From a life of crime to inspiring others
By CORAL COOKSLEY
A FORMER American drug dealer with a history of crime and violence, who turned his life around and since helped save hundreds of African children, is visiting Beechworth next month.
Sam Childers is known as the Machine Gun Preacher – also the title of a 2011 Hollywood feature film made about his life – is coming to Australia on a seven-day tour and while here will be sharing his story at Beechworth Memorial Hall on September 5 at 7.30pm.
The movie based on Childers’ book – a biography called ‘Another Man’s War’ – turned him into an overnight celebrity that has seen him speak to audiences around the world.
Beechworth’s Paula Rangi said she can’t believe that Mr Childers will be in Beechworth.
“I saw the movie six years ago, connected with his amazing work and since then have been following him on Facebook,” she said.
With the discovery that he was coming to Australia, Ms Rangi liaised with his agent and found out that Mr Childers happened to be travelling from Melbourne to Canberra for an event.
“I approached the Salvation Army’s captain Pauline Middleton who supported the opportunity,” Ms Rangi said.
She said Hollywood actor Gerard Butler who played Mr Childer in the movie, became a strong financial supporter of the former criminal’s work.
Mr Childers turned to religion as he fought to free enslaved children in South Sudan and Northern Uganda and has since been a recipient of a Mother of Teresa Award for international social justice.
He began to lead armed missions to rescue them from the Lord’s Resistance Army - which led to villagers calling him ‘The Machine Gun Preacher’ in the war torn zones.
Since then, through his charity Angels of East Africa, he has built seven orphanages which have fed and cared for 1,500 children.
His teams make around 12,000 meals every day for East African feeding programs, has built seven schools and numerous wells for clean drinking water, as well as other major projects in Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia.
Ms Rangi said Mr Childers built a roadhouse last year where children could progress from orphanages and learn a skill such as in hospitality that continued to change their lives.
Captain Middleton said Mr Childers story is an inspiring one and encouraged the community to come along to hear from him.
“This is huge for our community and an amazing visit for a rural town,” she said.
Although a free event the Salvation Army will be collecting donations for Mr Childers’ ongoing work.
“We’d like to contribute in helping him to save more children,” Captain Middleton said.