Scoop catches up with the real Machine Gun Preacher to talk about missionary work, war and why he still can’t believe what he’s achieved.
Sam Childers has been in the country little over a week when Scoop catches up with him in Melbourne. The missionary worker is getting through a packed schedule of talks and events in the Eastern States before he heads to his event at the Fly By Night Musicians Club in Fremantle.
But he’s clear that he’s definitely not here on holiday; ‘Everywhere I go, I see some beautiful places around the world, but I’m not there to sightsee. I’m speaking in high schools, universities and prisons, so I’m pretty well booked. I’m not out here to be on vacation, I’m here to inspire and motivate people and share the work we do.’
Sam’s story is inspirational in itself. After a troubled past where he battled drink and drugs, he cleaned himself up, started going to church and turned his life around. But that all changed when he travelled to South Sudan in 1998 as part of a mission to help repair huts damaged in the South Sudanese War. There he was witness to some terrible atrocities that made him determined to find a way to help the people who were suffering there.
‘My first trip into Sudan, I’d come across the body of a child who had died after stepping on a landmine,’ he says. ‘I couldn’t understand how this could happen in the world today, and why we don’t hear about it.
‘I stood over the body and I said, ‘God I’ll do whatever it takes’. I knew what I wanted to do and 21 years later I’m still there. The average person serving with a mission group in the mission field only goes 5 years or less in that field, I’ve been going for 21.
‘A lot of people go to the mission field because they don’t have any commitments and they don’t want to work. I had no reason to go, I have a beautiful family, beautiful home, wonderful business; I had every reason not to go. But instead I dropped everything, walked away and left.’
The sacrifice was clearly worth it, as today Sam’s organisation is responsible for building 7 orphanages across Africa, has drilled dozens of wells and provides over 12,000 meals per day. But it’s not just about handing out help, he says.
‘We work over 380 people a day, and those people are not only on a payroll, they’re making enough money to support their families and to start families. That’s how you change a nation. We often think of missionary work as just going to a Third World country and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. But that doesn’t fix problems. We teach people how to work, we teach people a trade and a skill so they can build their lives.’
Sam will be speaking about his work at Fly By Night on Friday 1 September, so what can the audience expect from the real Machine Gun Preacher? ‘The message I carry is to motivate and inspire people to get up and do something. But not in Africa; work begins in your home town, in Perth, Sydney or Cairns, in the community that you live in.’
Even he, for all his achievements, is still humbled success. ‘I got into this knowing that I could use my past, who I was many years ago, to save children. But to be honest with you I never thought it would ever have got this big. I never even dreamed.’
Sam Childers, The Real Machine Gun Preacher, is speaking at Fly By Night Musicians Club in Fremantle on September 1. Find out more.