HUDSON: While a Hudson pastor remained in custody in the Philippines, parishioners prayed for him during Sunday services and showed their support on a Facebook page urging his release.
The Rev. Tom Randall, who works part time with Christ Community Chapel of Hudson, was still in a detention center Sunday, a week after he was taken into custody amid apparent allegations that the small orphanage he founded in the country was a front for a human trafficking operation.
Randall was on a two-month missionary trip to the Philippines when he apparently got swept up in allegations that initially involved a worker at the orphanage, said the Rev. Joe Coffey, lead pastor at the large evangelical Hudson church.
Coffey said in an interview Sunday that the “only charge I’ve heard (against Randall) is negligence ... None of the allegations against him have anything to do (directly) with sex trafficking.” The apparent negligence charge, Coffey explained, involves “whether (Randall) knew about (the trafficking), whether he took any steps.”
Coffey spoke at three services Sunday morning and a service Saturday evening about Randall, insisting on Randall’s innocence and offering prayers for him. Coffey had issued similar messages of support in media reports last week, as well as posting on his blog and a Free Tom Randall Facebook page that by Sunday evening had more than 20,400 likes.
During the third service Sunday, Coffey told worshipers that Randall was his best friend and that the Hudson church had worked with him on missionary work for years. Large screens behind Coffey said “Praying for Tom Randall” and displayed a picture of Randall.
Coffey said the church family remains concerned about Randall’s health. He noted Randall has suffered from pneumonia, a urinary tract infection and dehydration while in a cell block with 40 other men. The cell has one toilet and one water spigot.
Coffey said the hope is Randall will be transferred to a hospital today and that a hearing will be held Wednesday. “Our prayer is that truth and justice prevail,” Coffey said. “There is no indication that he has done anything wrong. We just want him released ... He was told at first that he wasn’t going to be arrested. Then he was told that he wasn’t going to be charged. Then he was told he was going to be released on Friday ... He doesn’t really know what’s going on.”
Randall, who joined the pastoral staff at the Hudson church last September, several months after moving to Stow from Oklahoma, is the founder and president of World Harvest, a nonprofit that operates the Sankey Samaritan Orphanage in Lucena City, Philippines. Randall and his wife, Karen, founded the orphanage in 1998, and now raise money for the ministry in the United States. Karen remains in the Philippines.
During the service, Coffey told worshipers that Randall has had limited use of his cellphone. In the texts and calls, Randall talked of his worries about his health, dangerous and crowded cell conditions, and continuing his missionary work.
“I prayed with some cell mates today,” Randall said in one text that Coffey read. “Hoping to start a Bible study tomorrow.”
In a phone call, Coffey said, Randall expressed concern about drug dealers bringing their turf war into the detention center.
Coffey also played a portion of a phone call, in which Randall thanked church members for their prayers.
Coffey told worshipers that Randall and Karen went to the Philippines for three reasons: to help with typhoon relief efforts, visit children at the orphanage and bring his basketball ministry to various villages. Randall organizes basketball games in the villages, “gives the Gospel; talks about Jesus at halftime” and enrolls some in the crowd in Bible study courses.
While he was in the Philippines, Randall was interviewed as part of an investigation that had cropped up involving an orphanage worker allegedly kissing a 15-year-old who lived at the facility. The worker was exonerated, Coffey said, explaining that the girl recanted her story, and apparently made it up because she was mad over being disciplined.
Randall said sometime after, accusations against the worker grew into allegations of molestation and that the orphanage was being used as “a front for sex trafficking and human trafficking.” A complaint was filed with the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines and Homeland Security, and subsequently, Philippine authorities took Randall and two male orphanage workers, a father and son, into custody.
Coffey told those at the church service that the church is “in the battle against” human trafficking, and “We applaud the Filipino government” for acting on the allegations. Authorities there tend to act swiftly, he said, “and then ask questions and figure out what’s really true later on.”
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.