Tom Randall’s comments about former Sankey kids omit ongoing criminal case
On Tuesday, March 12, Joe Coffey, senior pastor of Christ Community Chapel, sent an internal letter to members. Coffey walked back his earlier claims that the church had engaged an “independent investigation” into the sexual abuse allegations at Sankey Samaritan children’s home — instead, he said they were having a church member, Suzanne Lewis-Johnson, do a “review”.
Coffey said the church did not plan to make any public statements until Lewis-Johnson finished her review, but they did release a statement from Lewis-Johnson on their website. Lewis-Johnson clarified that she was doing the review on a volunteer basis. She defended her objectivity and stated her intention to “stay the course” and finish the review.
There’s a nearly five year gap between when Joe Coffey and Tom Randall claimed the charges were dropped in August 2014 and the statements released on Tuesday. What was happening in that time? Tom Randall continued to preach at Christ Community Chapel and he was a frequent guest speaker at other churches. Most of his stories were about his time in the NBI detention center, but he also spoke about the former Sankey kids. Meanwhile, the criminal case against Toto and Jake Luchavez continued in the Philippines.
During the criminal case, Randall’s statements about “his kids” present a rosy picture that omits the ongoing criminal case
Consider Randall’s statements about “his kids” made between 2014 and 2016, while a criminal case was open in the Philippines. The NBI had interviewed the Sankey young people and several gave sworn statements of abuse. Those statements were the basis of criminal charges filed against Toto and Jake Luchavez in January 2014. For two and a half years, the defense for the Luchavezes, funded by Tom Randall’s ministry, filed various motions and appeals to prevent the trial.
In all the speeches I reviewed, Randall never mentioned the ongoing criminal case or the young people who were complainants in it. (Please reach out to me if you find such a reference so I can update this post.) Here’s a selection of the things he said instead (emphasis mine):
- “We were family. We’ve been a family for thirteen years. We know everybody really well, brothers and sisters. They call us mom and dad. They were broken up because of it. They had to go down to the detention center and it was difficult. And then the kids got spread out around the country, and they put them in different homes in different places and different orphanages. You gotta understand, we have one of the finest orphanages in the world. We’ve been provided with computers, phones, food, clothing, private school for the kids. They loved their situation. They wanted to come home.” (February 9, 2014 at Christ Community Chapel, Hudson, OH)
- “They were sent all over the country in different institutions, two or three at a time. Do you know in that two month period when they were in those places? They won thirty-nine teenagers to Christ. It soon grew to forty-two. They were counting on God as well! (applause) Thank you. That’s the kind of kids I want to have. That’s why I’m still trying to get them. Yesterday, I got a phone call before I spoke here. One more came home, found his way home. They spread them out all over, but they’re coming home. We got twenty-four of them now. They’re back in school. They’re doing well. And you know what? They have this incredible growth in their spirit and their faith in Christ.” (June 29, 2014 at Venture Christian Church, Los Gatos, CA)
- “They took my kids and spread them out all over the country. Couldn’t get what they wanted out of interrogating them. So they put them in rape institutions or juvenile homes or other places, all around the country, two or three at a time. Thirty one, spread them out, so we couldn’t find them. But they came home. It took them two months to get out, some of them.” (March 22, 2015 at Blossom Valley Bible Church, San Jose, CA)
- “And, you know, our kids love it. And I just got Father’s Day cards, and everything from my kids, oh gosh, makes me feel great! Close to being a real Dad, you know? And Karen got all the Mother’s Day cards. And then Ate Joyce — a missionary who’s taking care of my kids and watching over them, because we can’t go to see them right now, because of what happened. Well, she sent me this, this experiment they did, exercise they did. They have Bible study once a week, all together, the whole family. And she said they were asking them questions. And one of the questions was, ‘If you were going to marry somebody, what would you want the person to be like? If you’re a girl. And if you’re a guy, what would the girl be like — the lady?’ And they sent the results, and I’m looking at the questions and hear this one, and I just started crying, too, when I saw it. It said, ‘If I’m a man and I want to marry a woman, I want that woman to be like Mom Karen. And if I’m a girl, the girls, I want to marry someone who’s like Dad Tom.” (July 7, 2015 at Christ Community Chapel, Hudson, OH)
- “We had trouble in the Philippines two years back, where I spent about twenty-two days in a prison cell, and Karen was there helping me the whole time. And since we got back to the States, I haven’t been able to go back because of, uh, who wants to go to jail again? You know, that type of thing. But Karen went back and she just got back from the Philippines. She was there for two weeks, and saw all of our kids, our staff, all the different people that we need to keep in contact with for our ministry, and had a wonderful time.” (Mar 6, 2016 at Blossom Valley Bible Church, San Jose, CA)
- “And now the kids. Two years later, they’re graduating from college, they’re getting jobs. Some of them are doing ministry. All the time, the kids as a family get together and are doing well. And now they tell the story of what God did through a difficult time, but how he’s using it for them to grow in their faith in him, two years later.” (May 2, 2016 at Christ Community Chapel, Hudson, OH)
Could you guess that some of Tom Randall’s kids were at this time bringing a criminal case against his ministry director and godson? No doubt Randall’s stories were true of many of the Sankey young adults — but not all.
The closest thing I can find to an acknowledgement of the criminal case is a line in the Randalls’ Christmas 2015 newsletter. Even that doesn’t acknowledge the young people who were fighting in court — it only mentions the alleged perpetrators, who apparently were still working for the Randalls (emphasis mine):
Tom has really wanted to return for a visit to the Philippines but we just haven’t felt it was the best timing. There is still an open case against our director and his son. Tom returning could stir up things and become a problem possibly so for now we must be patient.
Randall claims to have spent two “sweet” weeks with all thirty-one kids in April 2014
In November 2016, after the criminal case was dismissed, Tom Randall revealed to Westgate Church an episode from soon after his arrest, back in 2014. After being released from detainment, Randall says, he returned to the States and spent some time recovering his health. Then:
And then Karen and I bought tickets. And we didn’t tell anybody except a few people. I think Steve [Clifford, pastor at Westgate] might have known, Coach Helm, a couple of people that we know dearly. Because we knew everybody was not going to approve of us going back to the Philippines after what we just went through. The problem is, God was leading us back to the Philippines.
Randall says he was stopped at immigration because he was on the blacklist with Interpol. He was held for two days and then released. Then he met up with Karen and the kids (emphasis mine):
And you know what? We got to be with our kids for two weeks. Two of the sweetest weeks you can ever imagine. All thirty-one of our kids. We went to a resort. All we did was, big old swimming pool. We’d have meals, and then we’d have Bible studies. Then we’d talk about their school. What’s going on? Everybody together. Two weeks of it. I’ll never forget how rich it was.
It’s interesting that Randall emphasizes twice that he was with all thirty-one of his kids. This isn’t possible, of course, since one child wasn’t released from DSWD custody until late 2016. I’ve also spoken to some of the former Sankey young people, and not all of them went to this resort, at least partly because of the ongoing criminal case. Why is Randall flat-out lying here?
Randall’s description of the time as “sweet” takes on a different edge when you consider a third party’s perspective on this swimming pool vacation. A commenter identified as “Pete” wrote in May 2014, well before Randall had begun sharing this story as a sermon illustration (emphasis mine):
I am an American living in Lucena City. I met Tom Randall recently at a hotel / resort outside of Lucena at the foot of Mt. Banahaw. He had kids from the orphanage with him and they all seemed to be between 16 and 18 yrs old. His behavior with the girls was inappropriate.
… He was in the swimming pool with 16 to 18 year girls and had his hands all over these girls. In this culture that behavior is forbidden or “bawal”. Tom Randall has lived here long enough to know that you don’t put your arms around or your hands on young girls or boys period. I felt something was really not right and my gut feeling is usually correct. The authorities should watch this guy.
… I’ve been coming to the Philippines since 1975 and have lived here for at least 14 years. I only met him that day and put two and two together when I remembered the story about the abuse that I had heard from an American friend here a few weeks before. I’m not saying that what I saw would constitute abuse, molestation or trauma, but I do know this culture and a young girl or “Dalaga” does not sit on the lap of a foreigner, in a bathing suit, in a pool, it’s culturally and morally incorrect and he should know this.
Is Tom Randall being honest?
Except for the fibbing about the number of young people at the resort in April 2014, I haven’t found an outright lie in Tom Randall’s public statements. But he never once mentions:
- Two girls sent him letters detailing abuse in November 2013.
- These two girls and others swore statements to the NBI in January 2014, which were the basis of the charges.
- One of those girls gave an interview in May 2014 and stands by her statements today.
- Another victim has also released a public statement and stands by his allegations today.
Instead, the closest Randall gets to acknowledging the young people who disclosed abuse is a line in his October 2017 newsletter, which only mentions one girl: “Even the girl who accused our staff member of a kiss has asked forgiveness from him and Karen and me.”
Let’s hope Suzanne Lewis-Johnson is reviewing Tom Randall’s sermons, blog posts, and other correspondence. I see a pattern of lies of omission.
Note: Some of the primary sources for this article have been taken down, so I’ve linked to a copy/archive where necessary.
This post is part of a series:
Overview · Criminal case timeline · List of abuse allegations · Church Response (2014) · Church internal statement (2019) · Randall re: former Sankey kids · Randall re: NBI custody · Randall re: Luchavez, Mauk · What did Joe Coffey know & when? · Randall ghostwriting own support · Churches that protected Randall
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