A movie titled Machine Gun Preacher sounds like something only Hollywood could dream up doesn’t it? But it’s true. There really is a machine gun preacher out there who’s packing, and his name is Sam Childers.
Releasing wide in theaters today, the film is based on his 2009 biography, Another Man’s War: The True Story of One Man’s Battle to Save Children in the Sudan, with Gerard Butler starring as Sam and Michelle Monaghan as his wife Lynn.
Like a powerful life testimony that you may have heard in church back in the day, Machine Gun Preacher grabs your attention from the get-go. It is intense and raw, not shying away from the rough stuff of Sam’s earlier life of drugs, violence and coarse language before he gave his life to Christ. It also doesn’t shy away from Sam’s controversial work in Africa that began thirteen years ago, when he first followed the call, no matter the cost, to rescue kidnapped children forced to become soldiers and orphaned children whose families had been slaughtered in front of them by a renegade militia in war-torn Sudan.
I’ll admit Machine Gun Preacher is very hard to watch and is not a film for everyone ("know before you go" and read Crosswalk.com's review here).
But after thinking about it for a while, I realized that this is Sam’s story: who he was before Christ and who he is now as a result of God’s transformation through the power of the Holy Spirit. As intense as it is, to leave anything out would be to ignore what God has redeemed and is now using for good (which is also up for debate . . . Are Sam’s methods to do good by way of a machine gun really right? What should anyone do to save lives in situations like these? And to those who question, he asks: “If I you have a child and somebody took your child and I said I could rescue your child, what would you say?”).
I suppose you could say that Sam traded radical for radcial after getting right with God years ago. He left drugs and alcohol behind and got back into church where he heard a guest speaker talking about some construction needs in Africa. At the time, Sam owned his own construction company and knew that he could spare a few weeks to help out. So he packed up his duffle bag and flew off to Africa. There, he saw the devastation being wrought due to the mass genocide, torture, kidnapping and enslavement of young children being inflicted by the brutal rebel militia group, Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
Sam says that that’s when he found his life’s mission and where he heard God tell him to build an orphanage for the young victims in war-torn Sudan. He also felt called to build a church back in his hometown of Central City, Pennsylvania, where Sam still pastors today at The Shekinah Fellowship Church and where “everybody is welcome.”
In addition, he founded a nonprofit, Angels of East Africa, which oversees the Children’s Village orphanage in Southern Sudan, as well as other ministry and humanitarian projects underway in Uganda, Ethiopia and the United States.
His story is powerful and thought provoking. And I invite you to read more about the real machine gun preacher, Sam Childers, and his thoughts on the new film and his life’s work in my interview with him here. You can also read the movie review (with detailed cautions) of Machine Gun Preacher here.