Everyday he lives not knowing if he will see the next sunrise. He is not an outlaw or a man with a terminal disease. He is a machine gun toting pastor in the middle of nowhere in Africa on a dangerous mission to save the children of Sudan from the unconscionable horrors carried out by an insane local rebel group.
Sam Childers was once a heroin addict who would not even flinch putting a knife to someone’s neck. Now he uses his tough attitude and fearless fighting skills to defend helpless children being mutilated, raped, and forced to be child soldiers by the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Childers recently spoke to The Christian Post about his inspiring personal story and his new book Another Man’s War: The True Story of One Man’s Battle to Save Children in the Sudan.
CP: Were you shocked or frightened the first time you witnessed a savage mutilation by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)? What went through your mind? Did it cross your mind to return to safety in the U.S. and forget about the violence in Sudan?
Childers: No, none of that ever bothered me that way. I’ve been around fighting all my life so no, it never scared me like that.
CP: It’s understandable that most Christians feel uncomfortable supporting violence. How do you explain the work of your ministry in terms of the many machine guns, ammo and other weapons employed by the staff? How do you explain a pastor toting a machine gun that is enthusiastic about killing LRA soldiers?
Childers: Well, I don’t condone violence at all. So that is one thing. I don’t believe in violence but at the same time I don’t believe that children should be raped, murdered, or cut up. I would have to ask the American people that you take a person that cuts up a child, or kill a child, or rape a child, if you catch a person doing that do you think that person would just stop if you just say stop? Or do you think you are going to have to fight that person? You would definitely need to fight that person or else they are going to kill you.
I look at it as a self-defense and I look at it as I’m helping God’s children. I’m not a person out to murder. It’s not that I like hurting anybody. But at the same time these people need to be stopped.
As far as a pastor with a gun, what would you call David? What would you call all the prophets in the Bible that were soldiers? A lot of people want to say that’s in the Old Testament. Well, if we are not supposed to go by the Old Testament then why do we keep reading it? And what did Jesus mean when he told his disciples when he sent them out that he doesn’t want them to take an extra coat, an extra traveler’s bag, but now I’m telling you to take an extra pair of sandals, and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. What was that all about?
CP: Can you share how your faith has sustained you all these years in Africa? What is the biggest lesson about faith and God you have learned during your time saving children and fighting the LRA?
Childers: The biggest thing with my faith in Africa is it seems that everybody, Christians included, always worry about dying. I mean I go to hospitals and I know people that have been Christians for 10 years, 20 years, even for 30 years, but yet they are lying in the hospital bed on their death bed dying and scared to death to die.
I think the faith that Christ has given me over the years is that I don’t have the fear of dying. I mean I have been in the situation many, many times and I don’t think about it. So I believe when we truly get the faith we need, we know without a shadow of a doubt that the enemy cannot kill us, and the only thing that could happen is that we go from this world into the kingdom.
CP: In the book, you revealed that you were a big time drug user and alcohol abuser as well as a drug dealer. How did you kick your addictions, especially since you started at such a young age? What is the number one factor you credit that gave you the strength to overcome your addictions?
Childers: It would have to be God because I never had to go to rehab. I never had to go to get help to stop doing heroin or cocaine. I can’t give any man credit for that except God.
CP: How are your wife and daughter involved in the ministry? Is it getting easier for them to deal with you being absent for long periods of time and knowing you could die any day?
Childers: My daughter, it was really hard on her growing up. I mean for the past 12 years I was never around. But she has seen the sacrifices that I have made over those years and she knew it was for a good cause and when she graduated she came to me. I thought she wanted to go somewhere for college, but with tears in her eyes she said I want to help you run the non-profit. So my daughter has been working for us now going on three years and she does a lot of the bookwork for our non-profit.
And in terms of my wife, there are always times that I leave and she is kind of on ends. But she is in God’s will and she knows I’m in God’s will.
CP: What is the biggest need the ministry has right now?
Childers: You know, every thing in ministry cost money and I never realized that years ago. You can’t do anything unless you have the finances to do it. We are actually [distributing] 2,400 meals a day counting our feeding programs in Uganda and Sudan. We have a primary school, nursery school, we have a church we support in Uganda, a church we support in Sudan. So the biggest need we have is going to be finances because it cost a lot of money to run all that.
Every month can vary, but we are spending close to $30,000 per month in the field in Africa.
CP: What is the biggest frustration you have with the situation involving the LRA?
Childers: You know, it is not just the LRA but it’s the rebel groups all together. I believe that there are other rebel groups out there that might be working with their own intention doing the same thing just like the janjaweed. I mean there have been rumors that the LRA and the janjaweed are teaming up with one another. So I think the biggest frustration is just to keep raising funds to end up trying to save more children.
One thing I wanted to say is over the years we have never used ministry money to buy weapons or ammo. We never did anything like that.
CP: Can you talk about your upcoming, very risky plan to go deeper into the LRA stronghold?
Childers: I can’t really talk about that any further because that could jeopardize what I’m getting ready to do.
CP: Why did you title your book Another Man’s War?
Childers: You know, all my life it seemed like I’m a fighter and it seemed like I was always fighting a war for someone. Like even in high school, when I got out of school, it always seemed like I was fighting for somebody else. There was always the bully in school. It just seemed like every time I got in a fight it was for someone else.
Now I’m fighting for the children in Sudan.
CP: Is there anything else you wanted to add?
Childers: I think the biggest thing people need to know is it doesn’t matter how far you went over the line. It doesn’t matter what you used to do. It doesn’t matter who you used to be. The only thing that matters is what you can do to change what is going to happen in the morning. I mean, if I can change anybody can change. And I believe that every bad person out there wants to be good. It is just getting the strength to say I am not going to do this any longer, I’m changing. I believe that God can use every person out there if they want to change.
On the Web: www.machinegunpreacher.org