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 The real Machine Gun Preacher

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Permanent Resident of the Home of the Sanely Insane

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Registration date : 2008-11-06

PostSubject: The real Machine Gun Preacher   Wed Nov 02, 2011 11:35 pm

Good article on Sam:

The real Machine Gun Preacher
Meet the gun-toting ex-drug addict Outlaws biker
who saved 1,000 kids from war in Africa

SAM Childers wears biker's leathers, is covered with tattoos and sleeps with a rifle next to his bed – he is not your average clergyman.
Although his congregation refer to him as simply Reverend, he is better known as the Machine Gun Preacher.

A former drug addict, dealer and gang enforcer, he picked up this nickname during his AK-47-wielding days in war-torn southern Sudan, where he has saved more than 1,000 children from a life of horror.

Shocked by the suffering he witnessed on a missionary trip to the African country in the late Nineties, he vowed to take on the brutal warlord responsible for the death of thousands — and that meant carrying a bible in one hand and an automatic weapon in the other.

His brave work helped establish a safe haven for children so they could escape a desperate life as child soldiers or sex slaves.

Now £50million Hollywood movie Machine Gun Preacher, starring Gerard Butler, charts Childers' remarkable transformation from his life of violence to heroic man of God who now preaches in rural Pennsylvania.

Childers, 49, admits people will be shocked when they see the film.

He said: "Think of a bad person then multiply that by ten and you have what I was like. I was not a very nice person before I found God and that is shown in the film. It is all accurate."

There were knife fights and shootouts as Childers scrabbled around for his next drug fix having become hopelessly addicted to heroin and cocaine by the age of 15.

He joined bikers' gang The Outlaws and by 16 was recruited as muscle for drug deals. He revelled in his hard-man reputation and admits women found his tough-guy act irresistible.

He said: "Yes, I liked violence and would never back away from a fight. When I look back I am not proud of what I did but I was in the grip of a terrible addiction.

"For the drug deals I was known as a shotgunner. It was my job to go into a bar before the deal went down to make sure everything was OK.

"I'd have my shotgun on me and was ready to use it. I don't know if it was the scent of danger but I never had any trouble getting women. I once had five in one night."

Childers' womanising ways ended when he met stripper Lynn during a drug deal in Florida. They moved in together within weeks of meeting and married 18 months later, in December 1982.

Soon after they started living together Lynn turned to God — but Childers wasn't interested.

That all changed when they failed to conceive a child after five years of trying and IVF treatment.

Childers said: "I remember praying to God and saying if he would let us have a child I would turn away from my old life and embrace him. God spoke to me and said, 'I will give you a child if you work for me.'"

Within weeks, Lynn fell pregnant and Childers instantly quit drugs and stopped hanging out with the bikers.

Daughter Paige was born in 1989 and in 1992 Childers, having studied to become a preacher, set up the Shekinah Fellowship Church in Central City, Pennsylvania, a town of fewer than 2,000 people.

Given his former lifestyle and continued fondness for carrying a gun, he didn't attract the usual Sunday congregation. Instead, bikers and drug addicts filled the pews.

But it was in 1998, on a first trip as a missionary to Uganda, that Childers found his true calling.

He learned about the brutal violence of sadistic warlord Joseph Kony, who ran rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army.

For more than a decade they had been engaged in a power struggle with the Ugandan government. Kony would often head to southern Sudan looking for fresh army recruits.

Thousands of children were kidnapped and forced to become child soldiers for his guerilla army. Those who refused were slaughtered.

Childers heard horror stories of children as young as ten being forced to kill their parents with machetes. Others who resisted Kony had their lips, ears and noses hacked off.

The boys were forced to join his army while girls were turned into sex slaves. Aid workers estimate as many as 50,000 children have been abducted by Kony since 1986.

Childers said: "I found God in 1992 — but I found Satan in 1998. I knew from my first visit that I had to do something to help these people.

"God told me I had to help these children. When I came back from my first visit I couldn't wait to go back and see what I could do."

Childers quickly picked up his nickname as villagers noticed he would preach one day then go out heavily armed on rescue missions.

He said: "It is true I would hold services then grab my guns and go out. I always carry a gun. There's a .45 on my hip and when I was in the Sudan it was always an AK-47.

"I still sleep with an AR-14 assault rifle by my bed. Old habits die hard."

After repeated visits to Africa, Childers raised enough funds to set up a children's orphanage in the town of Nimule near the Ugandan border.

Few aid organisations were in the area because it was too dangerous but Childers and soldiers from the Sudan People's Liberation Army built a compound — called Angels Of East Africa: The Children's Village Orphanage — to house dozens of kids.

Over the years as many as 1,000 children found sanctuary there. Today it is home to more than 200.

Kony has now gone into hiding and although there is still violence, the area is far calmer. Three years ago the US named Kony as a wanted global terrorist. He is believed to be somewhere in the Congo.

Childers makes frequent visits to the orphanage and his work attracted the attention of A-list actress Sandra Bullock and former husband Jesse James, who helped raise funds.

He was sceptical when Hollywood bought the rights to his book Another Man's War and surprised Scottish actor Butler was chosen to play him.

Childers said: "To be honest I didn't know who Gerard Butler was. Do I look like the type of person who would see The Bounty Hunter?

"But when a meeting was set up I found him to be a great guy. The producers wanted me to go to Hollywood but I said if Gerard wants to talk, he can come here.

"You hear stories about Hollywood stars being precious but when we finished talking, he came to my daughter's house for pizza. Gerard was such a nice man and very down to earth.

"I'm not normally lost for words but seeing the film, I just couldn't speak. It brought back so many memories and also reminded me that way back I was not a nice person.

"But God taught me that everyone deserves a second chance. I had a second chance and that is why I wanted to help the children in Africa. They deserved a second chance too."

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