What happened at Sankey?
If you are a Christian and Tom Randall has spoken at your church, this post is for you.
Tom Randall is a former Christian missionary who now is a pastor at Christ Community Chapel in Ohio. In January of 2014, the orphanage Tom founded in the Philippines (Sankey) was raided. Tom and two of the orphanage workers were arrested. There was a rash of inaccurate reporting claiming that Tom Randall had been accused of molesting over 30 children. In actuality, he was accused of obstruction of justice and sex trafficking. Both charges against Tom were dropped and he was released after three weeks. Here’s how Tom described it in his August 2014 newsletter:
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. We cannot imagine what you thought when I was arrested and portrayed as one who would traffic children. But thank you for praying for my release and safety. Thank you for your generous financial support that has produced fruitful ministry since that painful and dangerous incident. We believe God is using my time in jail to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we will continue to take His Word and trust it will always fulfill His purpose!”
It’s an inspiring story. Tom speaks at churches around America about his prison experience, and most seem to take it as a given that the driving cause was slander.
Dig a little deeper, though, and things get interesting.
What does Tom say happened?
Tom Randall and his pastor, Joe Coffey, have written and spoken about what prompted the raid a few times. Joe Coffey, the lead pastor at Tom’s Ohio church, wrote in his blog on January 14, 2014:
Before Tom left he started to receive calls from the Philippines from a missionary he has known for 30 years. It started small and began to morph into something unrecognizable. … 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. By the time the accusation was presented to the U.S.Embassy the charge was that the World Harvest orphanage was actually a front for sex trafficking.
He spoke similarly in a sermon on January 19, 2014 with slightly more detail:
Before he [Tom] went, he got a communication from somebody in the Philippines who was very concerned about some rumors that were coming out of the orphanage. And they were rumors about misconduct. And the rumor that got to Tom (because he and I sat down and talked about it) was that the worker in charge of the orphanage, a man named Toto Luchavez, had kissed one of the 15 year old girls.
Interestingly, this version of events mentions two girls:
And then he finally called me and said they have completed their investigation and we’ve been cleared of any kind of misconduct. The two girls who made that accusation have recanted and said they made it up because they were mad at being disciplined for a privilege being removed.
Looking back on the whole thing in his October 2017 newsletter, Tom wrote:
Even the girl who accused our staff member of a kiss has asked forgiveness from him and Karen and me. 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.
The essential points:
- There were only one or possibly two girls accusing one orphanage worker of an unwanted kiss.
- The girl(s) made up the allegations because they were angry about being disciplined. They recanted by January 14, 2014.
- There was never actually any abuse at Sankey.
- Somebody — a missionary — escalated gossip and slander resulting in the unjust arrests.
Does Tom’s story match the evidence?
Let’s start with the most egregious. At least one girl who Tom claims recanted did not. She stands by her story today. You can hear her testimony starting at 15:30 in this interview.
And more than one orphanage worker was accused of sexual misconduct, and some of it was much more serious than a kiss. In the August 29, 2014 hearing transcript, you can see the charges against two orphanage workers. Against Mark Jayrold A. Luchavez, alias “Jake” (Tom’s godson):
- Violation of Article III, Section 5(b) of Republic Act 7610
- Violation of Article 266-A par. 2 in relation to Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code as amended by Republic Act 8353
That’s lascivious acts against a minor and rape. And against Perfecto Luchavez, Jr, alias “Toto” (Tom’s good friend and administrator of the orphanage):
- Violation of Article III, Sec. 5(b) of Republic Act 7610 (lascivious acts against a minor)
At the end of the transcript, you can see the names of four Sankey children present as witnesses: two boys and two girls.
Something is fishy
False allegations of sexual abuse from children are rare. Are we really supposed to believe nothing happened and all those kids were lying? And even if we were to believe the allegations were false, why do Tom Randall and Joe Coffey pretend most of them don’t even exist?
Perhaps it’s time to consider the other side of the story — the one told by the missionaries Tom Randall calls slanderers and gossips. In their story, they heard the first disclosures of abuse, believed the children, and made sure their complaints got to the authorities even when Tom Randall tried to ignore them. If that version of events is true, there must be evidence to show for it.
Let’s start asking questions
Reach out and insist your pastor consider the possibility that Tom’s narrative is just plain wrong. Ask questions. Get some facts for yourself.
- Listen to this May 2014 interview with Miriam Bongolan, the missionary who helped get the first two girls’ letters out.
- Reach out directly — she’s available on Facebook, and so is her dad, Joe Mauk.
- Ask for evidence. Where are the letters alleging sexual harassment and the emails sending them to Tom? Are there recordings of any of the conversations? Is there documentation of the Sankey children making sworn statements about their abuse before a judge?
You won’t know unless you ask.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.