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'Machine Gun Preacher': African ministry 'ended up being my life'

Cary Ashby • Jun 12, 2018 at 5:00 PM

MONROEVILLE — The man nicknamed the “Machine Gun Preacher” was in the village of Monroeville.

Sam Childers was at the open house Saturday for Foot Soldier Ministry, a non-profit organization, in downtown Monroeville.

Ministry founder Josh Roeder, of Norwalk, said the plan is to start a non-profit gym called Grindstone Gym, hold Bible studies and more at the former Howard Leis Furniture building, 13 S. Main St.

“We are starting a non-profit gym to help generate money for the less fortunate and we want to sponsor Special Olympics athletes. That’s the base of it, but we also want to help spread the good word of Jesus Christ to people, too, in an unorthodox method,” said the 2002 Monroeville High School graduate.

Roeder met Childers at FaithFest a few years ago. The mission of FaithFest, according to its website, is using worship music in a variety of genres, testimonies and preaching to “unite believers, save the lost, bring a community together and spark a revival that will change our area and beyond.”

When Roeder shared his local ministry plans with Childers, the pastor recommended Roeder get a building and also told him he wanted to be one of the first people to speak there.

“He (Roeder) had some really good ideas of what he wanted to do. He then told me wanted to do something inside of his community,” Childers said.

Childers is from Central City, Pa., and works in three countries in Africa.

“I have been working in Africa for the past 23 years now. Our work in Africa has orphanages; we’ve built schools. It really got big,” he said. “We work with over 440 people now. We feed like 12,000 meals a day. We’ve drilled over 40 wells. The work is really big in Africa.”

Roeder had seen a movie based on Childers’ life that inspired him. The 2011 film, “Machine Gun Preacher,” starred Gerard Butler as Childers. 

“You know, there has never been a movie that has been done out of Hollywood of someone’s life that was very accurate. Now the movie was not very accurate,” Childers said. “I tell people if you want to know the truth, buy my book because that’s what I sold to Hollywood.”

A sequel is in the works.

“(It) might be in production in the next year-and-a-half. That is more accurate because I hold the script to Part 2,” Childers said.

He got the nickname “Machine Gun Preacher” while he was on a mission trip in Africa.

“I went into Sudan, Africa 23 years ago and got in the middle of a civil war. I was there on a mission trip. We got in a village that was raided and everyone (who) was with me ran. People starting running and hiding and everything, but I didn’t run; I chose to pick up a gun and started saving people. It was all done by warlords,” Childers said.

“I don’t think I done anything that any of these guys here tonight wouldn’t have done. The only thing that I did that most of these people wouldn’t have done was I stayed (in Africa) and I still live there,” he added. “It ended up being my life.”

Childers said he likes that Roeder’s ministry is helping people who can’t help themselves and “single moms who are struggling” so they “can move on with life.”

Having grown up in a small Pennsylvania town — which he said is “a lot smaller” than Monroeville, Childers said young people often think that’s the kind of life they will live.

“It’s not true; you can be whatever you want to be is what I tell young people,” he said. “You know, I had all the odds tied up against me. I got tied up in drugs when I was a young kid (and) ended up selling drugs.

“I have no education at all. I had every reason to sit back and say, ‘Well, I’ll never be nothing,’ but I got a taste for helping people and I started changing my life.”

At age 56, Childers owns more than 10 businesses. Over the last 10 to 12 years, he said he has had more than $30 million “hit my hands,” but instead of staying home, he chose to spend that money to feed people and build schools.

“My life proves that you can beat all the odds when the odds are against you. It’s just you gotta be willing to stand up and work,” the pastor said.

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