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Hollywood’s Junkie Turned Preacher

After I met Sam Childers, a criminal turned savior for kids in Sudan, I had to make a movie. By Marc Forster

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Machine Gun Preacher

A few months later, Jason sent me the first draft, and after reading it, I decided to make Machine Gun Preacher. When we started discussing financing, Gary Safady (who optioned Sam's life story and paid Jason to write the script) offered to finance my trip to Pennsylvania and the Sudan to spend some more time with Sam, his family, and all the kids at his orphanage.

I arrived at Sam's Pennsylvania home in the evening. It was in late November and there was a thick carpet of snow covering the ground. As we walked toward the A-frame house, the reflection of the moonlight cast a beautiful and almost unearthly light around everything in sight.

His family warmly invited our group inside. They prepared some hearty food for us and I began to take in the stories of the Sudan, a distant and conflicted world that was a stark contrast from their safe and cozy home.

Shortly after dinner, Sam asked us if we wanted to go outside and shoot some guns. As it was nighttime, I was a little hesitant (to say the least) to go out and shoot into the darkness, but he insisted. So out into the darkness we went—Sam was elated. We were all about to bond.

We walked over to the shed next to the house where he had some of his many weapons stored. He pulled them out handed me an Uzi. I had never shot an Uzi before and I asked where the safety was. He smiled and said I shouldn't worry about it because the safety wasn't on. The thought that all of us suddenly were walking around with no safety on our weapons didn't exactly make me feel calm.

We stopped a little further up the hill where Sam had installed his own shooting range with about a dozen targets and a wood shed with some cutouts in it. Without further ado, he fired into the dark with the moonlight being our only source of light. The empty bullets ricocheted back at us, which wasn't the most comfortable feeling for me, but Sam looked totally in his element.

Over the next few days we witnessed Sam preaching, spending time with his family, and working out of his office down the road from his home.

This is where Paige, Lynn, and Sam run their organization, Angels from East Africa, a nonprofit which houses, feeds, and educates the children of the orphanage that Sam founded in the Sudan.

The rest of the time we spent visiting Sam’s old haunts. He showed us places from his checkered past: biker bars where drug deals went sour, and even a spot where he, himself, busted a drug dealer and threw him out of town.

Throughout my entire visit, my constant quandary was this: Sam Childers has had such a rich and varied life that it would be hard to narrow down all his stories to create a cohesive narrative.

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