Machine Gun Preacher


It’s been a lifetime since Sam Childers lived and partied in Jessup, Georgia. If his old pals from those wild days come to the Harley ride he’s hosting out of Savannah on Oct. 15 – if they’re even still alive – they will likely not recognize him.

Childers is a different man now, evidenced not just by the graying mustache and the sober, creased eyes, but most noticeably by the self-made brand tattooed across his forearms: Machine Gun Preacher.

The former hired gun for drug deals in cities dotted across the U.S., now wields an AK47 on missions of a whole different nature halfway around the world. A recovering heroin addict, Childers has spearheaded the effort to build seven orphanages and five schools in Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda. He is a high school dropout from rural Pennsylvania who now heads up a nonprofit and a church that helps dispense 7,000 meals a day, six days a week to people in East Africa displaced by a harrowing war that seemingly has no end.

Luckily, neither does Childers’ dedication to the cause.

“I’ve never let anything stop me from the missions field,” he says. “Family. Marriage. Finances. Nothing has ever stopped me from what
I’ve started.”

He isn’t kidding. His marriage to ex-stripper Lynn, whose church-going ways in 1992 led him back to the religion he’d abandoned as a kid, ended in divorce. He once let his house in Pennsylvania slide into foreclosure in favor of sending every cent he could find to his first orphanage project in southern Sudan. He sold his construction business in the States for the same reason. His son died of a heroin overdose, the same drug that gripped Childers’s life for much of his 20s.

But his singular focus has yielded success on multiple fronts. He’s written two books, the first of which, an autobiography titled “Another Man’s War,” was made into a 2011 full-length feature film starring Gerard Butler and Michelle Monaghan. He owns a custom bike shop and a security company, both based in Pennsylvania. And he hawks shot glasses, ball caps, T-shirts and other items branded with the “Machine Gun Preacher” logo on his website.

"I never dreamed there’d be a business, a clothing line, motorcycles, it turned into a brand now,” he says of the ‘Machine Gun Preacher’ moniker, originally given as a slight over his seemingly conflicting use of weapons and occasional violence as part of a Christian-led purpose: Childers purports to carrying an AK47 assault rifle and occasionally fighting alongside the Sudan People’s Liberation Army to rescue children from the grips of the Lord’s Resistance Army, headed by guerrilla leader Joseph Kony. (SPLA officials have denied the claim that Childers has worked with them.)

machine gun preacher

“I look at it as it allows me to make a good honest living to keep doing more work and save more children,” he says of his commercial success. “So yeah, it turned into a brand, but I couldn’t have done that on my own. God’s hands were in it.”

He believes God’s hands have been on every part of his life, starting long before that fateful first trip to Africa in 1998 when he came across the body of a child who’d been torn apart by a landmine.

“I stood over that body and I said ‘God, I’ll do whatever it takes to help these kids,’” he recalls.

Eighteen years later, he seems to be making good on that promise. Donations from his nonprofit and church ministry are being used to fund a six-story building in Ethiopia and a 1,000-acre farm in Uganda that both serve to teach young adults various trades to help them eventually earn a living and sustain themselves.

“I’m excited to see how those projects are going to keep maturing to change young people’s lives,” Childers says.

machine gun preacher

But he also says he’s working to change lives here in the States. In fact, A&E is about to debut a reality show about him and the down-on-their-luck people he helps while speaking and preaching at high schools, churches and corporate events around the world. His motivational speaking engagement calendar is booked two years in advance.

But locals intrigued by his story, or fans of the film based on his life, don’t have to wait that long; Savannah’s Compassion Church and Savannah Harley Davidson will host Childers the weekend of Oct. 15 and 16. It’s an opportunity for people to see and hear a message of redemption that many could find hope in, says Dave Stewart, the church’s global outreach pastor.

“I think there’s a lot of people out there who believe they’ve done things or seen things or been places or committed cardinal sin, and they believe God could never love them. The truth is God can use anybody’s life story to his glory. Nobody’s too far from the love of God,” Stewart says. “The opportunity to bring Sam in here was really exciting – to meet him and to have that story spread, but also because we want to be a church that’s an outreach to anyone and everyone. I think a lot of people who will be attracted to Sam’s story might not be the type who would feel comfortable accepting an invitation to a regular church service on Sunday morning.”

Though he and his ex-wife founded a church of their own, Childers echoes Stewart’s sentiments regarding the kind of preacher he is – and isn’t.

“I’m not a Bible thumper; I’m not gonna tell you what you should do,” he says. “I’m just gonna tell you the changes I made in my life, and what happened.” 

To get the full scoop on the Machine Gun Preacher and his upcoming trip to Savannah, subscribe now or pick up the October/November issue of South Magazine.

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Events Calendar

  • Confident Complexion – Love Your Skin at Bluemercury!

    Feb 13, 2020
    11:00 AM - 6:00 PM

    The beauty of makeup is that you’re in control of when and how you wear it—whether it’s to enhance, conceal or simply not to wear it at all....

  • Savannah Philharmonic Cinephile du joure

    Feb 23, 2020
    5:00 PM - 7:00 PM @ Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Ascension

    The Blue Heron Chamber Ensemble goes to the movies to bring you Chamber works by film composers. Flutist Jeana Melilli, pianist Ben Warsaw and...

  • Oglethorpe Mall Carnival

    Feb 20, 2020
    5:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Oglethorpe Mall

    Experience the sights, sounds and aromas of the electrifying midway with rides and games for all ages, favorite fair food and Victoria Circus...

  • GratiTuesday Program with Liz Massey

    Feb 25, 2020
    12:00 PM - 1:30 PM @ Savannah Power Yoga

    Gratitude! What is it good for? Our general well-being!   Studies now show that the practice of gratitude actually enhances our immune systems....

  • Nature and the Arts: Botanical Art and Illustration

    Feb 25, 2020
    6:00 PM - 8:00 PM @ One Hundred Miles (OHM), Savannah Office

    Nature and the Arts: Botanical Art and Illustration Tuesday, February 25th • 6:00-8:00 pm OHM Savannah Office - 2424 Drayton Street, Savannah,...

  • 2020 Tak Argentinis Valor Awards

    Feb 27, 2020
    6:15 PM - 9:00 PM @ Charles H. Morris Center

    Join us as we honor some of the area’s most courageous first responders at the 2020 Valor Awards. Awards are presented to law enforcement, fire...

  • 2020 Tak Argentinis Valor Awards

    Feb 27, 2020
    6:15 PM - 9:00 PM @ Charles H. Morris Center

    Join us as we honor some of the area’s most courageous first responders at the 2020 Valor Awards. Awards are presented to law enforcement, fire...

  • Second Annual Royal Flush Casino Night

    Feb 27, 2020
    7:00 PM - 11:00 PM @ Savannah Station

    Roto-Rooter Plumbers of Savannah will present its Second Annual Royal Flush Casino Night on Thursday, Feb. 27, benefiting the Coastal Empire...

  • Run Free Trail Run

    Feb 29, 2020
    7:30 AM @ Hunting Island State Park

    Join us for our inaugural Run Free Trail Run on February 29, 2020 at Hunting Island State Park. Choose from the 5k, 5 mile, or 10 mile option - or...

  • ESPN Diabetes 5K Race

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    Join us as we help build awareness, education and support for locals fighting Diabetes through this family friendly Run/walk event. A little...

  • Forsyth Farmer's Market

    Jun 29, 2019
    9:00 AM - 1:00 PM @ South end of Forsyth Park

    The Forsyth Farmers’ Market vendors offer a variety of local goods including seasonal produce, eggs, honey, pastured meat, bread, cheese,...

  • Red Cedar 5k Race

    Feb 29, 2020
    9:00 AM @ Red Cedar Elementary

    The 9th Annual Foxes Trot 5K, a family friendly race, will be held on March 9, 2018. This annual event has now become a student project,...

  • 17 Gun Salute Sporting Clay Benefit Tournament for SD Gunner Fund

    Feb 29, 2020
    12:00 PM - 6:00 PM @ 17 South Rod and Gun Club

    The 17 Gun Salute Sporting Clay Benefit Tournament will be held at 17 South Rod and Gun Club to benefit the SD Gunner Fund. There will food...

  • “Does the Earth Really Orbit the Sun? Thinking Scientifically vs. Believing What We See”

    Mar 04, 2020
    7:00 PM - 8:30 PM @ Savannah Country Day School

    Savannah Country Day School's Faculty Explorations lecture series continues with a lecture by Science Department Chair Adam Weber. About this...

  • Savannah Antiques & Architecture Weekend

    Mar 05, 2020
    6:00 PM - 6:00 PM @ Various Locations, Downtown Savannah, Georgia

    The Annual Savannah Antiques and Architecture Weekend is a three-day series of presentations, tours, appraisals, a glittering gala, and a cocktail...

  • First Fridays in Starland

    Jun 07, 2019
    6:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Starland District

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  • The McCartney Years

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    Hailed by the original Beatles promoter as "The Best on the Scene," The McCartney Years is a period-true, technically stunning and explosive live...

  • Chick Fil A Benefitting Young Life 5K

    Mar 07, 2020
    6:30 AM @ Savannah Harbor Golf Club

    Rise and Run with Chick-fil-A at the 4th annual 5k and 1 mile youth event benefiting Young Life Savannah. Bring out your Cow Costume a make it a...

  • Coastal Home & Garden Show

    Mar 07, 2020
    9:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Crystal Coast Civic Center

    Turn all of your home and garden dreams into reality at the 32nd Annual - Coastal Home & Garden Show. With over 12,000 Sq Ft of exhibits , this is...

  • ELLA Foundation’s Charity Lee to Host Book Signing at The Foundery Coffee Pub on March 7

    Mar 07, 2020
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    WHAT:  Charity Lee Book Signing Event. The ELLA Foundation founder and Executive Director Charity Lee will sign copies of her powerful new memoir...

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Scenes of the South

2020 Southern Coast Heart Ball

The American Heart Association held its annual Southern Coast Heart Ball on Saturday, February 8th at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort and Spa. Guests enjoyed a cocktail reception with a silent auction, dinner and program, and dancing to end the evening. All proceeds went to the Open Your Heart campaign.

4th Annual Hearts for Healing Gala

Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center held its Fourth Annual Hearts for Healing Gala on Friday, February 7th at the Tybee Island Wedding Chapel. Guests enjoyed gourmet dining, dancing, and a silent auction. All proceeds from the auction benefitted the Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center's program for individuals with disabilities.

IDC Benefits the 200 Club of the Coastal Empire

The LeClerc Family owners of IDC (International Diamond Center) in Savannah 349 Mall Blvd held a benefit to support the 200 Club of the Coastal Empire on Thursday, February 6th from 5:30pm to 8:00pm. Guests enjoyed light food and drinks, while bidding on several silent auction items, including autographed footballs and helmets donated by Anthony Lanier II.

Royce Learning Center Annual Low Country Boil & Oyster Roast

The Royce Learning Center held their annual low country boil and oyster roast on Saturday, February 1st. Guests enjoyed mingling over the seafood selection. Royce Learning Center meets the needs of children and adults with learning differences and literacy needs through its unique programs.

Dining in the Dark 2020

The Savannah Center for Blind and Low Vision held its annual Dining in the Dark event on Saturday, January 18th at the Embassy Suites Downtown Savannah. Guests were served a four-course meal in complete darkness by the Savannah Metro's SWAT team. Dining in the Dark serves to raise awareness about vision loss.

January Brews for a Cause

South magazine in collaboration with Southern Eagle Distributing hosted their monthly Brews for a Cause on Thursday, January 16th at the Savannah Taphouse in a successful effort to raise money and awareness for the Savannah Center for Blind and Low Vision. The night featured delicious appetizers by Savannah Taphouse and a range of flavored Bud Light Seltzers provided by Southern Eagle. These events provide good food, fun entertainment, refreshing drinks and most importantly – raise money for a great cause! Be sure to be on the lookout for our next Brews in February!

Ford Plantation's Grand Opening & Ribbon Cutting for Silk Hope

The Ford Plantation celebrated the completion of its two new Silk Hope model homes on January 10, 2020. The Silk Hope project is limited to 53 homes, on beautiful lots of buyers’ choosing amongst old oaks and a Lowcountry marsh setting. This member-backed project is the first new for sale residential development at The Ford Plantation in more than fifteen years and represents the final phase of home development to be offered. The Silk Hope community is the product of a collaboration of some of the world’s top residential architects and landscape designers and has been modeled to capture tranquil European village and Lowcountry architecture.

Mat Best Signs his New Best-seller at Nine Line

Veteran, entrepreneur and author Mat Best met fans and signed copies of his new book “Thank you for my Service” Thursday Dec. 12 at Nine Line Apparel. Best’s best-selling authorial debut chronicles his service as a U.S. Army Ranger. Best's Black Rifle Coffee co., partnered with Nine Line Apparel, has shops on River st. and off route 95 on Ft. Argyle rd.

Victory Antiques and Engel & Völkers' Holiday Party

Dickey Mopper and his team at Engel and Völkers celebrated the season at their annual holiday party on Wednesday Dec. 11, with a special appearance from the jolly fellow himself, Santa Claus. Mopper and company, celebrating alongside the crew of Victory Antiques, showed off the newest Engel and Völkers office at 1650 East Victory Dr. in Savannah.

Good Times Jazz Bar & Restaurant's 2nd Anniversary Celebration feat. Lady Leah

Jazz lovers celebrated Good Times Jazz bar's second anniversary on Nov. 8 and 9 featuring jazz vocalist Lady Leah and the culinary stylings of Good Times' chef Joe Randall, the dean of southern cuisine. In 2017 Randall teamed with Danielle and Stephen T. Moore to create one of the city's smoothest spots, a confluence of culture and taste fit for the soul of Savannah.