Sam Childers and the Angels of East are working to protect the children of Southern Sudan and Northern Uganda. He was the subject of the 2011 movie “Machine Gun Preacher”. He runs an orphanage in Southern Sudan which has helped hundreds of children survive the atrocities of Joseph Kony. He grew up in the hills of Pennsylvania but as a young man got himself into a lot of trouble. By his early teens Sam was constantly in fist fights, selling hard drugs and sleeping with married women. He continued to slide deeper into a life of violence and crime until he became a Shotgunner – an armed guard for drug dealers. It was during this stage of his life that he met Lynn, a stripper, who would later become his wife. He became increasingly concerned that he was going to be killed because of drugs and slowly began to distance himself from his former life and found a job in construction in which he prospered despite his continuing drug and alcohol habit. Lynn, meanwhile, returned to the Church she had forsaken as a young adult.Sam also sought to re-establish his relationship with God and began to live a clean life. Slowly, things began to change for the better. Lynn gave birth to a healthy baby girl and Sam started his own construction business. Little did they know that their greatest challenge was just around the corner.
In 1998, Sam arrived in the village of Yei, Southern Sudan. The African nation was in the midst of the Second Sudanese War, and Sam, urged by his Pastor in America, had joined a mission group to help repair huts damaged in the conflict. During this assignment Sam stumbled across the body of a child torn apart by a landmine. He fell to his knees and made a pledge to God to do whatever it took to help the people of Southern Sudan. Sam returned to Sudan several months later to run a mobile clinic. To fulfil his promise he ventured far across the nation, from the western town of Yei to the eastern villages of Boma. While passing the village of Nimule,on the Ugandan border, God sent him a message: I want you to build an orphanage for the children, God said. And I want you to build it here.
The local people thought he was mad. At the time, the Lord’s Resistance Army, a brutal rebel militia that had kidnapped 30 thousand children and murdered hundreds of thousands of villagers, was laying waste to the area. But Sam was adamant: God had told him to build the orphanage in Nimule and that’s where he was going to build it. He returned to the U.S.A, sold his construction business and sent the money to Africa. Slowly the orphanage began to take shape. During the day Sam cleared the brush and built the huts that would house the children. During the evening, he slept under a mosquito net slung from a tree: bible in one hand, AK47 in the other.
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Lynn and Sam’s daughter Paige fought a battle of their own. The family car was repossessed and a foreclosure notice was issued on the house. Sam had enough money to pay the outstanding mortgage or finish the orphanage. He couldn’t afford both so he sent the money to Africa. 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.”
13 years later the orphanage is the largest in Southern Sudan and has fed and housed over 1,000 children. Today, more than 200 children call the orphanage home. Unfortunately there are still many Sudanese children suffering and in need of rescue. His biography, “Another Man’s War” is a gripping account of the harrowing ordeal he faced in his life, how he turned it around the challenges he continues to face as the “Machine Gun Preacher”.
ABOUT THE ANGELS OF EAST AFRICA-
Angels of East Africa is a Children’s Village for orphans located in South Sudan dedicated to the rescue, restoration, and enablement of children caught in the crossfire of the rebel atrocities in the area. Founded by an unorthodox American pastor from Pennsylvania named Sam Childers, the organization has been operating for a decade, saving
the lives of hundreds of children and renewing hope in a region where it had all but vanished.
Specifically and most notoriously, the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), led by the spiritist warlord Joseph Kony, is culpable for the heinous crimes that plague the region. The threat of attack at the orphanage is a daily reality, but Sam Childers and his team refuse to let the LRA terrorize the children they have worked so hard to rescue and protect. Children’s Village is the only orphanage in South Sudan that refuses to move or retreat amidst increased rebel attacks or incidents of war.
The more than 200 children at the property found their path to shelter in many different ways. Some were brought to
the property after they lost their parents to disease. Others walked hours or even days from recently attacked
villages, passing out literally as they approached the orphanage gate. Most of the children, however, were rescued
by the soldiers and staff from Children’s Village after witnessing the murder of their parents or being abducted by
Every child’s story is a bit different, but a common thread binds them all; after experiencing what could only be
described as hell on earth, they are eventually rescued by the soldiers and staff at Children’s Village. In a valiant
effort that places even their own lives on the line, this devoted staff experiences life every day with these children in
order to resurrect hope in their hearts.
Sam sees Children’s Village as a mission that gives purpose to his life. He would like to see more people join that
mission. “A lot of times we might help someone a little bit, but I’m talking about really saving a life. Most of us have
never done that. And if the American people would only learn to really save a life, it would change their own [lives]. I
know, because it has [changed] mine.”
The road to opening the orphanage began a decade ago when Sam Childers came to Sudan to aid in removing land
mines from the area. The former biker saw for the first time the devastation that the unstable political environment
had produced; an unimaginable epidemic of torture, murder, disease, and starvation. After a series of trips back to
Sudan, Sam’s determination and drive to do something to help the children of East Africa was solidified.
As he learned more about the history of the country and the rebellion against the struggling Sudanese government,
Sam heard the horrific stories of the untold number of children that the rebel leader and his LRA soldiers had
abducted to be child combatants. His heart broke yet again for the other children whose innocence was stolen when
the LRA killed their loved ones, leaving them to them to fend for themselves against the merciless African elements.
The orphanage began quite literally as a mosquito net hanging from a tree. Private donations made it possible for
Sam to buy 40 acres in South Sudan. He soon began building small mud huts called tukols and hired the armed
soldiers to defend the orphanage against rebels should the need arise. The first rescue mission brought more than
20 children to the base. As the numbers grew, so did the structures and building projects. The property now boasts dormitories, lavatories, a basic medical clinic, a workshop, a library and a small farm. One of the most important strides at the property came in December 2006 when Sam and the staff built the first playground in South Sudan.
“After we put in the playground we saw some of the children smile and laugh for the first time. Even the guards took a
turn and played on it,” Sam recalls. “After that, the children suffered less from their nightmares. The screaming in the
middle of the night suddenly stopped.” The playground has become one of the most tangible aspects of the operating philosophy to let them be children again, a primary objective at the orphanage. In order to continue this legacy, the staff is hard at work on a nursery school and a soccer team that competes within the area-wide league. Over the years Sam and his staff, many of whom are widows and orphans themselves, have helped rescue over 800 children. Plans are continually in the works to locate and rescue more children. Angels of East Africa will continue operating in order to rescue, restore and enable children of the region who are not able to protect themselves.
Life for the children at the orphanage shares similarities with children in America. They wake up and eat breakfast
each day before getting ready to go to school. While in class, which is a privilege, not a right in Sudan, the students
learn about history, mathematics, and language. After school they come back to the property to do chores and play
and perhaps do homework. Chores include cleaning their rooms, helping to cook dinner, yard work, and taking care
of the animals. Everyone shares a special responsibility for the chickens, dogs, cats and other animals on the
grounds. The older girls also help care for the younger children. They spend a lot of time together singing, playing,
creating, imagining, and comforting one another, especially at night.
The unlikely journey that brought Sam Childers to east Africa began decades earlier when his friends were much
more likely to comprise a police lineup than an orphanage staff. Sam grew up in a typical American household in Pennsylvania with loving parents who taught him right from wrong and encouraged his efforts in school and athletics. As a teenager, Sam’s life took a negative turn and he began experimenting with illegal drugs. This time marked a swift downward spiral that would shortly have him dealing on the streets of Orlando, Florida and riding with the infamous Hell’s Angels. While in Orlando, Sam met his wife, Lynn, and they married in 1982. During his time in Florida, Sam often thought of his parents and the ethics and values they had instilled early in his life. He knew that if he continued on his path of heavy drinking, drug abuse, and fighting, he would quickly end up dying at the hands of one of his cohorts.
In 1985, Sam and Lynn moved back to Pennsylvania in an effort to remove him from the life of crime he had been
living. He knew he needed to make a new start. While his demons followed him for a time, Sam felt that there must be
more out there than the empty life he was living. He and Lynn began attending a local church and found a sense of
significance and belonging there. A few years later their daughter, Paige, was born.
While involved in this church in 1992, Sam met a man from South Africa who invited him to assist in the removal of
land mines in Sudan. A few years later he made his first trip over seas. Sam recalls this as a time when his life truly
began to change for the better. While in Africa, he witnessed the devastation of land mines and warfare when he
came upon one of the countless children who lost his life to the mines. After seeing the body, his heart was forever
lost to the children of Sudan. He made several trips back and forth from the US to Africa removing land mines that
year and spent the next year running a mobile clinic in the area.
Sam knew he wanted to make a permanent difference in Sudan and take active steps to serve the people of the
region. He then had a vision for the orphanage. Fearlessly, he bought 40 acres of undeveloped land in the middle of
the LRA conflict zone. Since that fateful day almost 10 years ago, Sam and his soldiers and staff have built a functional compound and rescued more than 800 children. They currently sustain over 200 at the orphanage and continue to search for more until the day that Sudan’s children are free from the terror of rebel conflict.
Courtesy of http://www.angelsofeastafrica.com and http://www.machinegunpreacher.org
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