Hudson -- Christ Community Chapel Pastor Tom Randall, who is known as "Uncle Tom" to the orphaned children he takes care of and has helped raise in the Philippines, used a mix of humor and sentimental seriousness Feb. 9 to recount his experiences of being held in a Filipino jail for 22 days.
Randall was the key speaker in three morning services at Christ Community Chapel, 750 W. Streetsboro St. Randall, of Stow, was greeted with standing ovations and roaring applause at each.
"What a warm welcome," Randall said. "Thank you. But thank you is not enough."
Randall was hired as a pastor-at-large at Christ Community Chapel in September.
He was arrested Jan. 12 along with two workers in Manila during a raid at his Sankey Samaritan Orphanage by Filipino authorities. Randall was originally charged with human trafficking. The charge was later reduced to negligence.
All charges were dropped Feb. 3, and Randall was released from jail.
Charges against the two workers have been changed to lesser, unspecified counts, and they have posted bail, according to Joe Coffey, lead pastor at Christ Community Chapel.
Randall and his wife, Karen, through their organization, World Harvest Ministries, were in the Philippines to help with typhoon relief.
"The most difficult thing was realizing I was being charged," Randall said. "Everybody said up until the end that I would not be charged."
After Randall's arrest, he told Karen to go back home. She would not, Randall said.
The first time Karen saw Randall behind bars, she cried, in turn making Randall cry.
"But every day she would come, we would cry less and visit more," Randall said.
Karen said their time in jail was some of the most quiet visiting time the couple had in their entire marriage -- "This could really be good for our marriage," Randall quoted her as saying.
"Oh great, I'll just get arrested every few years," Randall joked.
Randall was placed in a cell about the size of a "normal living room" which held up to 40 prisoners, Randall said. Inmates included 14 "alleged" hired killers, one "alleged" bomb maker, two "alleged" bombers and a variety of other charges.
"I say 'alleged' charges, because if you were sitting in my cell with me, you wouldn't be praying like they did it," Randall said. Randall tried to use the language skills picked up in his travels to talk to his fellow prisoners.
"My wife says I'm illiterate in about 25 languages," Randall said, as the crowd erupted in laughter.
While in jail, Randall's health began to fail, but he was not allowed to visit the hospital. However, his godson, a doctor at a nearby hospital, was allowed to visit.
Randall was told his blood pressure was so high "you are going to have a stroke if we cannot get you out of here and into a hospital," Randall said.
The doctor treated Randall in the cell with intravenous treatment and medications.
"At the worst point, I get this text from Tom," Coffey interjected. '"Hey Joe, I have the strong feeling my time here is finished. I feel free and content in Christ. What a privilege to serve The Savior with you through this adventure.'"
Randall also sent a similar text to Karen.
"I knew if I didn't get help soon, I was going to die, " Randall said.
Coffey issued a "threat" to Randall.
Coffey said if his friend died in prison, Coffey would tell everyone that Coffey could beat Randall in foosball, chess and a variety of other events.
"You're going to have to live if you want to set the record straight," Coffey told his friend. "I got a text back from him that said 'I've decided to live.'"
During the 22 days, Randall said he "was ashamed to say" he felt despair. What helped Randall was reading the Bible, he said.
"The Bible jumped out at me when I was in prison," Randall said. "It seemed more real."
After 15 days, Randall was supposed to be released, but due to some missing signatures, he remained behind bars.
Coffey told him each day "this will be the day" you will be released.
"On the fourth day, you finally got it right. Nice work on that one," Randall told Coffey, as the crowd again erupted in laughter.
During his time in jail, Randall said he realized "God was sovereign and not worry about anything."
That thought helped get Randall through the constant delays in his release, according to Randall.
Randall thanked the church for standing by him and the guards for their kindness. He also said his attention is on finding the children who have been misplaced during the shutdown of the orphanage.
"That's what this whole thing is all about," Randall said. "We raised these kids for 13 years. You have to understand -- these kids are our family. They are not just some orphans."
Randall is hoping to get the children, who were taken from the orphanage, questioned and spread across the county, back.
"We are praying that those kids can come home and that we can get them back in school and that they can have the life and future they were having before all of this happened," Randall said.