By age 11, he was doing dope. At 13, dropping acid. After he turned 15, he was sticking a needle in his arm, shooting cocaine and heroin.
“I went in deeper into selling drugs. I’m not talking about small amounts. I’m talking about large amounts of drugs. I kept going deeper until I became the shotgunner, the hired gun for drug deals,” Sam Childers says in a Next Step film.
Childer’s wife, Lynn, can take the credit for wrangling this rebel into the Kingdom of God. She was an ex-church-kid-turned-stripper who fell in love with the bad boy. They did drugs together. But eventually, Lynn, despairing of pigs’ portions in her prodigal path, returned to Jesus.
This did not sit well with the renegade outlaw. For two years, he fought her to give up her “religion.”
Then Childers got into a shootout in a barroom over a drug deal gone bad.
“I almost lost my life that night,” he recalls in the film. “I don’t have a problem with dying. I got a problem with what I’m going to die for. I knew that if I kept on living the life I was, I was going to die for some stupid reason. On my way home that night, I said, ‘God, I’m done living this life.’”
He showed up for revival services in an Assembly of God church in mid-1992, surrendered his heart and life to Jesus, and was born again.
The pastor prophesied that night that Childers would minister in Africa.
Remarkably, Childers went from biker gang member and barroom brawler to eventually becoming a preacher. When he became a Christian, he didn’t give up the guns. He kept them handy for what would become very dangerous work overseas.
His first mission trip to Uganda was a 5-week stint building roofs in a village where there were landmines. While there, he happened across the legless body of a boy decimated by a landmine placed by Joseph Kony’s insurgency. Kony, a brutal warlord, had been conscripting child soldiers, perpetrating mayhem throughout the region.
When he saw the condition of the boy, Childers smoldered with rage.
“I knew I had to do something,” he declared. “I’m devastated inside. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew I had to do something. I stood over that body, and I said, ‘God, I’ll do whatever it takes.’”
“I returned home. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t hardly eat,” he recalls. “All I could see in my memory was children that were starving.”
In response, he sold his fishing boat, camper and other possessions to raise funds for Africa. He tried to enlist others in the fund-raising.
On a subsequent trip, he felt God tell him to open an orphanage, situated in the hottest thicket of danger. In that Valley of the Shadow of Death, he linked up with Sudan People’s Liberation Army, which granted him his own militia to protect the orphanage — and to battle Kony’s forces, according to the Washington Post.
He became known as the “Machine Gun Preacher” after a documentary on his life revealed him walking the bush of Sudan with an AK-47 slung over his shoulder, deep in the warzone of Kony’s insurgency. Read the rest about the Machine Gun Preacher Sam Childers.