The Winter Garden native Gerard Butler will be playing in Forster’s Machine Gun Biker
Childers is a preacher whose mission doesn’t have a lot of room for “turn the other cheek.”
“I’m not a normal pastor,” Childers says with a chuckle. “I am a soldier, a member of the SPLA [the Christian Sudanese People’s Liberation Army]. I carry a gun. I’m a freedom fighter.
“Jesus said, ‘I’m sending you out, and if you don’t have a sword, sell your traveler’s bag and buy one.’ [Luke 22:35-38] Jesus didn’t condone violence. But if somebody took your child and I told you I could get ’em back, what would you say?”
If that seems blunt, a little militant even, consider Childers’ past and his present. A biker-turned-preacher, he has an orphanage in south Sudan where he takes rescuing Sudanese children seriously, and he’s willing to take up arms to do it.
Childers, who grew up in Central Florida, is about to be the subject of a major motion picture. It’s titled Machine Gun Preacher. Macho leading man Gerard Butler Ö(300) is on board, according to the authoritative Hollywood-insider Web site Deadline.com. So is Bond and Monster’s Ball director Marc Forster, who’s set to direct Machine Gun Preacher when it’s goes before the cameras later this year.
It’s based on Childers’ memoir, Another Man’s War: The True Story of One Man’s Battle to Save the Children of Sudan.Ö Deadline.com also reports that a Dateline NBC story on Childers got producer Robbie Brenner Öand screenwriter Jason Keller interested, and that Butler leapt at “the chance to show some acting chops to go with his 300 brawn.”
“He strikes me as an actor who’s interested in this as a way of opening up his image a bit,” says Childers.”I didn’t think about this as movie material, not while I was living this life. But now that I think about it, looking at where I came from and what I’m doing with my life today, I can see it. You look at that movie Blood Diamond. That explains a lot of what I do in Sudan. Those are the type of people I’m rescuing the kids from.”
Childers, 50, is a native of Grand Forks, N.D., who spent much of the 1970s and ‘80s in Central Florida. He has the local rap sheet to prove it — arrests for assault and weapons charges in the early 1980s.
“I was one of the most awfulest persons you could ever hope to meet in Lockhart, Winter Garden and Apopka 30 years ago,” Childers admits. “Drug dealing. Guns. If there’s a biker gang you’ve heard of, chances are I had a relationship with them — Outlaws, [Hell’s] Angels.”
But in 1992, at 33, he found religion. And by 1998, he’d found his mission — in Africa.
Childers, who is pastor of Shekinah Fellowship Church in Central City, Pa., was back in Central Florida visiting his mom, Daisy Graham, in Winter Garden. But it’s no coincidence that he’s down here for Bike Weeks. He’s had a few speaking engagements, fund-raising for his charities, during the festivities. And he still rides and builds bikes — “My baby has parts from 1964 through 1976 Harleys on it, and the motor is part Harley, Revtech and S & S.”
That’s the bike he expects Hollywood to use in the movie about him. His goal for the film is simple, “that it helps us reach more children,” children kidnapped and forced into militias, or starving and caught up in the violence between rebels and factions of a government that the International Criminal Court has charged with war crimes. And Childers, who has hung out with Butler as the actor prepares for the role, is hoping he doesn’t come off as “some crazy guy out there with a gun.
“I don’t say what I do and how I do it is right or wrong,” he says. “Come Judgment Day, I know I’m going to have a lot of explaining to do.
“But this orphanage, Children’s Village, has a primary school, a vo-tech school, a clinic. We do a lot of things that the infrastructure of South Sudan can’t do. We don’t leave when the fighting pours over into our area. So I hope that the good done there will tip my balance, when I’m brought before the Lord.”
(Thanks to Sue Thompson for the photo AND the story tip.)