While Sam Childers travels around North America promoting Machine Gun Preacher, a movie opening tomorrow based on his life story, the orphanage he founded in South Sudan is under fire from the community and local government for alleged neglect of the nearly 150 children who live there.
Witnesses have said that the children at Shekinah Fellowship Children's Village are malnourished, unhealthy, and unhappy. Several locals—including pastors, government officials, and a high-ranking member of the military—tell Christianity Today that Childers has exaggerated or outright lied about his work in the African nation.
Community leaders want his orphanage in Nimule—near the border with Uganda—to be shut down immediately, and for local ministries to take over. In a September 2 letter to Childers, 14 local leaders—including the man who says he gave 40 acres of land to Childers to build the orphanage—wrote that Chiders has "dishonored our agreement" to take care of orphans, and that they demand "immediate closure of the compound." Childers told CT he never received that letter.
"As a community, we want Sam to leave and let other people take over," said Festo Fuli Akim, the man who says he gave Childers the land in 1999. "Let Sam go away so that someone with a good heart, someone who is humane, can come in and take over."
When a CT reporter visited the orphanage this week, Childers's staff, including two American men, were still on the premises, saying that the only problems at the facility were minor and had been taken care of. CT observed no significant problems; the children seemed happy and healthy, and living conditions seemed generally good.
Childers, in the U.S. to promote the film, denies breaking ...