
Tom’s post did not say how he knew this allegation was “completely untrue”.
Victim 4: Witnessed during the raid
Convinced they needed to execute an emergency rescue, the NBI came to Sankey, took the wards into custody, and arrested Tom, Toto, and Jake. An NBI agent testified under oath that they discovered something suspicious during the raid: a houseparent inside a room with an orphan. This orphan and houseparent were never identified. From the August 29, 2014 hearing transcript:
Q: Aside from what you have mentioned, are there any other basis for such apprehension?
A: Yes, I recall saying that when we conducted the raid, we chanced upon houseparent inside the room with orphan, sir.
Q: What did you see or what happened next when you saw a houseparent and an orphan?
A: We started investigating, we started questioning them and the managers, owners and operators of the facility prevented us from conducting further actions with regards to the …
Response: I have not found any response to this allegation.
Victims 5, 6, and 7: Additional allegations made by children after the rescue
After being removed from Sankey, the children were taken into DSWD (child welfare services) custody. They were interviewed and nine children gave sworn statements.
It hasn’t been published how many of these statements actually testified to abuse. Let’s be safe and suppose that two of these statements were from the first two girls who made claims against Toto Luchavez, and a third was from the young man who testified before the raid.
We can make a few deductions about the remaining statements, given the following:
- Toto Luchavez was charged with three counts of lascivious acts against three separate female minors.
- Jake Luchavez was charged with one count of rape and another of committing a lascivious act against a minor, both against boys.
- A third orphanage worker, who was never found, was charged with rape.
So we are looking at one more girl’s allegation against Toto, one more boy’s allegation against Jake, and one against a third orphanage worker.
Response: Again, I can’t find any public response.
Victim statements? What victim statements?
I can’t find any public acknowledgement from Tom Randall or his affiliates about these later allegations. Tom Randall keeps calling the whole thing “gossip” and “slander” by Joe Mauk. Some quotes (emphasis mine):
- On February 25, 2014, “The unnecessary “raid and rescue” (read arrest) of all of us resulted in their being split up, scared to death, and spread around the country with their school achievements for the year ruined. … And we believe that in time the trumped up charges against Toto and Jake will also be dropped.”
- On August 27, 2014, “My recent experience in jail has taught me not to rely on the word of men but on the promises of God! We experienced the painful consequences of people’s slander and saw our kids’ lives blown up.”
- On November 5, 2015, “She [his wife, Karen] interviewed teachers, classmates, staff, and missionary interns to aid the lawyers and expose the gossip, slander, and false accusations which caused the illegal arrests we experienced.”
- On November 26, 2016, “Our staff, the kids, our lawyers, our church family and friends have grown in faith despite the false accusations, arrests, social media gossip and slander directed at us and at them.”
- On October 4, 2017, “The missionary who inserted himself into our business and escalated the gossip and slander which resulted in our arrest and the detention of our kids is no longer credible or relevant and poses no threat.”
Call to action
In sum, at least seven separate allegations of abuse could be confirmed via a paper trail. One of those was recanted. Two young people stand by their allegations today. The remaining four haven’t been refuted publicly. Some of these allegations could be unsubstantiated — but all of them?
I find it hard to believe anybody would discount so many allegations out of hand, so Tom’s church must have private information they haven’t published. I’m sure Christ Community Chapel believes they have done their due diligence and there’s nothing to see here, but unfortunately, they have a clear conflict of interest. To truly resolve the situation, an unbiased investigation by an outside group that specializes in handling abuse is needed. This is what Joe Mauk and others are calling for.
- If you go to Christ Community Chapel in Ohio, where Tom Randall is on staff, tell your church leaders you want this investigated by an unbiased third-party with experience in anti-abuse efforts, like GRACE.
- If you go to a church that Tom Randall visits, your leadership may not be aware of the facts of this case. They have been hard to find, and Tom Randall has not been volunteering them. I encourage you to reach out and make sure your leaders know: At least seven young people from Sankey are documented as possibly being abused. Two of them still allege abuse today. These allegations were not tried in court and the alleged abusers were not declared innocent. Ask your leadership to encourage Tom and his church to have an outside investigation done.
- If you aren’t connected to this case through your own church, please don’t harass another church’s staff. But if you have friends who are connected, you can pass the information along. Joe Mauk posted a written account of the abuse claims he received on Facebook. His daughter, Miriam Bongolan, gave an interview with her account. The interview includes testimony from the first girl to disclose abuse.
It’s important for all of us to hold the church as a whole accountable in handling abuse cases properly. And we can all take the time to be educated on what we can do to help. GRACE has an excellent introduction to the topic, including important things churches can do to prevent and uncover abuse.
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.