IT would be easy to write off Hollywood flick Machine Gun Preacher as hype, but Sam Childers’ fight to save hundreds of Sudanese children from a life of unspeakable brutality is as real and as confronting as it gets.
He’s in Perth next Friday (September 1) to talk about his work and his hopes for the future.
“To motivate and inspire people to get up and do something on your own,” he tells the Voice.
The former biker and drug addict found God before heading to Sudan as a missionary to help repair huts damaged during the second Sudanese civil war in 1998.
Coming across the body of a child torn apart by a land mine, he pledged to make a difference.
The Lord’s Resistance Army rebel militia kidnapped 30,000 children and raped, tortured and murdered hundreds of thousands of villagers.
Undeterred by stories of the threat of the LRA’s brutal reign of terror he sold his US construction business and set up the first of three orphanages, surrounded by high wire fences to protect the kids.
Many are former child soldiers forced to kill or be killed, and to take part in the atrocities the LRA inflicted on the country.
One rescued child was told to kill his mother or be killed himself, and then his mother would be slain, and the rest of his family.
With little choice, and his mother nodding for him to do it, the boy took up a cudgel and did as he was instructed.
Visiting psychologists are surprised at the resilience of these damaged kids: “The first thing they say is what program do you have your children on, they are just amazing,” he says.
“God showed me years ago they need to just be loved.
“Hurt by war, their lives destroyed by war we educate them and allow them to be children again.”
Most third world orphanages turf the kids out at 15, and 70 per cent end up in prostitution, unlike his organisation which ensure they have a trade before they leave, Mr Childers says.
“We educate our children to the age of 26.”
Happy to talk about his work, and God, the Machine Gun Preacher won’t be drawn on his his gun toting image.
“Nowhere in 21 years has anyone got me to talk about violence.
“Violence does not glorify Jesus Christ, I won’t talk about it.
“Many years ago I was young, wild and violent, now I rescue children.”
Mr Childers has grand kids in the US and as much as he loves them says: “Children in the western world have all they need…the children I rescue have no other chances but what we can give them.”
Despite working in a perilous part of the world the 55-year-old has successors lined up: “There are many people on board, and if anything happens to me most of my estate money is to be used for the work here.”
You can catch the real Machine Gun Preacher at the Fly By Night in Fremantle on, Friday September 1, bar open 6.30pm doors 7.30pm. Tickets flybynight.org/machinegunpreacher
by JENNY D’ANGER