By Cam Lucadou-Wells
The works of ‘Machine Gun Preacher’ Sam Childers have been unorthodox, perhaps violent. But his rescuing of countless children is a source of inspiration for local church leaders.
The US-born Childers, who leads the Angels of East Africa aid organisation, is spreading his message in churches and schools in Hallam, Cranbourne and Cranbourne East in August.
His life is undoubtedly chequered, as a former bikie and drug dealer.
He turned his life around in church, building the largest orphanage in South Sudan and leading armed missions to rescue children from a rebel militia.
As he built the orphanage amidst a death zone of murders and kidnappings, he famously slept under a mosquito net with a Bible in one hand and an AK-47 in the other.
Despite the perils, Childers’s orphanage blossomed, feeding and housing more than 1000 children.
He has since been the subject of the Hollywood film Machine Gun Preacher, and received the Mother Teresa Memorial International Award for Social Justice.
His latest tour was held up for 20 months due to Childers’ visa being withheld by Australian immigration authorities.
Among his stops will be Catch the Fire church in Hallam.
Its pastor Daniel Nalliah said people would be inspired by the former “rough and tough guy” who “lays down his life to save children”.
“It’s interesting that some of the churches had to stand up for and defend themselves with arms, otherwise they’d be killed.
“How many times did God protect him and save so many children?”
Mr Nalliah said he’d encountered persecution of Christians in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. He at first was affronted by Indonesian Christians not “turning the other cheek” but arming themselves.
“It’s a different environment.
They were not going to stand back and let them rape their wife and daughter and kill them.”
Joel Cayzer, a senior minister at Turning Point church in Cranbourne, said he hoped Childers’ visit would encourage his church to be more missionary-minded.
He said he’d have to think “very deeply” if he was in Childers’ situation in South Sudan and needed to resort to military tactics to protect others.
“I admire the man for going over and helping the best he can.
‘He does more than pick up machine-guns.”
Mr Cayzer said he was looking forward to hearing Childers’ heart as he spoke of helping “the broken, the hurt and the poor”.
It would be a preview glimpse for Turning Point’s youth mission to Uganda in December.
Childers will speak at Catch the Fire church on 20 August, 6pm, Lighthouse Christian School in Cranbourne on 24 August, 7pm and Turning Point church on 25 August, 6.30pm.