When Randy Cranston came home, walked into the kitchen, and told his wife Judi that he had two years to live, she turned around and said, “Get over yourself. God didn’t give me all these kids to raise alone.”

The Filing Cabinet

Eight years previously, Judi and Randy had been contemplating adopting and adding to their family of four. It wasn’t until their son Luke went off to college that they finally began the process through the Department of Human Services. They wanted a boy—preferably 5, 6, or 7 years old. “We didn’t want to take an infant from a family that wanted an infant,” Randy says, “and of course there’s no diapers, in theory.”

At the end of the last DHS session, the group of hopeful parents was taken to a filing cabinet filled with folders of children ready to adopt. Randy didn’t make it far. He opened one of the folders to see a photo of a little boy’s bare skin, scarred in the shape of a coil; the little boy had been wetting the bed, “so to fix it, his dad put him on a stove. I cried.” Randy told Judi, “I’m going home. You bring a kid home, and I’ll love him. How’s that?”

Instead, Judi brought home 30 or 40 folders for them to look through. He suggested they each pick three, and if they chose one folder in common, they would see it as God’s direction. “She selected her three on a Tuesday, I did mine on Thursday, and on Saturday we sat down.” Judi took her list out of her purse, Randy took his out of his wallet, and they compared them. They had each chosen only one folder: a folder containing three boys, ages 5, 6, and 7. “We sat there and wept at our table.”

They called DHS to start the adoption process and were met with surprise: “But you haven’t met the kids yet!” “We don’t need to meet them,” Randy said. He laughed, and added, “I’d never met Luke, and I’ve had him for 18 years!” Randy couldn’t fathom testing out a child and then returning him to DHS. “We give up on people so easily,” Randy says. “Our boys had been disappointed by every adult in their life, from the state agencies, to their biological parents, to relatives who failed to show up to visitation. I didn’t want to be one of those people.”

Decades earlier, Randy had learned the value of having people in his life who never gave up on him.

Randy Cranston Corban Alumnus
Image by Joel Grimes

“I was a pretty bad kid on the weekends,” Randy says, “one of those where you rededicate your life every Tuesday.”

Each summer he’d go to Victory Ranch, a Christian camp out of Hemet, California. When he was a senior in high school, he remembers a group called the MenSingers coming to Victory Ranch from Western Baptist Bible College (now Corban University). “MenSingers was a group that went around in an ugly old Dodge van and sang, and became camp counselors in the summer to help with their tuition.” Randy remembers getting to know two of the counselors, Tom Thompson and Mel Patterson. They knew he had just graduated high school and asked him, “Why aren’t you coming up to Western Baptist?” Randy replied, “God hasn’t told me to.” “Well,” they said, “He told us to tell you.”

So Randy packed up his little red sports car (a Triumph TR4, he remembers fondly) and moved 1000 miles north to Salem, Oregon.

One of the first people he encountered as he went through the registration line was Dr. Fred Brock. “He was your extremely conservative GARBC pastor who happened to be president of the college.” Randy registered, got his paperwork stamped by the registrar, and came to the end of the line where Dr. Brock was standing. “Go get a haircut,” he told Randy. So he did. “I went back, whizzed through the line, and he said, ‘Not enough.’” Randy went back to the barber not once, but twice more, finally saying, “Take off as much as it takes.” Looking back, he realized it wasn’t the length of his hair that Dr. Brock was concerned with. Rather, “Are you willing to submit to those in authority over you, for a reason bigger than you?” Dr. Brock was not going to let Randy get away with rebellion or carelessness—but neither was he going to give up on him.

“If you want to get rid of the bad, you emphasize and encourage the good, and the bad will dissipate. That’s what Corban did for me,” Randy says—and that’s what he committed to do for his children.

“What do you do?”

Randy committed to raising his children with as much devotion and patience as his mentors at Corban had poured into him. He committed to them even when they had tantrums. He committed to them even when they struggled with attachment and avoided all physical affection. He committed to them despite the trauma they’d experienced in their short lives, trauma that caused them to strew upside-down matchbox cars and LEGO toys across their bedroom floor so no one would hurt them at night. He never stopped emphasizing and encouraging the good. He took his sons camping, piling into the family motor home and driving to Detroit Lake one weekend, the Oregon Coast the next. He shared the Gospel with them and loved them even when they didn’t care for church.

When people ask Randy, “What do you do?” he probably won’t give his job title. He probably won’t tell you about his careers owning a service station or working at a call center or a funeral home. If you ask Randy, “What do you do?” he will probably say he takes care of people and commits to them. He’ll probably say “I’m a hugger,” and proceed to give you the same hug he has offered grieving family members at the funeral home, the same hug he has offered each of his children over the last 20 years, a hug that says, “I’m here, and I’m not giving up.”

It’s been over a decade since Randy came home and told Judi he only had two years to live, but his heart hasn’t given up on him yet.