LAKE VILLA, Ill. — A reformed bad boy of the outlaw motorcycle gang who helped to feed and house more than 1,000 South Sudanese children is coming to Lake Villa, Ill.
Sam Childers, also known as the “Machine Gun Preacher,” will be sharing his story on June 5 at Chain of Lakes Community Bible Church, 43 W. Grass Lakes Road.
In his youth, Childers was a heroin addict, a drug dealer and a “shot-gunner” — an armed guard for criminals. Despite his criminal activity, he always knew in the back of his mind he had Jesus.
While in a bar fight one day, witnessing stabbings and the worst violence he had ever seen, he decided that if he could escape and reach the door, he was done with drugs and the criminal life. Shortly afterward, he went on a mission trip to Sudan. He saw the devastation, ethnic cleansing and genocide and felt God call him to start an orphanage in the middle of a war zone.
Shawn Osborne, youth director at Chain of Lakes Community Bible Church, a former Army Ranger, and Navy Reserve chaplain currently serving with SEAL Team 17, became acquainted with Childer’s story in 2011, while on deployment.
“I read his book ‘Another Man’s War.’ It was right when the movie about his life, ‘Machine Gun Preacher’ starring Gerard Butler, came out,” he said “I knew I had to meet this guy. Five years later, I found out he was going to speak at Faith Fest in Sandusky, Ohio. I called the event organizers and asked how I could help. I ended up spending the entire afternoon with him and then was asked to play a 30-minute music set and introduce him to the crowd. It was a surreal experience and Sam was as kind and real as I hoped he would be.”
While Osborne said Childers is kind and generous, he says that he is a still a biker and likes his guns. He compares his experience with the man akin to hanging out with Aslan from C.S. Lewis’s “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”
“I love Sam’s story because he is living proof of what Jesus Christ can do to a repentant sinner,” said Osborne. “Since becoming a Christian, Sam has spent his life giving that same second chance to kids in Sudan. He has literally risked his life more times than he can count in order to complete his mission. There is still a bounty on his head put out by Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army.”
The free talk is multigenerational and open to the public, and Osborne is hoping it is well-attended by youth in the area.
“If God can call a drug-dealing, shot-gunning biker to do the extraordinary, then we are all without excuse if he calls us, too,” said Osborne. “Sam’s story has taught me that anyone can be redeemed, and that people are still having Damascus Road conversion experiences. No one is beyond hope or beyond help.”
If you go
What: “Machine Gun Preacher” Sam Childers
When: June 5
Parking opens: 4:30 p.m.
Event begins: 6:30 p.m.
Childers speaks: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Chain of Lakes Community Bible Church, 43 W. Grass Lake Road, Lake Villa, Ill. 60046
A freewill offering will be taken.