Machine Gun Preacher aims to rescue orphans in Uganda, Sudan

A playground was the best medicine for children devastated by war, oppression and abuse.

And an education is the best prevention for it affecting them ever again.

The Rev. Sam Childers — the Machine Gun Preacher — has devoted his life of faith into rescue and recovery of orphans in Uganda and Sudan.

He stopped in Jefferson City this week to share his story and seek support for his work.

When Childers returns to Africa on Oct. 25, he wants to take with him $75,000 in donations to improve a village feeding program. And by January, he hopes to raise $250,000 for a well-drilling rig.

“People are literally eating dirt,” Childers said of an area in south Darfur in Sudan.

People die in the streets, and no one reacts. No one eats until they’re satisfied. Children drink water so bad Americans would be arrested for feeding it to their animals, Childers said.

“These are not projects that will save hundreds, but thousands upon thousands,” he said. “We’ll own our own rig that will last many years. That could go on to save even millions over the years.”

But his vision doesn’t end there. He hopes to open an orphanage in Darfur and a five-star hotel — which means a toilet in the bathroom — to offer skills-training for youth and revenue for the orphanage.

In addition to this fund-raising and awareness tour, Childers recently completed a documentary on the plight there, which should be shown at both the Cannes and Sundance festivals in 2011. And he has a reality television show “Second Chances,” which may find a home on a secular, cable network this fall.

Childers’ book, “Another Man’s War,” has been adapted as a Hollywood cinema epic directed by Marc Forster and starring Gerard Butler. It’s set for release the summer of 2011, and Childer’s proceeds will help purchase a bush plane to enable quicker travel between villages.

“God put the top tens in on this,” Childers said. He even loaned for the filming his stainless steel pulpit complete with handlebars, as well as the well-worn Bible he preached from for many years.

The message is the same from the book, the movie or his life — the worst of the worst can change their entire life with Christ, Childers said.

As a kingdom-builder, he takes that message to clubhouses and barrooms, schools and churches, and prisons and bike events.

“It’s hard if a preacher never experienced it, how can he preach on it?” Childers said. “When I give a testimony, I can truly tell them God is still doing miracles.”

Reared in a middle-class Pennsylvania home, Childers turned to drugs, alcohol and that alternate lifestyle despite his parents providing him with material and spiritual support. After riding with the Hell’s Angels for a time, he recognized how short his future could be.

Years after Childers turned his life around, he was exposed to the atrocities toward children in Southern Sudan.

After running a successful construction company for several years, Childers gave up his business to dedicate himself to the full-time rescue and rehabilitation of children, with the help of his wife, Lynn, and their two daughters.

Fourteen years later, Childers is the founder of Children’s Village, the largest orphanage in Southern Sudan.

But the most unique aspect of his ministry is its approach of leading armed rescue missions directly into Lords Resistance Army (LRA) territory.

Thousands of children have become orphans as a result of brutal LRA attacks on remote villages in Southern Sudan and Northern Uganda. Most of the war-affected children will die of starvation or bodily wounds inflicted by the LRA.

More than 30,000 children have been abducted by the LRA in the region. Some relief organizations report as many as 50,000 children have been abducted and 1.7 million people have been displaced. The abducted children are generally forced to be child soldiers or sex slaves.

The Children’s Village currently houses and educates more than 200 orphans, with more than 1,000 children rescued since its inception. The aim is for these children to become healthy, independent adults through complete rehabilitation, education and teaching of a trade.

Letting them be children again has proved to be one of the most healing elements of the rehabilitation.

After the swings and slides and see-saws were installed, “the children just stared at it; they’d never seen a playground.”

Before that, the cries of children scared from nightmares could be heard every night in the compound.

“But the kids don’t any more,” Childers said. “It’s the biggest thing to rehabilitate the children.”

Karen Dye will feature Childers on the television show “New Horizons,” which airs at 11:30 a.m. Monday, 10:30 p.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. Saturday on Christian Television Network’s KNLJ.

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