A n enigmatic American evangelist who rides a Harley Davidson and has confronted rebel soldiers in Africa over child abduction is coming to Bo’ness.
Sam Childers, who’s better known as the Machine Gun Preacher, will give a talk, at St Andrew’s Church next month on his life-changing work in Sudan.
Born in Pennsylvania, the son of a former US Marine, Sam had the knack of getting into trouble from an early age .
Tis led to his father once saying: “Boy, somebody’s gonna kill you one of these days!”
By his teens, he had slid into a life of violence and drugs and became a shotgunner – an armed guard for drug runners. He was also a member of the infamous American biker club the Outlaws.
It was during this period that he met Lynn, a stripper, who later became his wife.
Haunted by his father’s words, he became increasingly concerned that he was going to be killed because of drugs and slowly began to distance himself from his former life.
He found a job in construction and prospered, despite his continuing drug and alcohol habit.
But when Lynn returned to the church she had forsaken as a young adult, Sam sought to re-establish his relationship with God too and began to live a clean life.
He soon became a father and started his own construction business. But his greatest challenge still lay ahead of him.
Urged by his Pastor in America, in 1998 Sam travelled to the village of Yei in southern Sudan, which was in the midst of the second Sudanese War.
He was part of a mission group whose aim was to repair huts damaged in the conflict.
But during this assignment he stumbled across a child’s body torn apart by a landmine.
From that day on he made a pledge to God to do whatever it took to help the people of southern Sudan.
He returned to Sudan several months later to run a mobile clinic and as he ventured across the nation, he passed a village near to the Ugandan border.
It was there that God sent him a message saying: “I want you to build an orphanage for the children and I want you to build it here.”
However, the local people thought he was insane.
At that time, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) – a brutal rebel militia – had murdered thousands of villagers and kidnapped more than 30,000 children, many of whom went on to become child soldiers.
But Sam was adamant about his plans, saying God had told him to build the orphanage and that’s where he was going to build it.
He returned home, sold his construction business, sent the money to Africa and began to lay the foundations of his new life in Sudan.
During the day, Sam cleared the brush and built huts that would house the children.
By night, he slept under a mosquito net slung from a tree – Bible in one hand and an AK47 in the other.
With the orphanage finished, Sam began to lead armed missions to rescue children from the LRA.
It wasn’t long before tales of his exploits spread and villagers began to call him the Machine Gun Preacher.
Sixteen years on the orphanage is one of the largest in Southern Sudan and has fed and has housed more than 1000 children.
Today more than 170 children call the orphanage home.
Sam is still as dedicated to the plight of the Sudanese children today as he was 18 years ago.
The Journal and Gazette caught up with him during his tour of the USA.
He said: “People like to hear the story – my journey from being a drug addict to the scum of the earth dealer; a bad boy! But somehow I ended up sorting my life out and rescuing kids in war torn south Sudan.”
As for why people should go along to his speaking engagement at St Andrews Church, he added: “I want people to hear my story, be challenged by the journey and to see that there’s hope for everyone.
“If there was hope for me, anyone can change if they want to!
“I just love the folk of Scotland. They are a little hard to understand at times but we’ve had many amazing people from Scotland travelling to our projects in eastern Africa.
“They are hard workers and want to be involved.”
Sam will be speaking at St Andrews Church, Bo’ness, on Monday, May 22, at 7.30pm. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.