The Rev. Sam Childers, pastor of Shekinah Fellowship in Reels Corner, hopes the movie about his life inspires people to do good in their own hometowns.
“I was a scum-bucket, the lowest person on earth,” Childers said in a telephone interview from Africa. He was on his way to the Sudan and is going to Somalia next week. “If God can use me, think what he can do for you.”
Thirty years ago during the worst part of his life, Childers was a drug dealer and a hired gun for drug dealers.
“One day I just woke up and knew the drugs were going to kill me,” he said. “I found God.”
He and his wife, Lynn, started a church in Clear Spring, Md., in 1995. It was on his first trip in 1998 to the Sudan that he received his calling to save children from war. He started the orphanage Angels of East Africa for abused would-be recruits of the Lord’s Resistance Army. His book “Another Man’s War: The True Story of One Man’s Battle to Save Children in the Sudan” was published in 2009. His use of violence makes his story controversial.
“Relatives said Sam, you didn’t have to tell everything,” he said. “I feel we can’t do something big if we let the little things in our closet hold us back.”
The movie based on his book, “Machine Gun Preacher,” opens Sept. 23, according to Relativity Media, which is marketing and distributing the movie. Gerard Butler stars as Childers and Michelle Monaghan plays Lynn Childers.
Marc Forster directed “Machine Gun Preacher.” It was filmed in Detroit and Africa. Jason Keller wrote the screenplay.
“Let’s be real, it doesn’t matter what I think about Gerard Butler playing me. Gerard Butler is one of the top 10 actors in the U.S.,” Childers said. “I’m a hillbilly from Pennsylvania. If he plays my part as well as he played in “Law Abiding Citizen,” it will be a good movie.”
In “Law Abiding Citizen” Butler played a man whose wife and daughter were murdered.
“This is a powerful story, and we feel strongly that it is one audiences need to see,” Relativity’s president of worldwide production, Tucker Tooley, said in a statement on the company’s website. “Forster once again proves that he is among the best directors of our time and Butler delivers a career-defining performance bolstered by a rock solid supporting cast.”
Childers built the motorcycles used in the movie. He hasn’t seen the movie, but an August preview is planned for him, his family and friends. Childers is being booked for a media tour across the U.S.
“It’s funny, when I wrote the book, I felt strange, then I got email from people around the world who said the book changed their lives,” Childers said. “I hope the movie does the same thing. You don’t have to go around the world to save children. You can do something in your own hometown.”
Not all of his work is in Africa. He spends five months a year on tour speaking about the dangers of drugs and alcohol at high schools, colleges, churches and prisons.
“If you go into a high school dressed up, the kids won’t listen,” he said. “I go in on my motorcycle. I have a big rig at my shop on Route 30, the size of a tractor-trailer, and I bring in choppers and a stereo system. The last thing the kids think I’ll talk about is drugs and alcohol.”
Childers’ second book, “Living on the Edge,” is not going to be published for eight to 12 months so as not to conflict with the movie. He has an Angels of East Africa office along Route 30 about a half-mile from Reels Corner. His motorcycle shop is in the same location and he has a motorcycle that he built for Butler on display.
“I want to thank everybody in our area for backing me,” Childers said. “I took eight tractor-trailer loads of food and supplies to people after Katrina that was donated by people in our area who support our work. I didn’t realize how many people there support our work."