By Colette M. Jenkins
Beacon Journal religion writer
A decision on whether a Hudson pastor will be prosecuted in the Philippines on charges related to human trafficking allegations could come as early as today.
“Tom’s hearing is is [sic] supposed to be [Wednesday] where the government must decide to drop charges or to pursue the case,” the Rev. Joe Coffey wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday afternoon.
In the post, Coffey, lead pastor at Christ Community Chapel, asked “people to pray all over the world” for 10 to 20 minutes Tuesday night between 9 p.m. and midnight in anticipation of the hearing.
“If people do that all over the world, we will have the whole day of Wednesday covered in the Philippines,” Coffey wrote in the post on the “Free Tom Randall” Facebook page.
Christ Community Chapel, where Randall is on the pastoral staff, attracts more than 4,500 worshippers on weekends at campuses in Hudson, Aurora, Stow and Akron.
Randall was arrested Jan. 12, along with two workers, at the Sankey Samaritan Orphanage in Lucena City. His initial hearing to determine if charges against him would be dropped was scheduled five days after his arrest but was postponed.
According to Filipino media reports, Randall is accused of being negligent in handling allegations of abuse and sex trafficking at the orphanage, which he and his wife, Karen, founded in 1998 through their nonprofit mission, World Harvest Ministries.
Randall reportedly was charged with obstruction of justice.
Orphanage manager Perfecto “Toto” Luchavez and his son, Mark “Jake” Luchavez, are charged with violating Filipino anti-human trafficking laws. A former dorm parent and suspected sex abuser, Melvin Garcia, was being sought on charges of rape. The younger Luchavez also is charged with rape.
Media outlets in the Philippines reported that 31 orphans, including eight minors, were rescued from the orphanage and released to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
In the wake of Randall’s arrest, members of Christ Community Chapel created the Facebook page to encourage prayer and support for Randall’s release. The page has more than 23,000 “likes” and includes comments and posts from a variety of supporters, including Randall’s wife.
On Monday, Karen Randall posted a message, after a six-hour visit with her husband at the detention center. His arrest came during a two-month mission trip the couple made in December.
In her post, Karen Randall described the conditions at the facility and said she and her husband, who moved last summer to Stow from Oklahoma, spent time discussing how their mission work at the orphanage could lead to charges of human trafficking, levied by people they know in the Philippines.
“Tom and I have talked more than once trying to answer questions we have about what went so wrong in these relationships,” she wrote. “But it is too painful. Here we are sitting on a plastic bench in an open visiting area with constant noise, people milling around, several small dogs and cats looking for food, guards signing you in and out and searching the food you are carrying in, smells from cooking stoves or small garbage fires, and constant cigarette smoke.
“It is so real, but so not real.”
Karen Randall said her husband, who joined the pastoral staff part time at Christ Community Chapel in September, is “holding his own in a very tough situation,” where poor air quality is affecting his respiratory problems. Her specific prayer requests include that the case against her husband be dismissed, that he and the two workers remain safe and that God’s justice prevails.
The Facebook page also includes updates from Coffey, who receives intermittent texts from Randall, when he has access to his cellphone. He also encourages people to send a “Free Tom Randall” message to the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy.
Coffey said he has spoken to several U.S. government officials and diplomats to petition for Randall’s transfer from jail to a hospital and for his release. He said that Randall’s health has worsened since being jailed, noting that his condition has included pneumonia, a urinary tract infection and dehydration.
Representatives from U.S. Sen. Rob Portman’s and U.S. Rep. David Joyce’s offices said they are looking into Randall’s situation.
“Our office has been in communication with the Embassy and the State Department in an attempt to help Mr. Randall,” said Christyn Keyes, a spokeswoman for Joyce, R-Russell Township. “We’ll continue to work all channels and pursue a quick resolution.”