Who is Sam Childers?

This page combines a series of five blog posts I wrote on Sam Childers (starting with this post) into one long narrative.

UPDATES (9/24/2011): This post doesn’t have all the most recent information — for updates see my follow-up posts, “More on Rev. Sam Childers,” “How Sam Childers endangers humanitarians everywhere,” and “Machine gun roundup: the story gets worse.” Also, my piece “Machine Gun Menace” in Foreign Policy summarizes much of what I wrote here but extends the argument against vigilante humanitarianism, and Christianity Today explores allegations of neglect at Childers’ orphanage.

He goes by many names, Reverend Sam and the “Machine Gun Preacher” amongst them. If you haven’t heard much from Sam Childers, you will soon. To date he’s been featured in a few mainstream publications, but most of his exposure has come from forays into Christian media outlets and cross-country speaking tours of churches. In 2009 he published his memoir, Another Man’s War. But Childers is about to become much better known: his life story is being made into a movie titled Machine Gun Preacher. It hits the big screen this September, starring Gerard Butler (300) and directed by Oscar-nominated director Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Quantum of Solace).

Why should you care? If you’re concerned about Africa (especially the newly independent South Sudan), neutrality and humanitarianism, or how small charities sometimes make it big on dubious stories, Childers is a scary character. By his own admission Sam Childers is a Christian and a savior to hundreds of children, as well as a small-time arms-dealer and a killer. And, as far as I can tell, he’s a self-aggrandizing liar who chronically exaggerates his own stories and has been denounced by many, including the rebel group of which he claimed to be a commander.

It’s hard to get to the bottom of much of Childers’ story. I first heard of him months ago and have been scouring the web, but the trail is still pretty thin. On the on hand there’s a ton of copy written about him – but almost all of it originates with Childers’ own storytelling. I think there are a number of good reasons we should be skeptical.

The short version of his coming-to-the-big-screen-soon story is this: Childers used to be a drug-dealing gang member who loved motorcycles almost as much as he craved women, drugs, and violence – especially violence. He fell in love with his wife after they met through a drug deal, and she convinced him to turn his life around. Sam found Jesus, got involved with the church, and went to Africa. There he encountered the Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army and it use of child soldiers. He found his calling leading armed rescue missions to free enslaved children in northern Uganda and southern Sudan. Now that his life story is being made into a movie — a goal Childers has long sought — his ministry will only grow stronger and save more children.

His website, MachineGunPreacher.org, makes no apologies about his violent tactics. Here’s one of the banners that adorns the front page:

What you see now is a slickly-polished presentation, but it hasn’t always been that way. Childers’ story has grown over time, apparently aided by a PR firm, sympathetic media, and a quest to be ever more sensational. My gut reaction is that he’s making much of it up – and I’ll present evidence that shows at least some of his claims are likely falsehoods. We can choose to believe that Childers’ claims are true, in which case he is dangerous, or that they’re false and he’s untrustworthy. The reality is probably that he’s a bit of both.

Crush the wicked where they stand

Some of Childers’ most outrageous claims are his most recent. An April 2010 Vanity Fair profile, “Get Kony” by Ian Urbina – worth reading in full – focused on Childers’ personal quest to kill Joseph Kony. Kony is, of course, a really bad guy. He’s the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a guerilla group in northern Uganda known for its use of child soldiers. Childers claims to be hunting him. Urbina’s story doesn’t present Childers as particularly good at hunting or much closer to catching Kony than any of the others who are out for his head. But the beginning gives you a taste of Childers’ character:

It’s two a.m., and we’re barreling down a deeply pocked dirt road in Southern Sudan. In the cool of night, the temperature is nearly 100 degrees. Sam Childers, 46, is behind the wheel of a chrome-tinted Mitsubishi truck. Christian rock blares on the speakers. He has a Bible on the dash and a shotgun that he calls his “widow-maker” leaning against his left knee. His top sergeant, Santino Deng, 34, a Dinka tribesman with an anthracite complexion and radiant black eyes, sits in the passenger seat, an AK-47 across his lap.

In time, he liquidated his construction business, sold his pit bulls, auctioned his antique-gun collection, and mortgaged his home to help pay for regular trips to Sudan, where he began spending most of his time. He became obsessed with the fate of the thousands of children who have lost their parents to the fighting. In due course he would set up an orphanage in Sudan. But it was Joseph Kony who grabbed his attention. “I found God in 1992,” Childers says, in what is by now a ritual formulation. “I found Satan in 1998.” He has vowed to track Kony down and, in biblical fashion, to smite him.

From there the story gets more elaborate. According to Vanity Fair, Childers claims to be feeding and supplying the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), a southern Sudanese armed group whose political wing has more recently become a major component of independent South Sudan’s government. Childers said that he “made his home in Uganda available to the rebels for a radio-relay station.” He also claims to have been present when the SPLA captured “an L.R.A. soldier believed to be part of Kony’s inner circle. Childers wanted to sedate the man and surgically implant a transmitter so he could be tracked when he returned to the base camp. An S.P.L.A. commander overruled Childers and dealt with the man the old-fashioned way—he executed him.”

No word on whether Childers reported this to anyone before the interview; executing prisoners is a war crime.

God’s RPG stockpile?

The profile continues, describing how a group of soldiers arrive to discuss the hunt for Kony. They ask to see inside his church:

The building, with a high sheet-metal roof and glassless windows, displays no religious markings. Inside, stacked floor to ceiling, sit hundreds of oblong olive-green crates. They contain rocket-propelled grenade launchers, AK-47s, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. The room is dusty, and birds flutter in the rafters. Childers says he supplies mostly the S.P.L.A., and also stores some of its arms. He adds that he has sold weapons to factions in Rwanda and Congo, but declines to specify which ones.

Childers said he gets his weapons from Russians, but only legally. He eventually got frustrated with Urbina’s questions about his arms dealing, but he already admitted a lot. Childers is stockpiling arms, including heavy weapons like RPGs that seem excessive for the needs of an orphanage’s self-protection. He’s storing these weapons in a church at his orphanage (which presumably might make it a target) and he sells weapons to the SPLA, which is not a squeaky clean group. While better than the LRA, the SPLA also has been known to use child soldiers during the period Childers sold them arms. Worse is Childers’ mention of selling weapons to “factions in Rwanda and Congo,” all of which are involved in a convoluted series of conflicts in which all parties have committed terrible crimes. If Childers is truly trying to bring an end to conflict in the region, he should start by recognizing that pumping more small arms into the area isn’t going to help.

In addition to selling arms, Childers claims that his “rescue missions” have also led to his personal engagement in combat. When asked how many LRA members he personally killed, “[Childers] reluctantly admits to ‘more than 10.’” In another long profile – from April 9, 2011 in The Times of London (which I unfortunately can’t find online) Childers appears to say he’s only killed in self-defense, though it’s hard to deem armed expeditions to find the LRA “self-defense.” That profile also emphasizes the primacy of Childers’ hunt for Kony. It also describes him showing off the guns he keeps in his bedroom at the orphanage:

He hauls an Uzi machine pistol out of one [plastic crate] and clicks in a 32-round magazine. From another comes a longbarrelled Magnum revolver, and from under his narrow metal-framed bed comes a case containing a Mossberg bolt-action sniper rifle and a pump-action shotgun. Another box beneath the bed is full of hand grenades.

If you’re not convinced already that his tactics are shortsighted and part of the problem, rather than a solution, you might be wondering if – just maybe – Childers knows the local situation so well that he was able to pick the “right” side in the conflict. Other stories indicate that Childers is impatient and interacts poorly with the Sudanese people. Urbina’s profile continues (emphasis added):

A little later we pull to the side of the road for firewood to bring back to the orphanage. A woman and her husband stand there with a listless baby who is gravely ill from parasites and malaria. Childers offers to take the woman and child to the hospital in Nimule. The father shyly declines, saying he plans to take her to a different clinic tomorrow. A look of rage flashes in Childers’s eyes. “I ought to beat you right here, you know that?” he yells. “What kind of father are you? You are not serious about your children.” Childers points to a nearby grave, where the family has already buried an infant. “What is wrong with you?” Childers by now is surrounded by several of his soldiers, guns on their shoulders. He steps toward the man. “I should really beat you,” he repeats. Terrified, the father gives in. We take mother and child to the hospital.

The child recovers; Childers almost certainly saved its life. But the bullying lingers in memory long afterward. I remember once asking Childers whether any vil­lagers had ever declined his offer to take their children, or whether he had ever taken any against their will. He erupted angrily: “You know what? I don’t have time to be distracted by this sort of interrogation.”

This is hardly reassuring. While Childers doesn’t answer Urbina’s questions about taking children against their will (or detailed questions about his arms dealing), it’s clear that his own ambitions feed off of media coverage. How else did Urbina come to profile him? Self-aggrandizing is a good word for it. Urbina describes Childers as “droning on about the feature film that he hopes will be made about his life, a proj­ect advanced by a Hollywood agent.” Who does that?

To be lowly in spirit

Childers has never been a modest man. More from Urbina’s profile of him:

[Childers] compares himself to the biblical figure Ishmael, whose wild spirit, he says, drove women into transports of desire. “It was insane. I would have five girls in a single night. I mean, seriously, I could have had your mother if I had wanted her.” He glares at me, a speck of food stuck in his mustache, as if I don’t believe him. More than the drugs and sex, it was the violence that fed Childers.

That is the image the Reverend Sam chooses to project. He’s a violent man on a mission, and God is on his side. To some that message may be horrifying, but he’s obviously found a niche. Unfortunately there is a strain of American Christianity that eats this up. It’s quite different from the church I grew up in, which was historically pacifist (but has lately strayed towards mainstream Republican militarism). I hope most Christians will recoil in horror when they hear what Childers does in the name of God, but not everyone will. Those groups will latch onto Childers’ violent streak will just pour more money into his work.

The story could end there – with Childers as some bizarre mash-up of Rambo and missionary – except that it gets stranger. Childers claims have grown more grandiose with time, and/or he’s tailored them to fit different audiences to avoid mentioning important parts of his work that might be relevant to donors.

Childers’ organization is now called Angels of East Africa. If you go to their website,www.AngelsofEastAfrica.com, you get redirected to MachineGunPreacher.org. But, if you go to any other page on the website the content is still there, giving you a taste of how the site looked before it got the fancy (and I imagine expensive) Machine Gun Preacher makeover. The original Angels of East Africa “About” page is here. The history page has more. Much of the story is the same, but there are glaring omissions: no mention of being involved with the SPLA. Despite a description of Kony, there’s no indication that Childers was trying to hunt him down. It’s all much simpler — just rescuing orphans and building the orphanage.

Angels of East Africa is also associated with a Christian ministry called Boyers’ Pond / World Missions New Sudan. Their website (www.boyerspond.com) also now redirects to MachineGunPreacher.org. But the original webpages behind the main page are still there, including descriptions of rescue missions January 2007 (including an ambush) and May 2007. Again, there’s no mention of fighting with the SPLA or tracking down Kony. Incredibly, Childers does note in the January 2007 report that as “many times happens, several were not healthy enough to make the trip and we had to leave them behind.”

You shall not swear falsely

All of this made me think: when and where did Childers first claim involvement with the SPLA? As late as 2007 he wasn’t making those claims in material clearly written by him, even in places you’d expect him to do so. After some searching, the earliest instance of his more outrageous claims regarding active involvement in combat and interactions with the SPLA didn’t come from Childers. It came from this 2005 article written by Maria Sliwa (emphasis added):

With a physique like Jean Claude Van Damme, 42-year-old Sam Childers has hunted alligators in the US and has smacked down miscreants in Africa. This titan, who could easily pass for Hulk Hogan’s younger brother, sold hard drugs in the late 70s and early 80s and was a rider with the Outlaws, a motorcycle gang in Florida. He has since put his notorious ways behind him and now uses his muscular prowess to save lives in Sudan and Uganda.

On a recent morning, Sam surveyed the orphanage he built on the 36 acres of bush land he cleared four years ago in Nimule, South Sudan. His orphanage is a safe haven for children who are captured out of, or are lucky enough to escape from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel paramilitary group operating in Uganda and Sudan, which has been designated a terrorist group by the US State Department. Though Sam’s gut is overstocked with intestinal fortitude, the terror that rages around his orphanage is so frightening that just thinking about it can send a cold shiver of electric sparks up and down his sturdy spine.

Sam is a pastor and is the only white commander in the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), another rebel group, which, like the LRA has troops in Sudan and Uganda.

Maybe Childers has been telling a consistent story all along in private, but this is (as far as I can tell) the first public mention of his work with the SPLA. And this narrative took over the others until it became the hyperbolic Sam we hear from today. So who is Maria Sliwa? Though she didn’t disclose it in writing her article, Sliwa runs a PR firm, and Childers is her client (Updated Correction: Maria Sliwa left a comment on this post saying that she did not begin representing Childers until 2008. I had assumed so because a) the page that has her contact info appeared to be much older, judging by the web design, and b) it reads more like a PR piece than objective journalism. She later clarified that she does not currently represent Childers.) An old page on the Boyers’ Pond site lists her as his press contact. Her website (and an older version) lists media appearances she’s arranged for clients, and her ability to push a story is quite impressive.

Maria Sliwa’s clients include several people connected to modern-day slavery and Sudan (such asSimon Deng) but also many conservative figures. One is Joseph Farah – founder of World Net Daily and one of the leading proponents of Birtherism (the “birther czar”). Farah is known to play fast and loose with the facts, to say the least, so Sliwa’s work promoting him should not inspire us to have confidence in her devotion to the truth.

So how do we know that Childers isn’t telling the truth? His SPLA buddies said so. After claiming that he was the only white SPLA commander, that he let them use his house as a radio base, and that he recruited SPLA troops as his own personal child-rescuing mercenary outfit, in October 2010 the SPLA put out a press release (through long-time Sudan hand John Ashworth). It reads:

Sam Childers is not associated with the SPLA

This is to inform all who are concerned that Sam Childers is not associated with the SPLA. Sam is alleged to be busy now collecting money in the USA using the name of the SPLA. He went to the level of alleging that he is “paying  his militia force – a platoon of seasoned fighters recruited from the SPLA – and for his effort, he says, the Government of Southern Sudan has named him an honorary commander, the only white man to achieve that distinction”.

The SPLA does not know Sam Childers. SPLA cannot release its soldiers for militia purposes as that is not allowed by the SPLA Act of 2009. If the allegation is true, then the SPLA is appealing to those who are concerned to take legal measures against Sam for the misusing the name of an organization which is not associated with him.

Thanks. Signed: Lt. Gen. Kuol Deim Kuol, SPLA Spokesman

A rather inconvenient truth. This press release was actually the first I had heard of Childers, as the blogger Roving Bandit (formerly of Sudan) highlighted both Childers’ story and the SPLA’s press release.

Post-press release I believe the most sympathetic possible view of Childers is that he started an orphanage and rescued some children… but maybe he’s prone to exaggerating his feats and the means by which he accomplishes them. Maybe Maria Sliwa got carried away in promoting him writing about him and exaggerated his SPLA claims and violent tactics. But even if those stories originated with her (who can ever know?) (Update: see previous note re: Sliwa’s work as his publicist not beginning at the time of her article) [Now] Childers has now fully claimed them as his own. You can read a few excerpts of his memoir through Google Books. In it he claims:

I had SPLA soldiers with me from the first time I went to Africa. Once they realized I was as committed to helping the people of Sudan as they were, they accepted me as their friend and fellow soldier. When I saw that they didn’t have the equipment and supplied they needed in the field, I started bringing them gifts like binoculars, tents, and sleeping bags.

I started hiring the SPLA for security work, and because we worked so close together, I became an SPLA soldier myself. They saw that my heart was to make a difference in the lives of their people, so they started calling me a commander. I carried truckloads of food, salt, sugar, blankets, and other supplies to the front for soldiers, as well as preaching to them and encouraging them in battle.

In his book Childers also claims to have been present during the negotiation of the CPA (which brought Sudan’s civil war to a close). By his own telling he was the only one at the table concerned with the humanitarian needs of the Sudanese people, which didn’t make people happy: “U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell had some representatives at the talks, and I heard they got upset with me. One of them asked somebody else, ‘Who the hell is this white guy?’”

So who the hell is Sam Childers? He wants you to believe he’s working to resolve South Sudan’s problems, but to me he seems dangerously unstable. Here’s a man with a temper, selling arms to groups he likely doesn’t understand, and promoting himself with dubious claims. I certainly won’t donate. But like it or not, the Machine Gun Preacher movie is coming soon. USA Today has a brief preview, and more is sure to come. In the meantime Childers has been touring the country’s churches in a custom-painted Machine Gun Preacher truck and raising money through the Machine Gun Preacher store.

Those who follow the aid and philanthropy world may find all of this a bit reminiscent of the Greg Mortenson scandal. The Mortenson scandal erupted in part because people who were suspicious about exaggerations in Mortenson’s story kept quiet for much too long. I imagine there are many people who have met Childers throughout the years who feel the same. The United States has thousands of tiny charities – many of them with a religious mission – that never make it big. Mortenson’s claims were finally scrutinized when his books became bestsellers, but by that time his organization had already raised millions of dollars. I’m worried that Sam Childers is about to see the same type of fame: a massive increase in donations driven by his book, and especially by the Machine Gun Preacher movie.

To be fair, I see no indication that Childers has mishandled money as Mortenson apparently did. You can look up the tax records for “Boyers Pond – Shekinah Fellowship – Angels of East Africa Inc” using their tax number, EIN 251841332. (See the note at the end of this series for more on the finances.) But the lack of accountability is troubling. If the organization has a board it’s not listed publicly. The main employees of the charity appear to be Childers, his wife, and their daughter. That may be standard issue for smaller charities, but with revenues approaching $1 million annually – and certain to increase after the movie is released – it should be cause for some concern.

In the April 2011 Times of London profile (not online), Childers said this:

“I tell you this – and I believe the day is coming soon – if I had the money, I could have Joseph Kony’s head. I could bring him down. And I will have the money, soon.” […]

… Childers insists the film will be a hit: “It’s going to do unbelievable well.” He hopes it will make him famous, so he can raise more funds for his manhunt and his orphanage.

My hope is that more people will think critically about what the “Machine Gun Preacher” is advocating and doing in Sudan, and choose to give to other organizations instead. There are plenty of reasons to doubt his work:

  1. Violence. By his own claims Childers has personally killed people – in the double digits. He is not a man of peace, and it’s hard to see how his claimed tactics bring the situation closer to that. Even if he were the best option for getting Kony (highly doubtful), it doesn’t seem to me that the use of child soldiers in the region would disappear with Kony’s demise. Also, since many of Kony’s troops are themselves soldiers, how does Childers avoid killing them?
  2. Weapons. Again by his own claims, Childers has sold weapons to armed groups in Sudan, Rwanda, and the Congo. There are no happy-go-lucky bands of nice Christian warriors in the area; every group I’ve read about has been accused of terrible crimes at some point. Feeding more weapons into the conflict will only make things worse, and end up hurting the children Childers purports to help. His solutions are woefully shortsighted.
  3. Lies. Childers claimed to be a “white commander” in the SPLA, but the SPLA has publicly denounced him and called for legal action. This apparent falsehood casts some doubt on whether Childers really does the things he claims – the violence and weapons described above – so we’re left choosing between whether he is dishonest or dangerous. Or both. (Update: see Childers’ letter of support from an SPLA general here — but also note that this isn’t the only of his claims that begs skepticism.)
  4. Disrespect. Much of what Childers’ trafficks in – weapons aside – is poverty porn of the worst sort. By only emphasizing the worst aspects of any situation Childers may drive up his donations, but he demeans those he seeks to serve. He goes even further in his report on South Darfur, prompting a commenter who worked in the region to call him out.
  5. The White Man’s burden. Childers’ story is only the latest in a long history of “Whites in Shining Armour” narratives that emphasize the heroics of white Americans and Europeans while downplaying the agency of the people of Sudan and elsewhere in Africa.
  6. It’s a bad model to begin with. Saundra S of the blog Good Intentions Are Not Enough has written extensively on why donors should be wary of orphanages.

What then shall we do?

I realize some people will find these posts and be discouraged because they were moved by stories of suffering in Sudan and just want to give to someone. Don’t respond to the emotion you’re feeling by supporting Sam Childers, as there are – contrary to his claims – many other organizations working in South Sudan that do good work. If you feel compelled to give to a charity in South Sudan you might consider Oxfam. If you only give to Christian groups, consider World Vision. No group is perfect, but these are both reputable charities. My apologies for not being familiar with smaller charities on the ground, and I would appreciate suggestions from those who are more familiar with the area.

Ironically, I think Sam Childers is best summed up by blogger Chris Baron in this review – where Baron obviously believes in Childers. He asks good rhetorical questions, but obviously I think the evidence points to a different conclusion:

There are only two options, he is either an insatiable liar or there is a God in Heaven who has tasked his angels concerning Sam’s work. And how many liars do you know give up everything in order to save children, build orphanages and fight enemies who are not their own? Liars don’t do that. Liars are self serving.


Notes on Angels of East Africa’s finances: The organization’s income has increased in recent years from $309,166 in 2006 (tax PDF), $578,992 in 2007, $446,294 in 2008, and $877,755 in2009. Vanity Fair reported that the orphanage has an “annual budget of about $600,000, raised primarily through Childers’s speaking fees and donations from a global network of evangelicals.”

I’m not a Form 990 tax expert, so I will leave more detailed explorations to others. The travel costs ($233,717 in 2008 and $216,809 in 2009) seem high to me. Childers certainly isn’t taking a huge salary: the first year his salary was listed was 2008, at a mere $38,900. It’s hard to tell what all they’ve spent money on – all orphanage expenses are listed under line items such as “Wires to Africa.” Presumably some of this money went to purchase weapons as well?

Miscellaneous notes: here are some additional semi-relevant links that I could not work into this narrative but you may enjoy:

  • The FAA fined Childers $28,000 in 2007 for transporting oil and other hazardous materials by plan.
  • A bunch of photos of Sam Childers in Africa.
  • video interview in which Childers says he joined SPLA, features sick, crying Africans and naked children, and describes him as a “a rebel turned savior called the bearded white man.”
  • An adaptation of a chapter in Childers’ book.
  • It’s not clear to me where the claims in this PDF come from, but they outline some even more grandiose claims supposedly made by Childers – seems less reputable to me.
  • This video is a short documentary on Childers (or maybe a preview for one?).
  • Childers has a second book titled Living on the Edge coming out in a year or less.
  • This long-ish MSNBC story also features Childers. It’s remarkable how uncritical the coverage of him has been by so many media sources. I also find it hard to imagine that they would take his more extraordinary claims seriously if he were an African rather than an American.


COMMENTS POLICY: I welcome feedback, but for the sake of keeping some standard of quality here to encourage others to read the discussion, I will delete comments that have a) gratuitous profanity or other NSFW material or b) nothing but ad hominems that don’t add to the discussion.

131 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. rob #

    Childers is a bit scary. I hope he does get exposed as the crazy he obviously is. I think it is even scarier to think there are people out there that support someone like this.

    • 2

      Rob – right. I don’t expect to change everyone’s minds, but I hope the casual potential donor is warned off, as there are just too many red flags.

    • rob #

      The whole machine gun preacher aspect does really have an appeal. I cannot deny that. Some of my favorite heroes serve justice with one hand and help the needy with the other. But they are all fantasies.

      Helping children is great. Running around as a mercenary warlord on the side hunting criminals is not. That is why I cannot support this guy. Like you said, too many red flags.

      If folks want to help out an orphanage, why not this one: http://www.cornerstone-friends.org/ . This is in Nimule, Sudan as well. It is also run by christians. But they don’t employ soldiers or stash weapons and armaments near children. Just saying.

      By the way, for the record, I have lived in Southern Sudan on and off for the past 10 years. My wife is Sudanese. I have even had a run in with the LRA myself. Yes, I think that the way Childers is going about things is absolutely misguided and wrong.

    • 4

      Rob – thanks for the other suggestion re: an orphanage.

  2. canadia #

    Gee hope you are not related to Jason Keller the guy who wrote the script for the movie.

  3. 6

    Canadia — no, no relation, and I hadn’t even read who all was involved beyond the director and actors. Keller is a fairly common name — for example I’m also *not* the Chief Marketing Officer of priceline.com (another Brett Keller — see http://www.famousmormons.net/bus02.html)

  4. janebrock #

    I haven’t had to time to digest all your allegations but I think if you take a good objective look at the United Nations over the past few decades you will see a much scarier picture.

    The millions perhaps billions pocketed by Saddam Hussein and UN officials assigned to administer the Oil for Food program now scandal is a good place to start.

    My immediate reaction is nothing Sam Childers is alleged of doing compares to the massive fraud, hypocrisy, lies, cover ups, duplicity with dictators/crooks/terrorists, bureaucratic bungling, and inaction that has lead to massive loss of life as perpetrated by the UN or those who claim to be represent it. All funded by we the tax payers at a cost of billions of dollars a year.

    Yes sometimes the UN gets it right when it comes to disaster and refugee relief and the like but the more I read about the UN as an overall organization and its history the more I understand where someone like Childers is coming from. Even former commanders of UN peacekeeping forces who have dealt with the ineffectual bureaucracy of the UN have admitted to breaking the rules because it just made more sense in order to save the lives of people on the ground, peacekeepers and soldiers as well as the people being offered protection, better to ask forgiveness later than permission sometimes. and some have regretted not doing so, see Romeo D’ Allaire, who was the UN commander in Rwanda.

    Maybe being a “cowboy” isn’t the way to go but I think those in need whether it is Sudan or elsewhere see what goes on, they see the corruption going on at all levels, they see the inaction due to ineffectual bureaucracy or overall apathy and at the end of the day, all they want is help in order to survive another day. If the person delivering the help ain’t exactly Mother Theresa, and gasp even she had flaws, I doubt that matters.

    • Diane Williams #

      You’d think the UN would be the obvious choice to help these children, but where it has failed, Childers has stepped in. On many of his missions, he’s passed abandoned UN vehicles on the road. Childers is doing what no one else can do or is willing to do in this war-torn area of Africa. He’s probably just crazy enough to get away with it. He believes that his present actions are his mission from God, and that his history as a drug-dealing and -using biker gang enforcer trained him to execute this mission of saving stolen children, and providing food and clean water to thousands of people who would not have them otherwise. After a trip to Darfur where in an area of 700,000 people he saw there were only 4 working wells, he set out to raise $250,000 to buy a well-drilling truck. He has an internet cafe in Nimule so people can communicate with others. He houses several children in homes in different South Sudan cities in addition to the several hundred children in the orphanage. Who else is doing this? He is the least corrupt person I know.

    • 9

      Please don’t make this about the UN. I agree they’re ineffectual and have let terrible things happen at times, but this is about Childers. If you want to rant about the UN please go elsewhere. Your argument boils down to “he’s not as bad as the UN so don’t criticize him because he might be doing some good.” I think you *do* explain why people are drawn to Childers — they hear about a bad situation and feel that giving him money is the only way to help. But Childers is not the only player in the game and giving him money – based on his own claims about his tactics – certainly isn’t the best way to assuage your need to donate. YES give someone money, but don’t let it be Childers.

      (And yes, Mother Theresa was *quite* flawed and I don’t think she should have received nearly as much acclaim as she did — which just goes to show you that there are many subpar charities one can give to thinking they’re entirely good based on popular accounts.)

    • 10

      My previous post (starting with “Please don’t make this about the UN” was in response to JaneBrock.

      In response to Diane: I see from Twitter you fundraiser for Childers, so obviously you believe in him, and you’re good at relating his story. I do not doubt that Childers has helped some people – in fact it’s pretty clear that he has. But just because you’ve done a few good things doesn’t excuse doing bad things too – that’s illogical. Also, I did not call Childers corrupt – I specifically said that there’s no indication that money has been ill-handled. I *do* think his organization should be more transparent about what it is doing (for starters: do donations in any way contribute to arms deals? how does Childers ensure he doesn’t kill LRA child soldiers? how does he ensure the arms he’s selling elsewhere don’t get used for ill deeds themselves?)

      My hope is that anyone with at least a casual desire to research the person/organization they’re giving to — and thus not interested only in what is written on their own site — will give the money to the many groups that are also deserving, but which lack the baggage.

  5. Diane Williams #

    1. Marc Forster is not an Oscar winner. Halle Berry won an Oscar in a film Forster directed.
    2. Sam Childers is a legitimate member of the SPLA, I’ve seen his ID card. The PR person who denied Childers’ involvement with the SPLA was ignorant of his participation and membership.
    3. Two cinematographers from Australia, Kevin Evans and Zac Simpson, have documented Childers’ activities for years and have accompanied him on many missions. Their documentary on the Machine Gun Preacher will be circulating film festivals later this year.
    4. Childers might be a bit crazy to do what he’s doing, but he’s not a liar.

    • 12

      Diane — re: 1) thanks, a little nit-picky (I obviously am not a movie buff) but I’ll correct it to say Oscar-nominated.
      2) Very well, but if that’s true he should post something publicly saying so, in response to SPLA’s public announcement about him. As long as the only information in the public domain contradicts your statement, the natural conclusion for anyone (from bloggers to reporters) may be that the SPLA has disowned Childers and he hasn’t responded.
      3) I see Zac has responded to so I’ll just respond to him. Obviously I knew that he has been visited by several reporters (thus the links to their stories) and the documentary trailer (which I believe I linked to as well). It seems clear that Childers has spent a lot of time in Sudan, runs an orphanage, is stockpiling weapons, and goes around with those weapons and some soldiers. That does not make all of his claims true.
      4) Glad you agree on the crazy part. The claim re: being a liar does not rest solely on the SPLA claim. (Which doesn’t seem like an outright fabrication so much as an exaggeration: “I fought with a half-dozen soldiers who were at some point associated with the SPLA” is not the same as saying “the SPLA made me a commander and seconded troops to me.”) There are plenty of statements quoted above that are also dubious and should give an uninvolved reader/watcher plenty of reason to question his complete honesty.

  6. 13

    I can vouch for SPLA legitimacy. I’ve been on missions with them and Sam does command them. He does have an SPLA card; he also has a letter denouncing the earlier letter for legal action. As Diane mentioned, many of these claims are easily refuted. The documentary will be out in November. Decide for yourselves: I will even leave this link on the page for the sake of transparency. What strikes me as odd is the fact that you didn’t dig deep enough or contact people who could have answered many of the questions you pose. Feel free to email me and I will clarify what I can.

    • 14

      Zac – thanks for posting. Interesting re: SPLA. According to the interviews/profiles linked above (and his own book), Childers has really been seeking a movie deal. He should know that with that positive attention and acclaim (and increased revenue for his charity) will also come more scrutiny. Currently the SPLA document is publicly available (and was at least somewhat widely circulated amongst Sudan policy folks online). Childers should post a press release and/or the response letter — if he does so I will be happy to post it and/or modify any statements of fact I’ve made that are incorrect. If you have access to those documents or get a press release / statement, I’d be happy to post them.

      Obviously my problems with Childers don’t rest solely on the strength of the SPLA claim. I think if he’s telling the truth in every instance that in some ways makes him even scarier, because the things he’s claiming to do are not in my view a net good. I’m actually *hopeful* that he’s been exaggerating his militarism because I think the world would be a better place with a dishonest Childers than with an honest one who stockpiles arms at an orphanage, leads armed raids, and sells weapons to various armed groups.

      As for why I didn’t “dig deep enough” — I dug through everything that is publicly available. The facts that have been reported on Childers in the sources I linked to are quite negative, but until now they’ve mostly been framed positively by sympathetic journalists – a sympathy that I hope won’t continue. If there are factual errors in what’s been reported about Childers (either his actions or his direct quotes) then he should clarify them publicly, as he has sought to become and is quickly becoming a public figure. It’s his own quotes that describe most of the activities that I’m most against.

      I actually considered (and talked with some colleagues in aid and journalism) turning this into not just an opinionated blog post based on what’s freely available, but a well-researched longer profile that could actually pass journalistic muster. To do so I would have needed to interview not just Childers, but those who have known him for a long time as well as critics. Unfortunately I don’t have the time or resources to do that, and I thought it was actually better to post this now (before the movie is released and there’s more laudatory coverage) and without pretending it’s something that it’s not. So no, I wasn’t able to do interviews and you shouldn’t consider this journalism — it’s just an opinionated blog post based on scary things I had read.

  7. 15

    Also, it has been my experience that many people refute the claims coming out of Sudan in general. I once wrote about seeing people eat dirt and drink sewage. A guy comment that I was over-sensationalizing. Unfortunately for him, I filmed the entire town: a town which he also claimed was getting international aid (I saw none and the governed himself begged Sam to help). There is a large Uganda/Sudanese military contingent in the Congo – I would suggest that these are the people Sam sold guns to.

  8. Jeri #

    Sam Childers has been to my church three times. I think he has a powerful story and since no one else is willing to risk their life let him keep doing what he is doing. We have 2 church members who have gone to the African Orphanage twice and stayed one month each time. Church members saw no activities of any ill nature. If he were more like Charlie Sheen you wouldnt give him a second glance but because his is doing God’s work by saving children and spreading the Gospel you deem it fit to report erroneous lies about him. You protect the scun in Hollywod but not the few who do good. Shame to you.

    • 17

      Jeri – you may see his work as God’s work, but I think most of my Christian friends would disagree that this is the best way to “spread the Gospel.” I haven’t reported any lies about him — most of the most damning material above is quoted directly from Childers. I also certainly haven’t protected anyone from Hollywood? I probably loathe them as much as you do. Where do you get that?

      The point is that there are LOTS of “good Christians” who are doing good, even working at orphanages. I personally think there are lots of good ways to help children in Africa besides just through Christian charities or solely through orphanages. (In fact, orphanages can have downsides too — see http://goodintents.org/orphanages/problems-with-orphanages-in-haiti-and-cambodia) But if someone wants to give directly to an orphanage run by Christians in Africa, I would be happy to put them in touch with any of the three I’ve volunteered with personally (in Ghana, Zambia, and South Africa) because I would much rather someone who is convinced they can only give to Christian orphanages give to ones that are not associated with violence and arms dealing in any way and that are not run by someone so openly enchanted by violence.

  9. Diane Williams #

    1. Marc Forster is not even an Oscar-nominated director. But maybe for Machine Gun Preacher, he will be.
    2. Sam said he didn’t have to explain himself to anyone when I suggested in November 2010 that he should publicly refute the SPLA PR guy’s letter disavowing Sam’s membership. But as Zac said, that issue is being handled.
    3. I suggest you ask former Secretary of State Colin Powell how many chairs were between him and Sam Childers at the 2005 Sudan Peace Talks. Sam has a huge and open presence in South Sudan, northern Uganda, and Darfur. If not for him, many hundreds more people would be sick or dead.
    4. I went to PA last year to meet him to see for myself what this man was like. I think it does take a little crazy to do what he does–he’s not afraid of dying because he believes God has determined how and when he will die, so he doesn’t concern himself with his own personal safety. This is not a man who makes false claims about his achievements or his goals.
    As we all know, you can’t believe everything you read in print or on the internet. However, it seems you haven’t questioned or researched the false statements or presumptions of dubious achievements about and by Sam Childers as you have promoted all of the perceived negativity about his mission and actions.
    Do some more research. Hop in a car and come talk to the man you seem so eager to defame.

  10. 19

    Diane – Foster’s films were nominated, which is close enough for me. He’s a good director, and his movies get attention – that’s the point. If someone gets hung up on that, they’re missing the point, as you seem to be. If readers get thrown by that I would be absolutely thrilled if they click away and read something else.
    The quote re: Powell was included because it illustrates Childers’ ego. I thought about including his description of meeting Museveni for the same reason. But I’ll certainly ask Secretary Powell for his opinions on Childers the next time we run into each other.
    I’ll let you know if I’m ever up in Pennsylvania to meet with Childers – I’m sure it would be entertaining for both of us. But would he refuse to answer my questions re: arms/weapons like he has with other journalists?

    • Diane Williams #

      Brett: Why don’t you ask him? Give him a call. He has to be armed to fight Joseph Kony who has committed unspeakable crimes against humanity. Sam has to ensure his soldiers and those who guard the orphanage are protected. Again, he’s doing things to save and protect both children and adults in South Sudan that no one else has dared try. What’s so wrong with that?

    • Diane Williams #

      Brett, “close” only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades.

    • 22

      I tried calling Childers this weekend and didn’t get an answer, though that’s understandable since I wasn’t able to call during the day. I’ve emailed several contact addresses I have (for Angels of East Africa, Childers, and his daughter Paige) and hope to arrange a call soon.

  11. michele #

    I don’t think you have any worries, since I took away from the USA Today article you linked that quotes like:” Director Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball) was eager to present an imperfect hero on-screen” ; & “As effective as Childers is as a savior, his use of violent means has made him controversial, and Butler says that can make him seem like a self-appointed vigilante”, means that Hollywood has done it’s homework and the movie will provide a balanced and maybe even slightly negative view of Rev. Childers.

    But, I think that this film can really help call the much needed attention to the atrocities being done to children in the Sudan and in a way that no other media can so that is a good thing. And people are smart and if the movie motivates them help financially to any charity they always go to the organizations that they trust and that won’t necessarily be Rev. Childers.

    And I can’t help but think that is your main concern – that Rev. Childers will be receiving financial help that other more worthy organizations will not. I am also sure when the film is released Hollywood will insure that there will be attention given to the other organizations working in the Sudan. It will not be one-sided.

    • Diane Williams #

      I think the point of the film and Sam’s book is that Sam is doing work that other organizations in Sudan won’t or can’t. He is armed with other legitimate SPLA soldiers and going out into the bush and rescuing stolen children who are forced into being child soldiers and sex slaves; he’s digging and protecting wells in areas where thousands have no fresh water and are suffering from malaria; he’s providing drugs to treat and prevent malaria and intestinal diseases; he has a feeding program that provides over 6,000 meals a week (or is it a day?) all over the country–and he’s expanding those efforts now to Somalia. Where does your money go if you send it to other organizations in Africa? I don’t know, but it’s a fact that thousands of pounds of food lie and rot in warehouses and never get delivered to the people who need it. But if you send even a small donation of $10 to Sam, it will feed a starving child or adult for days or even weeks.

  12. 25

    Great post, Brett. Apart from Marc Foster’s Oscar status, I think you’ve made a set of perfectly reasonable conclusions and observations based on the public information regarding Childers.

    Putting certain questions of veracity aside, Childers is by his own admission selling arms and killing people. At best, he is fighting with and providing weapons to the SPLA. When did evangelism become vigilantism?

  13. 26

    I’ve tried to contact Sam Childers regarding issues in Northern Uganda and South Sudan. He has been unresponsive. I think people like him go into strict communication regulation when a self-promoting, melodramatic book or movie is about to be released. You can check out my advocacy efforts in the region via my website, Independent Global Citizen. Feedback would be greatly appreciated.

    Independent Global Citizen


    • Diane Williams #

      I know that Sam Childers is super busy and gets hundreds of emails a day. He’s often out of cellphone range for emails and calls when he’s in Africa. If you request to Friend him on Facebook, you should get a reply within a couple of weeks. He’s in Sudan now and is also hoping to raise money for the famine in Somalia. I do not officially represent him in any way other than to support his cause and try to help raise funds, so I’m not speaking for him. I think he’ll be back in the States though within the next month and it should be easier to reach him then.

  14. Amanda Hall #

    You jerk. Condemning Mother Theresa too? Tell me, what have YOU ever done apart from bitch about people who do? Do you actually go out and get your hands dirty, or are you just another pretty boy who sits behind his polished timber desk whining?
    Personally, MY opinion is that Sam Childers is taking up the shortfall from our respective Governments and actually helping these people. And more power to the movie and the people involved for bringing this to worldwide attention. People do what they can and who are you to bring them down? You are indeed a very little man.

    • 29

      Amanda – negative things about Mother Theresa are quite easy to find if you look for them, so I won’t go off-topic and relate them all here. Like Childers, I think the broader point is that even people who do some good can do enough bad that maybe it’s a good idea to give your money to someone who’s less bad. And yes, as I work in public health I’m really making the big bucks as I sit around all day behind my polished timber desk whining.. Or rather, this summer I’m working on childhood lead poisoning, and in the past I have indeed ‘gotten my hands dirty in Africa’. From my experience I concluded that a lot of well-intentioned people trying to help out can sometimes cause damage, and resolved to find better ways to help. Once I finish my graduate studies I’ll be back abroad, but I don’t think I’ll have to sell weapons, lead armed missions, and brag incessantly to do good.

  15. greg saunders #

    Your a real peice of work talkin all this shit about a guy helping children in africa, and you know what he does want kony dead and i do too. He is an evil man runnin an evil orginization, and why is it that you want to bash him so bad. I think you should get off your ass and try doin something good for those kids in africa before you start making allegations about someone thats making a difference their. sooo fuck you ya fuckin dick head and back to the sellin guns thing men, women and children get raped and murdered all the time in africa and if you were their wouldnt you want a fuckin gun?

    • 31

      You’re really showing the love of Christ there, Greg. And yes, I have worked in Africa in the past and will in the future. And many others do without needing to sell weapons or promote themselves in the same way (see the other links re: charities in my post and by commenters).

      Note for all: I’m leaving this particular comment because I had not yet stated a comments policy, but from now on I will delete posts that have a) gratuitous profanity or other NSFW material or b) nothing but ad hominems that don’t add to the discussion.

      Other than that, I welcome the range of feedback this post has received so far (and have made some corrections where noted).

  16. Elizabeth Julio #

    ~ Brett Keller is someone who must want to be famous because he will say outrageous things to get your attention. Brett Keller is bad mouthing Sam Childers and even Mother Theresa. He seems confused on who the Lord’s good soldiers are. Jesus said you can judge a book by its cover, and I don’t see your good fruit Brett Keller. ~
    Elizabeth †

    • KO #

      I’ve never met Brett Keller, but his article is very intelligently written and he is very careful to simply quote Sam himself. There is nothing about this article that is fabricated by Brett.

    • A 1LT in Afghanistan #


      She is a woman who writes her subject in CAPS to grab other readers attention. She is also a person who quotes Jesus as saying “you can judge a book by its cover” Was that part in Luke or John? I must’ve skipped over that one-liner in one of his parables. I ALWAYS do that! She is also a woman who gives off a sanctimonious air by signing her name with a † With the love of Jesus in my heart, Elizabeth Julio where is your good fruit?

  17. greg saunders #

    im not very religous but my sister is very and practicly lives with sam and his family so i know what he is doing over their and he is making a big difference for those people and it takes a lot of money to transport goods their and sam has devote his life to helping them and you might have helped here and their in africa but its not your occupation sams a good man so i dont think you have the right to be cuttin him down and trying to sway people into donating to other organizations

  18. Diane Williams #

    @brettkeller Entertainment Weekly (8/12 issue) item on p. 23 about Sam Childers and the upcoming movie with quotes by screenwriter Jason Keller, ”What makes Childers’ story compelling is his willingness to go where others won’t. Nobody could do what he does, because nobody is as crazy as he is.” Sam has evolved from crazy bad to crazy good. And if it takes procuring guns and being armed to do what he does, so be it. Whether you resent or respect his belief in God and faith in Christ as driving him through this cause or not, he is performing a much needed service, and killing the bad guys who commit the atrocities in Sudan is part of it. See the film when it comes out. Look through his book, “Another Man’s War.” Have you helped women who’ve had their breasts or lips cut off? Have you paid for multiple surgeries for a child who was shot through the eye? I’m sure what you’ve done in Africa in the past and will do in the future will be helpful and appreciated. But what Sam is doing is unprecedented–and no one else would even dream of attempting it.

    • Mike #

      Well said, Will Boase. Why can so few see the forest for the trees…..?
      Vigilante humanitarians, create so much turmoil in their wake, they actually set back the operations of professional humanitarian organisations. It would be interesting to measure the ‘adverse impact’ that Sam Childers has on the people of this region.

  19. 38

    Great article. Anybody who thinks more small arms is the answer to ANYTHING here is a fool. And how do we distinguish between Childers and Kony? One is an aging man, leading a band of staunch believers into battle against people he determines to be combatants, driven by a deep but subverted faith in God and a not-insignificant ego, and with a legendary temper, and the other is Kony.

    I look forward to the hate-mail.

    • 39

      Will – I agree re: small arms, but saying you can’t distinguish between Childers and Kony is pretty absurd. They both do things I don’t approve of, but Kony is many orders of magnitude worse.

      ….which still doesn’t make Childers the solution to Kony, of course. Again, there are other groups in South Sudan that work with former child soldiers – including at least one other orphanage *in Nimule* — where Childers seems to say no one else is doing this work. I hope people will support those groups or another charity instead, but that doesn’t mean I’m any where close to condemning Childers as indistinguishable from Kony.

    • 40

      Hi Brett,

      I agree, hyperbole serves little purpose, and I apologise (the article got my hackles up…). I acknowledge (of course) that the LRA has been responsible for acts far beyond anything Mr Childers has done or would consider. I’m just sick of people thinking that the solution to violence is violence, and then using the “thou shalt not kill” book to justify it. I don’t believe that supplying weapons in any form to any faction is going to be positive in the long term unless approached with proper thought (generally the role of government), and the idea of a preacher with a gun carrying out extra-judicial killings would be acceptable if it were the plot of a comic book rather than reality.

      There are countless wonderful organisations in Northern Uganda and South Sudan dealing with returnees, many of whom in fact employ psychologists and counsellors as well as preachers, and who don’t deal in weapons. People should donate to those, and ignore this profoundly dubious individual. And to all of those who identify themselves as his followers, ask yourselves- do you know whose body that bullet you’re buying will be entering? Because there are enough graves and enough wounded in the region without Mr Childers’ contributions. You should be funding teachers instead.

      Again, my compliments on the article, and apologies for the hyperbole.

  20. Elizabeth Julio #

    Wow ~ @Will Boase …How do you know the difference between Childers & Kony???
    Do you know the difference between David who killed Goliath???
    Elizabeth †

    • Rev Paul McCreary Sr #

      I have almost a decade of military service, in addition to many other activities. The problem I have with people such as yourself supporting a man like Sam Childers is really quite simple. A “man of the cloth” DOES NOT run guns, something Childers himself admitted. He DOES NOT threaten to beat a Father because he doesn’t agree with what the man is doing. Childers does things in Africa that he would NEVER do in America. As a preacher, Childers has totally failed in his responsibility to lead by example. As a Vietnam war veteran, I have never seen war as a positive, it is something to be avoided by sane, rational human beings. Blaming Kony for all the problems in the Sudan shows a clear lack of judgement. Murder, which is what Childers has openly admitted, is wrong in any society.I hope you think this through.

  21. Eilleen Campbell #

    I personally belong to Sam Childers church, I have been a member for 6 years. My question to you is would you be willing to go into the bush to rescue these childern that Kony has made orphans unarmed? Or even armed. I have witnessed Pastor Sam come home from Africa mentally exhausted, but he continues to go and help in any way he can. I have met Walter who Sam brought here for surgery after Kony and his men killed his parents, raped and set fire to his older sister and shot Walter and his sister Angela when they tried to escape. He left them for dead. I can guarentee you that Sam is for real . I plan on going to Africa next summer, many of our church members have gone . I have also helped pack containers with clothes , school supplies and tools to help at the orphanage. Trust me Sam and family could be living the good life but , they live just like the rest of us. Sam may be arrogant and confident but GOD has his back.

  22. greg saunders #

    well said eilleen

  23. Joe #

    Can I just disown this guy? He might claim to be a co-religionist of mine, but I don’t want him on my team.

  24. Eilleen Campbell #

    Sam has definately been called upon by the LORD to do this work. What person in his right mind would sacrifice all that he has to do what the LORD has asked him to do. He is away from his family whom he dearly loves most of the time. He endures hardships we can only imagine. If you read THE BIBLE you will find many battles fought with the LORD guiding them. They were not fought with words but with weapons.. I firmly believe the LORD is leading Sam to fight this war. Also if what you say is true that he desires fame and fortune I hope he gets it ten-fold because the fortune would be used to help the childern over there and the fame would only generate more fortune.

  25. Benjamin Aikey #

    wow. u must have bought some his drugs when you were younger. ive been ther a couple times and there is no stock pile of weaspons, no grenades or none of that crap. the only place where there is weapons is with his guards and a couple of his own. and the part where he sells weapons and shit like that, aint even close. the only thing you got right was about that he helps chilrden and god is with him. If you had the guts to put this crap on the web you should go out and experiance what what he does and youll find out your full of crap from the deepest pit of hell. and dont worry god still loves you.

    • 48

      Benjamin — I’ll just note that all of the information about the use, stockpiling, and sale of weapons comes from Childers himself or the profiles written about him. If he doesn’t do those things, he shouldn’t say so, and if he was misquoted, he should contact the publications (London Sunday Times and Vanity Fair), both of which could publish corrections. If they don’t, he can put out a statement saying so, and that he doesn’t do those things that’s he either been described as doing or said he did himself. Since he apparently sought this coverage (retaining a publicist, writing a book, seeking a movie deal, etc) it seems more likely to me that he’s exaggerating what he does — in which he case he’s simply not trustworthy.

  26. Eilleen Campbell #

    Obviously you have never met Sam, or have any first hand knowledge of what he does .You have read some articles and taken bits and pieces of them to make it sound like you know what your talking about. Why you would want to attack someone who is saving children from pure hell is beyond me. It sure seems like you have a BIG GREEN-EYED MONSTER on your back. Yes he wrote a book and has a publicist but he is not seeking a movie deal. The deal is done also the movie is complete. So obviously you don’t know what your talking about. And there wouldn”t have been any money spent on making a movie if someone didn”t thnk Sams story needed told. I could read some articles about vasectomys and write a piece about them but I”m sure you wouldn”t want me to perform it. So until you have firsthand knowledge about Sam and our orphanage please don”t comment unless you can prove your statements. Thank youl.

  27. KO #

    Bravo Brett! I’ve been wondering when someone was finally going to have the courage to question Sam. I have been to the compound in Nimule and there are indeed hundreds of olive green crates containing weapons. I can’t get into it here but over time a handful of people who have worked with Sam have confided in me about their concerns about him. I found this to be interesting since none of these people know each other. I am the first to accept him as a renegade cowboy who is using his cowboy ways for good, but why all the exaggerations and lying? And aren’t some of the things he himself claims illegal? I appreciate his hard core fans standing up for him here but even Sam is accountable for his actions especially if he is doing it in the name of God.

  28. another jess #

    I don’t understand how attending Childer’s church and knowing he’s as a “great guy” validates all that he is doing. The point of the article is that Childers is trying to do some good in Africa but is over-exaggerating or that he is telling the truth, which means that we have to examine the consequences of his actions (as we do with all charities, especially those that receive a lot of attention). He clearly seems to be someone who is short-sighted, and does not really understand the complexity of the situation in Sudan (ex. shipping arms to a violent area) … which means that people really shouldn’t donate to him or support his cause, however well-intentioned he is.

    I don’t understand why people will blindly support someone just because they seem really passionate or well-intentioned. Having good motives doesn’t mean that you’re actually doing good.

  29. Eilleen Campbell #

    I never said attending Sams church validates what he does, I said if you don’t know the facts please don’t say anything. Brett , I have a question for you would you face a demon like Kony unarmed? A demon that makes a woman choose whether she wants her breasts cut off or her hands, she chooses her hands because she has a baby to feed. Could you face him and try to TALK to him? Who is willing to go and rescue these children? These are not children in a town or village whose parents have just died. They are in the bush hiding and trying to survive. As I said before there are a lot of battles described in the BIBLE fought with weapons with GOD leading the battle. And to another Jess we don’t blindly support someone because they seem passionate or well-intentioned we support him because we know what he is doing. My son worked for Sam way back when so its not like we are blindly following him. We know he is backed by the LORD and the LORD is guiding us in our support of the mission.
    So please you may not approve of his tactics but DONT EVER DOUBT HIS FAITH. I respect your views and would hope that you would research and make sure of your facts before you tell people not to support us, but we will continue our mission and be successful with or without your support. Also if you want to know what we think of Sam check out a album titled The Machine Gun Preacher written and recorded by J.D.Ames a member of our Church. It will be out on Aug. 19 th and available on the website probably a week later. May GOD bless you all.

  30. 53

    Eilleen — your question doesn’t make sense, as Childers has never met Kony face to face either (I don’t believe he’s claimed to have, at least). He’s seeking him out to kill him, which seems separate from his armed child rescue missions. Notably, none of the (many) other groups that I’ve heard of that work with former child soldiers in South Sudan find it necessary to adopt Childers aggressive and armed approach. I’m guessing maybe that’s because they’re worried it will endanger the very people they’re trying to help? If you want some perspective from others who have been there here’s an aid worker in South Sudan talking about how Childers’ attitude endangers people like her (http://erininjuba.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/sam-childers-should-be-punched-repeatedly/) not to mention questioning some of his specific descriptions of incidents. Other aid workers like J at Tales from the Hood have expressed similar sentiments — Childers running around with guns puts all humanitarians in danger (see http://talesfromethehood.com/2011/08/04/one-word/).

    And for the edification of all, here’s the video Eilleen mentioned (I think this is the same one? or maybe there’s more than one Machine Gun Preacher-inspired album?): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIaSQVWfxok&feature=player_embedded including lyrics such as “when those rebels yell like devils from hell, be my strength enough to win this fight for love”…

  31. Bec #

    I’m an Australian supporter of Sam Childers and while I understand how confronting it can be to be publicly criticised and doubted – surely if there is nothing for Sam to hide, there should be no problem with reports like this being made, so long as the information is retracted if and when the truth proves to be different to the report?
    What I’m saying is – if there is no dishonesty in Sam’s work and he truly belives he is acting on God’s command and giving his all to serve others – then no amount of negative press can impact on that. Since Sam’s work is chiefly between himself, God and the people in Africa – why would he care what a bunch of people sitting on the sidelines think?! If there’s nothing to hide or be ashamed of, then let people probe and question and investigate, while you keep right on doing what God has commanded you to do Sam. Don’t let this kind of thing turn your gaze away from your work.

  32. 55

    The fact that this man claims to be a Christian and using “God’s command” to justify his actions is horrifying. Jesus NEVER told his followers to rise up against their Roman occupiers because of their suppression and brutality – in fact, he advocated just the opposite (Mt 5:38-48). The early Christians were encouraged to accept suppression peacefully and joyfully and were promised reward for their suffering (1 Pt 3:19-21). This man is NOT doing God’s work.

    No Christian acts in a vaccuum, Bec – we are accountable to one another (Gal 6:1). No one’s work is every just between “him and God” – once you proclaim yourself a Christian, you are sending a message to the world that you are acting as a member of the body. If you use that cover to do evil, you are perverting the Gospel of Christ. It is in EVERY Christian’s best interest to correct believers who go astray, and to speak out when the Gospel is misrepresented.

    Religious implications aside, even if everything that he says is true, Childers’ “solutions” are not sustainable. The only way to end this kind of conflict is to starve these groups of resources and build up the country’s ability to protect its citizens – particularly its children. Simply joining the fight only makes the fight worse.

  33. Bec #

    Jesus also told His followers to get the log out of their own eye before worrying about the speck in a brother’s. Perhaps He meant “Make sure you’ve got your own problems and issues sorted before you start calling others on theirs?”or “How can you possibly decide what someone else is doing wrong when you are currently so blinded by your own wrong doing?”

  34. Dave #

    Lol, Jesus also told his followers to turn the other cheek but I guess Childers doesn’t like that part of the Bible much. (He prob just likes the gory Old Testament parts which would of course sound SO much better set to heavy Christian rock.) By Bec’s logic Christians shouldn’t even denounce Breivik in Norway because how dare we criticize someone who claims to be a Christian??? Their actions are between them and God after all. Um, no? We’ll never have all of our own problems and issues sorted out but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t criticize egregiously violent appropriations of the message of Christ! His message was peaceful, Childers is not.

  35. dito #

    Gabriel is 18 years old. His parents were killed by LRA. He was forced to hard labor and carrying supplies while other boys with him, were forced to kill. He escaped with 3 other boys and 3 girls and they were all between 9 & 11 years old. They walked through the bush for 2 days before making it to a remote village that Sam was going through. Sam found him and took as many others as he could take. Gabriel is clearly the children’s unspoken leader as he sacrifices his free time to make sure the younger kids are always cared for. Gabriel has said, “God put me here to help Sam keep them safe”!

    Majoc is 8 years old by Sam lying in the bush beside his mother and father that were both killed by the LRA found him. Majoc was close to death but Sam rushed him to a hospital even though it was far away and it stopped the teams progress. Sam was sure the baby wouldn’t live but felt God had spoken and he had to be obedient. Three months later he got a call to come pick up Majoc.

    Rita Achan was 11 years old and remembers her Mother & Father being chopped into pieces. She said the LRA were in the process of hanging all the children from trees when they heard a caravan approaching. The LRA ran because of what they were doing. Unfortunately, most of the other children ran simply because they were already frightened and thought there was more LRA coming. Rita ran to Sam. She is now 18 years old.

    Jaska Ayuku was found in 2004. The LRA raided her village and shot her parents, uncles, aunts…everybody but the children. She ran to another village where Sam came shortly after he heard what had happened. Jaska says her entire family is dead and she would be alone if it wasn’t for Sam. The Children’s Village is her family!

    You have the right to voice whatever perspective you want. I’m sure that you can sway some to “think more critically” as you call it, but never the less, you can not even come close to discrediting the integrity of who Sam is and what God has done through him. You say Sam is a liar, and a violent man that deals arms to rebels. Well you have the ability to articulate very well with words that help build the momentum of your points but can you answer me how these children (above) would be alive today if it wasn’t for what Sam has done? The world has a history of great people who walked a fine line between right and wrong in the eyes of man. But God only saw them as “right” and not because of their ability to do everything the right way, but because of their obedience in the purpose God had for them. If your going to smear Sam and Mother Theresa, don’t stop there…how about Moses, Joshua, King David, Solomon, Samson, Jacob, Peter, James, John and Paul. Especially Paul and the list goes on. You can cast doubt on them all if you know just a little about their stories just the same. Clearly (like most men of faith in the Bible) everything Sam does is not Biblical. Does that mean God hasn’t used him? Your trying to discredit a man for doing “whatever it takes” to rescue children, in a way that no other orphanage has ever done (that I know of). Do you know of an orphanage that actually goes into a war zone rescuing children? Do you even no of any other orphanage that was in Nimule at the time of this instability? Do you really think the children I just mentioned above even care if Sam did everything “by the book” to save them. Would you do everything “by the book” to save your children? You say you’ve been in Africa and served and thats great. Have you ever buried Women and Children that you could have saved if you would have been there 1 hour earlier? Do you hear the cries of children screaming in the night because of nightmares about the horrors they have witnessed? Do you have any idea what it takes to establish any trust what so ever with governments at war that feel like they are isolated and being attacked on all sides and don’t know who to trust? You use modern day Christian sentiment towards violence along with some accusations then mix enough truth with some out right lies and then… you dress it up nice and pretty by calling it “an opinionated blog” and you weld it around, like a AK47 or some hand grenade, just as carelessly as you are accusing Sam of being. Your not realizing that your words are going to deny these children listed above, and 180 more like them, an opportunity to prosper after so much suffering they have endured. I’m writing this with tears rolling down my face because you have done much more harm to these children with your words, than what the LRA could have done if they were still fighting here because (praise God) Sam can at least keep these children safe from them. But for you my friend…”Who is the real and living God?”… Will be the question that gets answered through all the discord your creating on His children. I will choose to love you and honor God by doing so, however, I pray that God will inspire the truth to come forth out of the damage that you are causing these children and that you would be blessed by what He reveals in your own personal walk with Him. This is a war that God alone will fight on Sam’s and the Children’s behalf.
    In closing, I praise God for every missionary and organization that God has given him or her to the work of God’s children all over the world. Thank you all and I pray His blessings on every one of you!
    (Because it really is about the children).

    Signed, Voice of the Children

    P.S. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I have been at the Children’s Village 6 times in the last 2 years and am just leaving after being there for over a month. I have personally either did projects and/or headed up the projects for this time and it’s safe to say that after digging several irrigation holes and footers also building 2 bath houses, 1 generator room, finishing a kitchen storage house, repairing some doors and windows for the children’s dorm, reorganizing and inventorying the food pantry, reorganizing and inventorying the clinic, rebuilding the oven, installing new ceiling panels, replacing bed mats, installing new mosquito nets and completely pulling everything out of both storage containers and reorganizing everything back in the containers, the only serious stock pile of anything I saw was clothes…Sorry! I’ll be glad to send you pictures of anything if you want to see what we did.

    • Anonymous 1 #

      This god you reference… may he help us all. This hyperbolic, dogmatic, imperial rhetoric sickens me.

      Sam Childers is either a lunatic or fatally misinformed. You don’t deal in arms to manufacture peace. Providing weapons to Rwanda and the DRC should truly be investigated, and supporting war crimes is preposterous — yet people are celebrating this man.


    • ashley #

      I’ve read this blog and the volley of (heated) responses. There is not enough space to begin listing all of my issues with Childers’ so-called ‘mission’, summarising the complex, sociopolitical context underlying the armed conflict in Northern Uganda, or mapping just how many (other) qualified service providers there are operating in Northern Uganda/Southern Sudan. But this blog post, like the one presented by Tales From the Hood, is needed to further disprove/discredit Childers’, self-congratulatory ‘white savior’ narrative. A particularly useful resource on the Lords Resistance Army was edited by my former professor at the London School of Economics, Tim Allen, and another development specialist, Koen Vlassenroot. It’s a worthwhile read, http://www.zedbooks.co.uk/book/paperback/2010/lords-resistance-army

      On a somewhat different point, as someone who works professionally in Africa with orphans and vulnerable children, I would ask all concerned parties to protect children’s anonymity, adhere to child protection policies and procedures, refrain from using children’s real names and/or sharing pictures online without their informed consent.

    • anonymous 2 #

      Ashley- If you’ve had an opportunity to speak to these children you’d soon realize that they’re all about sharing their story. They all feel that what they’ve been through can help others in ways unimaginable. Why keep this a secret? I know Sam has intentions of bring some of the children over here to the States so that they can share their stories with our country.

    • ashley #

      Dear Anonymous 2, I fully believe in children’s right to participation in matters affecting them and indeed agree that many vulnerable children want their stories to be heard by broader audiences….what I disagree with entirely is the idea that you need to provide their personal names and photographs to any Sam Childers’ disbeliever you want to convert. Most NGOs use pseudonyms and indicate that they’ve done so to protect vulnerable children from (further) exploitation. Thanks for your interest.

  36. Eilleen Campbell #

    Dito praise GOD for your words. I didn’t have the knowledge to express myself as well as you did. Also to give facts about the orphanage as well as you. I only know that Sam is doing what very few if any would do to help these childern. Thank you for responding and trying to set these people straight. GOD BLESS YOU.

  37. Sam's Daugter #

    Brett, I’m Sam’s daughter, and I didn’t bother to read all your info… and I could careless about all your post. We have opened our home to many reporters and have taken many people on mission trips. If you want a good story besides copying and pasting things that your not sure is even true. Why not contact Sam and come see his church, our office, his home and then write your own story? You could touch more lives that way!! And not hurt the support of the children with your lies and made up stories from here and there. Hope to see you out here soon.

    • 65

      I plan on contacting Childers by phone or email once he’s back from Somalia, thanks. If you think my writing is full of lies and ‘made-up stories’ please specific where — all the most outrageous claims are drawn from Childers’ own statements.

  38. Brendan #

    Hello Brett

    Thank you for this very interesting post. To all the people coming to Childer’s defense- have you addressed the allegations that Childers has supplied weapons to “factions in Rwanda and Congo”…do any of you realize the implications of this? Do you know anything about the war in the DRC? Do you know that many of these “factions” also use child soldiers and rape/maim women? Not to mention that the SPLA has used child soldiers?

    You better pray for a miracle because there is no way otherwise that Childers is going to nail Joseph Kony.

  39. Sam's Daughter #

    Brett, Feel free to contact our office any time this week. (800) 757-0535…… WELL SAID DITO!!!!!! 🙂

  40. 68

    Yes Brett, as a nonviolent Christian I have a fundemental issue with what Childers feels is his calling (small arms and assasination).

    Cole Yoakum

  41. 69

    If anyone feels the need to give to an more effective charity here in South Sudan, please consider CCC (http://www.confidentchildren.org/).

  42. 70

    Have you reached Mr. Childers for a comment or are you writing all of this with no word from him whatsoever?

  43. 71

    I have been to Uganda, specifically northern Uganda, many times. I also have many Sudanese friends in Southern Sudan. I speak from experience on the ground. I have formed partnerships and collaborated with local communities who are stakeholders in the success or failure of programs. In all my travels in the region, I’ve never felt that I was in harm’s way. I haven’t earned a dime or sought to make a career out of helping my friends in that part of the world. There are many people exploiting the situations in developing countries for their own agenda. Good intentions aren’t enough.

  44. 72

    I have just returned to the United States and have been trying to get in touch with Sam Childers for some time now as I wish to help him. I too have people in Africa to work with and help the child soldiers and community in general.
    It is amazing to me how many Liberals are against violence, until they need it to further their cause. I wonder why Obama had the provision for arming the IRS to a higher level written into his Health Bill?
    Sam Childers, or anyone attached to him, please contact me at zenguerrilla.org. Thank you. Sam isn’t the only one willing to go into the bush, and I for one, could care less what anyone has to say about it. I am not afraid to put my money or my life where my mouth is. In fact, I already have. Dayvid Franke

  45. 73

    You may reach me for anything at this location.

  46. Diane Williams #

    Brett, all of your research is third hand, It’s other people’s opinions.
    1. Have you emailed Sam? No.
    2. Have you spoken to Sam? No.
    3. Have you met Sam? No.
    Do some first-hand research. Sam’s back home now and will be for at least the next week. Call the office. His daughter Paige left you the number.

    • 75

      As noted above, I’ve tried to call the office and didn’t get a response (but that’s understandable as I wasn’t able to call during the day). I’ve emailed to arrange a phone call, and hope he can clarify his public statements should we get to talk. And quoting Sam himself can hardly be construed as “other people’s opinions,” can it?

  47. Anonymous 1 #

    Diane Williams truly scares me.

    I would take the time to outline why Sam Childers is dangerous and should be stopped, but I feel like most of it has been said and what hasn’t will never get through to his defenders.

    It makes me sad to read the comments, and I really wish I had stayed away.

    • anonymous 2 #


      If Sam is stopped, who would go out into the bush to rescue these kids? Sam can give them a home and a family. Would you really take that from a child who has lost everything they once knew?

      It makes me sad to think that you’d be okay with that.


  48. anonymous 2 #


    IF the allegations of Sam supplying arms to Rwanda and the Congo, answer me this; would you consider someone selling arms/new weaponry to the United States in the wrong? You’re simply on the outside looking in. You don’t know what’s going on over there and you certainly don’t know what these weapons have been/will be used for.

    I’ve been to the Children’s Village in South Sudan and I can assure you that the work Sam is doing over there is awe-inspiring. Those kids love Sam and are forever grateful for what he has done for them. They have a place to call home and people to call family. The orphanage allows them to be children again. SPLA involvement and arms dealing aside, if you’re skeptical on this get on a plane and spend a week there.

    Sure; you can say that violence is never the answer. You can argue that he is wrong in handling things in the manner that he does. You’re entitled to that. But given the current situation all throughout Africa, do you honestly expect him to walk around the bush in search of orphans with a squirt gun? How well do you think that’d work out? Some people (actually many I’m sure given all the negative comments in regards to Sam’s work) are completely against Sam’s method, but is it not effective? The numbers speak for itself with rescued orphans climbing into the thousands.

    Since you are so anti-violence I want you to think about it like this; what if your own daughter was abducted by some random rebel group? What if Sam told you he could get her back? Would you care how he got her back? For some reason I highly doubt you’d fret about his use of violence in that situation. The children need help. And Sam is giving it to them.

    Children left with nothing and scorned with memories have a place to call home because of Sam. He’s a humble man with a great heart who is finally getting the help he deserves. This movie is there to give people hope. Sure it’ll help spread awareness on the happenings in South Sudan and Northern Uganda, but it’ll also show people what a difference one person can make. Sam was an awful human being 30 some years ago, but look at what he’s accomplished now. If God can take someone that was so bad and do such good with them, what could He do with you or I? Hopefully people get that from the movie. Hopefully one person is impacted and dedicates their life to bettering their community. Then it’d all be worth it.


    • AB #

      “IF the allegations of Sam supplying arms to Rwanda and the Congo, answer me this; would you consider someone selling arms/new weaponry to the United States in the wrong? You’re simply on the outside looking in. You don’t know what’s going on over there and you certainly don’t know what these weapons have been/will be used for.”

      Does Childers know what’s going on? Does he know what they are being used for? If he sold in the DRC and/ or Rwanda its almost impossible that he’s selling to groups that haven’t committed humanitarian atrocities. If he did, he probably didn’t know who he was selling to either. These groups are not always forthcoming on who they are and often change or use different names.
      Let me put it this way: The DRC is messy. The deadliest conflict on earth since WWII and its still going on at a low intensity. The reason that it keeps going and people keep dying (mostly from preventable diseases by the way) is that the government cannot secure the East and armed groups can survive there and human security cannot be guaranteed. They may weaken then reemerge after rearming. If this man sold weapons in the last decade to anyone in the DRC he should share a jail cell with Viktor Bout. It’s that simple.

      In 2009 the FDLR launched a campaign of violence against the civilians of Eastern Congo: killing, raping and maiming. Some of the worst atrocities EVER committed in the modern era. The goal was to cause a humanitarian disaster that would lead to the international community to pressure the Rwandan government into negotiating with them.
      I sure hope Childers did his research before sending weapons into the DRC.

  49. 80

    Hi y’all — new commenting rule: if you want to be anonymous, please pick a name other than “anonymous.” Otherwise it’s difficult to tell who’s who, and the quality of discussion goes down for everyone. I’ve taken the liberty of updating the two anonymous commenters names so others can tell who’s who.

    Also, if my daughter were abducted by some random rebel group, I don’t think I’d trust Sam Childers to go rolling in and get her back safely — I think the use of violence would be more likely to endanger her in that situation.

    • anonymous 2 #

      So what exactly do you think would help her in that situation? Or would she be considered a lost cause to you? I highly doubt that’d be your mindset.

      I feel as if I did a decent job in responding to multiple subjects in your post, but that’s all you have to say to mine? I’m interested to read what you have in response.

    • Rafael #

      Brett, really? Look, this is the first time I EVER hear about Sam Childers and it was due to the trailer of “Machine Gun Preacher” on a movie theater the past weekend. Now, Im going to be completely honest, I have no idea of what is going down in Sudan, but I am originally from Colombia, and I can assure you, wev’e seen some terrible things done to children down there. Now, with these types of people (LRA, or in Colombias case FARC) there is no “talking”, there is no “settling down and having a nice conversation”, there is no “lets be good and wait for their good nature to take over.” We are talking about ruthless people that were trained to be this way since they were children, theyve tasted blood and they like it. You talk about this Childers as if he were some kind of criminal, but to be quite honest, you and me are more criminals than he is. When was the last time you saved somebody Brett? Yeah your quite the intellectual, or at least you pretend to be. Unfortunately people like you are a dime a dozen and at the end of the day you dont do anything about any problem, tou just write your biased opinions which, by the way, will probably be forgotten in about a month. Meanwhile there are kids being raped and murdered. That is what I call injustice, not this Childers. He’s just a guy that cares.

  50. AB #

    As someone who has spent a lot of time analyzing armed groups in the Great Lakes region, I was shocked when I stumbled upon the story of Sam Childers.
    His reasoning for taking up arms is to protect the innocent from an armed group. While certainly a noble cause, it should be noted that nearly every armed group in the region, including the LRA and Joseph Kony, took up arms for that exact reason. The CNDP was “protecting” the Banyamulenge civilians in Eastern Congo when they formed and Nkunda was the “savior” of these people.
    Kony himself took up arms to protect the Achoili in Uganda against the central government.
    You think this won’t turn bad because he’s white?! Or because he’s receiving order from “God”? Where do you think Kony thinks his orders are coming from?
    The scariest and most damning thing about Childers is admitted sale of arms to groups in the DRC and Rwanda. Armed groups in the DRC are as bad if not worst than the LRA in terms of human rights abuses.
    The rhetoric used by Childers is hauntingly familiar. If you don’t believe me do some research on the FDLR, the CNDP or even the LRA. These aren’t savages killing and maiming for no reason (Kony’s own ambitions have seemed to take over the LRA at this point though) . They rationalize their violence because they paint a portrait of good vs. evil through their own lens.

    And I know. I don’t have the “courage” to go to these places and help them myself like Childers does. Therefore I know nothing. But from the macro point of view he is only proliferating a bad situation. I just hope in a decade or so there’s not another acronymn emerging in the region which has emerged from Childers funding and support.

    Here is the biggest question, what happens when the LRA is gone or insignificant? There have been major efforts to uproot the LRA and they have been successful. The group have split up and taken refuge in small numbers in several different places. They are still dangerous, but they seem to be barely clinging to life with record numbers defecting. Will Childers disarm? What happens to the “militias” he employees and arms once his “mission” is over? Once again, take a look at the history of armed groups in the region, you’ll find the same issues.

  51. ZP #

    I agree with you.
    Para Cdo BE

  52. shane #

    What a wonderful series of articles. I am surprised you did not mention ALARM- check out their ministry at alarm-inc.org. Our church has partnered with them- they have amazing stories to tell of how love and forgiveness can melt hearts and change the course of the future in Africa.

  53. Jeri #

    I have seen enough posts about Sam to know that not everyone likes him and not everyone disagrees with his cause. What I know is that Sam saved my brother from drinking himself to death. Sam did not have to go out of his way to spend time with my brother and make him accountable for his actions, but Sam did. He showed my brother another way to live. So everyone can have their opinion, good or bad, about Sam, but I will be forever grateful for the time he invested in my brother granting me more time with him. God is good no matter who is performing the work and to what means God asks him or her to go. I believe in God and I believe everything happens for a reason. Thank you Sam for believing in my brother until he believed in himself.

  54. 87

    Biker turned Christian preacher who claims he saved child soldiers from militia in Sudan is ‘telling a lie’, says army general.

  55. Nora #

    Thanks for the effort of putting this together, very helpful indeed.

  56. 89

    Check out this non-profit working in Sudan – Nadus Flms. I personally know those who work with this group, and they have incredible hearts for their mission and the people there. http://nadusfilms.com!

    And thank you for this research. I personally read Sam Childers book and was greatly moved, but didn’t support, because I’m a “starving artist” of sorts… So thank you and I pray that this issue does not reflect on the overall heart of Christians worldwide, and I desperately hope it doesn’t hurt others from donating and support great charities and NPO’s around the world.

    Also, check out Invisible Children – http://invisiblechildren.com – who is working through legislation to arrest Joseph Kony of the LRA…

  57. no name #

    well i would like to know if there is a way to donate clothes and toys that are in good shape to these kids. Please email

  58. Mike #

    This original article although seeming well -researched is typical of the “intellectual blogger” mentality of tearing some one down through clever research and analysis. Most people would be fooled by this kind of thing especially on the internet. It’s hard to hide it overall malicious intent – to discredit someone who might be a hero, who might be doing good work, who might be an example for others to follow.

    The lack of any credible on-site interviews, the lack of any original development of facts, the lack of verification of facts with other sources – all of these things characteristic of blogging at its worst – rehashing stories written by others, treating them as facts, and then implying questionable credibility based on analysis rather than taking responsibility for new investigation – is this kind of thing going to take the place of actual reporting for the masses? Are we going to allow this kind of “Idiocratic” reporting from the movie of the same name going to replace what we accept as facts?

    Are people’s opinions this easily manipulated?

    If they are, then there is no hope for real heros – no hope for real saviors – and no hope for Jesus – if you want to listen to “Nick” in the movie “The Encounter” you might ask what angel from heaven would stand up to this kind of attack?

  59. Mike #

    Meanwhile I want to applaud Sam for his commitment to help, applaud the movie makers for an excellent dramatic documentary, thanks to everyone for bringing this situation to world attention and doing a very good job of it. And I realize that money spent on a film such as this is high-risk money contributed by those who want to have the world see something that everyone should be concerned and take action about. Thank you for the commitment that you are in bringing the movie “Machine Gun Preacher” to us all.

    It’s too bad that redemption, transformation, social consciousness, and heroism have gone out of style replaced by skepticism, cynicism, and distrust.

  60. Iris #

    Even if all that Mr. Childer’s done is true by 50% than I admire him more than I admire those who write to criticize him. I myself have given money to charity organizations and that is too little to mention and not enoug to say that I helped anyone. I or anyone that I know has not lifted a physical finger to help those children or any children anywhere. If Mr. Childer saved 1(one) child than he is a hero to me. The money that he is taking in or spending to save 1(child) is not enough; how much is your child worth.

    It is easy to live in a civilized country and feeling save in your home and write such criticism of someone that dares to do something good for the african children or even 1(one) child.

    He has my prayers (I am not religious) and my good thoughts. I can only ask for people to understand that is hard fight evil; hard to do good without having to do bad and yes he is a hero.

  61. Teresa #

    The guy is doing way more then the average person will ever do, and if he has to “embellish” or if the movie “embellished” his story, then so be it. The article fails to mention just how many kids he has at his orphanage. It doesn’t matter to me if he is taking care of 100 children or 25 children, that is way more then I am responsible for or could financially take care of.

    I would hope that the guy has guns to help protect himself and the children. And I would hope that if he has been able to purchase some guns for the good fighters that would be reasonable also. That he considers himself a fighter and has fought would probably be accurate also. And what is so unbelievable about a SPLA soldier “moonlighting” and working with Childers. Would this writer have us believe that the government is so well organized that every guy is accounted for. And what about former soldiers of the SPLA? How often do ex-military continue their work in the “private” sector?

    How many of us could do what Sam Childers is doing in any shape or form? At the very least he is doing something.

  62. 95

    By accounts from The St. Lois Dispatch to New York Times and even some statements not denied by locals Just what kind of a person can offer his own life to give all his tireless efforts attempting to save these thousnads of children. The opinions of the some who apparently have some kind off take over of the orphanage for his mission, but not to replace the man who does the tireless job of offering his life for the children. It’s amazing to me how so many can criticize the care of the children when I’d guess he’d have no problem with the locals and disgruntled to manage the sick and leave the rescue to him and accomplish twofold problems. The thought of someone pointing a gun at him should be seen as the samer of pointing it at a child who is injured, dying, or abused to the extent unknown by the money wasting do gooders in free societies who have not an idea of the tragedy of the child bloodshed and casualties unknown to mankind. Lets pray that he will be allowed and praised to keep alive and continuing. The numbers I seen in other accounts total over 1000 rescued and 379 in the orphanage. Come on folks let’s lend him some of our God blessed things we have unused and wasted, it too will help save more kids being expoited. Thank you for your comments as well. We’re all needed.
    Joe from Mo

  63. mike #

    Sam is a man of god!!!! He stands tall and what he is doing no one else is!!! Whoever talks bad about him, ask your self what do u do to make a change in the world??? Sam is a hero!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    If you have a issue with him you have a issue with me!!!!!

  64. Karen #

    To Brett Keller
    Have you been to the Sudan to meet Sam And see his work for yourself?until you have personally seen this not to be true…be quiet! Write bout someone or something else! How many orphans have you saved? One? ……..then you have no room to speak!

  65. Pastor.Carl Charles #

    I would like to give some advice about God :1)God doesn’t need nobody to help him.2)Know that in your mind.Satan comes to kill, to destroy but God sends his son to give life to everyone.According to the Bible you do a bad job,you can’t kill nobody.You can’t give life.You need to show them how they can do better in their life.Why you choose to kill somebody? You don’t have no reason to kill.It is not the plan of God to kill but to give life.3)Leave Jesus get in your life today.You need to receive Jesus in your life now.While killing somebody,you prepare your sheol whit your disciples.My advice I want you repent and do the best things in your life.Do the best and Don’t kill nomore.god can hear you.Read the world of God every day.( John 3:16).

  66. Jen #

    I noticed a few things in the movie that should concern even the supporters of our brother Sam…
    There is a lack of giving God the credit for any miracle or powerful help in the cause, as if Sam did it alone through his own courage and grit. Even the biblical hero Joshua had to be reminded that God was with him. Apparently Sam forgot to give God the honor for his courSe or life being spared in so many wild gun fights.

    There is an obvious love for portraying Sam as the hero in both of his lives and little to show the spiritual growth in the children God used him to save…a distinct lack of giving God the glory again.

    It just appears as if Sam is pretty impressed with himself and it is easy to give up personal assets temporarily for personal me. I would like to see how much God has done cos it seems as if S could have done all this without God…we must not take the credit. We must be humble and Sam has that war with himself left to fight.

    • 100

      I think the real life Sam is more concerning then the movie one — we expect license to be taken with the truth in movies; less so in real life.

  67. Russell #

    I have met Sam personally.
    The movie is very hollywoodised, therefore over exaggerating things itself. In the movie it doesn’t even show Sam coming back to The Lord, in which case he obviously has.
    Donny was made up of several characters, including his step son.
    It is an inspiring and touching movie, but Sam didn’t produce it.

    Sam has his own documentary coming out soon, so Brett I’m sure you’re unanswered questions and beliefs on Sam will be answered through this documentary.
    The SPLA are approximately 140,000 soldiers strong. Sam works closely with about a dozen. I think you’ve over exaggerate the ‘commander’ thing yourself. The SPLA break into groups of 1,000 to 1,400. If Sams group is only 12, then of course they wouldn’t be well recognised throughout the army.

    You haven’t been to Africa, I can tell.
    All you are is a lonely guy that spends his time browsing the Internet gaining information about people so you can bring them down and gain recognition through your blogs. Several times you said you gained information by searching the web.
    How about try gaining information by traveling to Southern Sudan and finding out first hand what Is actually happening.
    I admire Sam Childers and all that he does. I don’t care how he does or the mistakes that he makes, he’s saving lives because no one else will.
    I have Sudanese friends that praise his works too. And this year I will have the honour and privilege of going to Nimule and checking out his orphanage and working alongside him.

    Brett, you need to grow up. Sam is actually one of the few people that do good in this world and you’re one of the bastards that try tearing him apart. Well, how about getting off your ass and actually do something good for this world.

    • 102

      You obviously didn’t read this very thoroughly, as most of my criticisms are based on what Sam says about his own work in his book, not the movie! And “You haven’t been to Africa, I can tell.” Really? Did you notice the part on the sidebar where it says where I am right now? Please read more carefully before you comment.

  68. DN #


  69. Mike #

    Oxfam and World Vision are great charities but it is very naive to think that any organization working in central/east Africa has managed to do some good without dealing with questionable governments, rebels, or individuals to achieve their means. I dont necesarily support all what Childers has done but I find it interesting how people love to disect and come up with ‘gut feelings’ as to why some organizations, groups, or individuals havent helped out ‘the right way’- even though they have helped way more than the author has! No different than the whole Invisible Children/ Kony campaign…An evil international war criminal who deserved to be held accountable for his atrocities- the media jumps on the IC’s founder personal issues, saying Kony really isnt a threat now, and so on- if other ‘reputable’ charities were doing such a phenominal job in actual WAR TORN regions why have they not been very succesful in getting the word out, why would Childers have ever needed to be there! Why not spend more effort ‘outing’ some of the worst war criminals by using social media instead of always finding ways to discredit ANYONE who has actually put themself out there in the line to do what many have been thankful for- moreso than me or you!

  70. 105

    Wonderful article! We are linking to this particularly great content on our site. Keep up the great writing.

  71. John Jordan #

    Ok here we go. Arms exposed muscle head tee-shirt in African bush that is full of skin eating thorns and flesh sucking critters . Magazines tapped together which cries out “Knucklehead”. Tight trousers in the heat, no web gear or field kit/comms of any kind and he has “fought Kony” who anyone who has been to Africa knows only engages from ambush folks he out numbers or those with no weapons at all before melting into the bush, which is why the mutt is still alive.
    Having dealt with war crimminals face to face, bullet to bullet, and across the court room at the Hague War Crimes Trials I gotta say my hat is off to Sam Childers. He talked more crap and raised more bucks with “his tales” of “what he said he did” than did the 40+ firemen, medics, cops and construction workers who in front of the world press and UN stood up to Serbian gunfire, mortars and artillery to stop genocide and help keep Sarajevos Fire Brigade from being exterminated. But what the hell folks in Sarajevo were just “muslims” right and Sarajevo was a “safezone” anyway. Trevors bullet in the butt was just an accident like the metal and glass fragments from near misses Sandy, Todd and I took, or the black and blue welts, seperated shounders and cracked ribs George and I know one gets when high velocity rounds slam into your body armor. Maybe if we were good christian soldiers defending god faring people we too could spend 10 years fighting in the African bush, not bother with body armor and not get a friggin scratch.
    Now don’t go calling me or any of us jealous of Savior Sam who has never seen Kony. To begin with unless you pick the right ear I won’t hear you because a mortar shell tossed my 300lb goodself down a hill above Sarajevo and most of the hearing in that ear stayed by a smoking shell hole. As far as the other ear goes do not waste your time because I do not give a damn what anyone thinks. Fact is I admire Sam and if I was a better lair there would be more folks alive instead of dead in Sarajevo. Sadly all we had to work with was a truth that no one wanted to hear and like I said……they were only Muslims.

  72. Bex #

    So I met Sam last night and watched his little documentary, which left me with more questions than answers I received from Sam himself.
    Undoubltedly Sam has helped people, but a white man in a poor undeducated area with a lot of money is going to attract a lot of attention, which will therefore lead to power and then to ego.
    The questions I asked Sam himself, were not really answered and he did divert on numerous occasions to to god and his preachng ways. I did find it very strange that Sam has been helping for many years in Sudan, but in his Doco he never ever spoke one word of the local dialect. Which from my experiences of aid work in Kenya, this is how you connect and garner respect from the locals and learn. I find it strange that after all this time Sam still uses translators to communicate with locals. Sam also told the crowd that the oil fields where situated in the North of Sudan which is actually incorrect, they are in the South. It is also common knowledge that when the country was sorting out the boarder between the North and the South, Omar al-Bashir tried to push the boarder further South so the oil fields would sit in the North. Sam also said that the South are starving and so poor, but they have always been starving and poor. Even when the country was one, the South never received any money or maybe a little money, as most of the money from the oil fields was chanelled North. The South of Sudan is better off now as they retain money from the oil fields and not the North. Sam also stated that all the gold fields are in the South but they have no way of getting the gold out. This is not true, as the gold is located in the North and Northern Sudan have recently built a refinery, to process gold and silver which will make up for the loss of the oil. Surely if you are speaking about a country that you spend so much time in, you need to make sure your information is correct. Although I guess alot of the population has not travelled to Southern Sudan or up to date with what is happening, so he can say many things and lie/exagerate to sensationalise what is happening, and not many people will know, and therefore will believe. I must admit, I find it very very difficult to believe that he fought with the SPLA, I just don’t believe that.

  73. Michael Kempton #

    Maybe Sam Childer’s is a sinner but maybe it takes one person willing to compromise their eternal salvation so thousand’s of other souls can be saved. The Catholic Church has killed in the name of much less. Childer’s bullets are aimed in the right direction. Enough said.

  74. 109

    The man has saved many people, he is no gin and tonic cafe late set socialist taking time out to be disparaging of others. He is saving lives. Providing futures and I’m not interested in whether he is a saint or not, who is? But I do respdct those that get off their lounge seat, get out of their comfort zone, rescue people and give them a future.

  75. John Jordan #

    Bex comments show Sam knows as much about South Sudans geography, language and demographics as my comments claimed he knew about combat…..zero. Sam BSed Hollywood and continues doing the same to WCBs “Weak Christian Bastards” who swoon at the mention of Jesus Christ. Those of us who have bothered to get to know the folks we are trying to help know that keeping todays babies alive is what counts, not preaching about a kid born 2000 years ago. I am quite certain Jesus walked…….Sam should too.

  76. Marianne #

    People always tear others down be it good or bad what they do.. Sam deserves the help and those children he saves deserves to live…

  77. John Jordan #

    The more I read comments by folks who have bought the BS put out by guys like Sam, that liar Mortensen who wrote Three Cups of Tea and others of their ilk the more I believe Gunnery Sergeant Ham was right…….”People are sheep and they need to be herded”

  78. scott woolfolk #

    Do any of the claims and details matter so much? I am sure when he went over there ten years prior to becoming famous, he did put himself in harms way and made tremendous personal sacrifices to help children. Only now, we question the validity of each aspect of the story. It seems remarkable that a person would do this whether it is all factual or not. I don’t think he received a lot of attention and support before the book and subsequent movie followed. I call that courage.

  79. 114

    Great info. Lucky me I came across your blog by chance (stumbleupon).

    I’ve saved as a favorite for later!

  80. 115

    The gun by answering question number four first. Know
    how and why, Mayor Langford is the contractors, viz.
    The ultimate end of the interior rooms, better ventilation and metal roofs which are safe and stylish shelter.
    That still hasn’t happened, how to deal with the contractors business.

    Should or shouldn’t you use your basement — and
    this could be paying retail while your contractor s work.

  81. Joshua #

    The truth will come out one day…rather he was genuinely helping people like he claimed or if he was lying to make plenty of money and fame no matter what it is…the truth always comes out one way or another

  82. Greg Sheppard #

    Last week I heard Sam Childers speak at a church gathering. I then watched the movie and read his book Another Man’s War. I do not condone violence, but feel there are circumstances where it is necessary. this man needs our support. Like everyone he has faults, but he acknowledges them more than most, and is guided by his Christian convictions which have saved lives. I read thoroughly the above blog and subsequent comments the latter being largely supportive of this man. I agree with those who find the criticism of Sam all too convenient from the comfort of the sofa. There is something sanctimonious about it. The author of the blog writes that the father of a child was “bullied” into taking his dying child to Sam’s clinic for life saving medical treatment. The author then acknowledges that this saved the child’s life but cites it as an example of Sam’s bad nature.
    If this was bullying, what a precious and beautiful act it was. If I was the father of the child I would thank God that my intentions were thwarted. To the author, I hope you might reflect on your words and criticisms which unlike like the child’s life, I feel are precious for all the wrong reasons.
    Its so easy to criticise. Sam is man enough to know his faults and need of God. Let’s pray for his mission and that God will keep it on track and his life and those he protects, safe.
    The fruits of his life is saving precious lives.
    Perhaps we should pick up stones when there is substantive proof of wrong doing and when our houses are not made from glass.

  83. Lee Hamerston #

    Hi Brett

    Just to ask this is the first article i have read of yours so i cant be judgemental on either yourself or Sam. What i can ask is this ” What have all the haters done “? Its easy for us to sit back and discredit ( even if it is due in some areas) and be philosophical but we havent made a difference anywhere. I dont know maybe you have. But i havent. So i can only applaud Sam for what he’s done even if some of it is fabricated, because its a whole lot more than me.


  84. Dee #

    I see a thrill killer that’s now getting his kill thrill in a country that will not hold him accountable for murdering individuals. I am sorry but he is wrong no matter which way you look at it—If I ever meet him — Then maybe I will hear some deeper truth — but from what he is marketing himself as -not right- I see ego and marketing tactics that are very common among organizations that eventually get taken down for corruption.

  85. wwjd #

    it is easy to judge, yet not understanding all that God does in his mighty works

  86. Rafster #

    I recently donated money to an Aussie that was inspired by Sam Childers and was going to help at the Orphanages. Clearly he was inspired by the work that Sam had done and to hear a younger person wanting to make a difference was inspiring.

    I must admit that after reading the book ‘another mans war’ I am not big on the egotistical side that comes across and some of it does not sit completely right with me, however he is doing something.

    I am involved with a group that has been doing work in Bangladesh with impoverished women and what is evident is that if you are looking for conventional behaviour or support you will feel like you are ‘beating your head against the wall’.

    Whilst we may all not go about it in the same fashion as Sam, if we change nothing ……. nothing changes.

  87. Rod Val #

    Your article has the depth of analysis of a year old boy. No sources, no facts, all speculations and assumptions. Probably you wrote it to gain some traffic and users. You thought that by hurting someone’s reputation you would become more popular. The sad part is that probably your words hurt more those children in Africa thna the LRA itself. I’m disgussted at people like you.

  88. Dave Tibos #

    A very well researched article. However research shows that if I say research shows at the beginning of my sentence you will believe instantly. Although very well written, there is no real evidence backing up what you say. There is a lot of conjecture, inference and smoke and mirrors. Maybe more hard evidence that can be verified is needed. It is very typical though accusing someone by using the same method as the accusation. The accusation being “no hard evidence”.
    Difference here is much research has already been done elsewhere.

    Thank you

  89. Harleys N Tatts #

    High five to Sam. I can relate to his younger years as a hell raiser. Almost see myself in a mirror. I believe him to be a man on a mission. Like he says at the end of the movie, if some one took a loved one, does it matter how you get them back. I understand, I had a daughter murdered, if I could have saved her by any means necessary. I would have killed the guy, but he saved me by committing suicide.with that in mind does it really
    Matter how he saves the children?

  90. Harleys N Tatts #

    If I was younger and in better health, I would right beside Sam fighting for the children.

  91. Regis Priol #

    And you? who are you? just another looser, with no balls. A critic, but certainly not a doer. A pharisee, a nothing really. This is the problem of this world, the problem of the church. To many people like you, to little like him. So stick to computer Mr nobody, and trow your venom at that great man, that is above you in every possible way. That’s all you are capable of anyway. That’s nobody will ever remember you and the like of you. That’s why his name will never be forgotten…

  92. 127

    My brother suggested I might like this website.
    He was entirely right. This submit actually made my
    day. You cann’t consider just how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

  93. dan #

    After reading the book,another mans war,I was impressed with his work in sudan,I believe his motives and heart were and still are right. I believe it was a mistake to get holywood involveed with a movie,not sure what his reasons for that were.I dont thi he needed their publicity and money,its best to do good works privatly and God will meet our needs and reward us someday,a book,yes,movie,I dont think it was a good idea.

  94. dan #

    After reading the book,another mans war,I was impressed with his work in sudan,I believe his motives and heart were and still are right. I believe it was a mistake to get holywood involveed with a movie,not sure what his reasons for that were.I dont thi he needed their publicity and money,its best to do good works privatly and God will meet our needs and reward us someday,a book,yes,movie,I dont think it was a good idea.Seems like you would be more critical of our gov.involvement than his in Sudan.seems like he did alot more good than them dont you think?

  95. David Moore #

    Sam Childers is a complete fake. I have seen first hand what he has done. He is scum. The people of South Sudan do not even want him there. All he cares about is himself and nothing more. He is a liar, let me rephrase that (horrible liar) and only cares about the money. He has more toys and cars, trucks, motorcycles, guns then you can believe and peoples hard earned money is paying for all his personal toys. I have seen him use non profit money to spend at fancy hotels, buy harley merchandise and motorcycles. He is not the man he says he is. Him and his wife are getting divorced and should be finalized rather shortly. He was fooling around on his wife several times and this man is a so called pastor. I know everybody makes mistakes but this man still does and the people that donate money to him are the ones he is hurting. The people that run the orphanage are the ones that keep it going, not him. This man is a horrible man and needs to be taken away from the country of Sudan . Not to mention he is still under investigation with the FBI for multiple things which I will not list.

  96. vanessa #

    great article-the scumbag is speaking at my husbands church in Germany.

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