'Machine Gun Preacher' Under Heavy Fire
Okumu and others said they witnessed Childers staging photographs of himself fighting against the LRA in order to make his story sound more compelling and to attract more donors to his ministry. Okumu said Childers used guards and children from the orphanage to stage the photos nearby. "He claimed to be rescuing kidnapped children from the LRA," Okumu said. "But it was false. He just took pictures of the children in the bush around the compound here."
"Sam is not fit to continue to do the orphanage ministry," Okumu continued. "I don't want him to be around. I want him to leave Sudan peacefully. If he won't leave, we will ask the authorities to take him." In a letter to the local government dated July 12, 2011, Okumu suggested that the AIC would be glad to take over control of the orphanage. Childers doesn't doubt it: "Imagine how they would feel to just walk in and be able to take the whole thing over. But nothing like that is going to end up happening."
Childers said that many of the allegations can be traced back to one man—Joseph Shillingi, a Sudanese man Childers hired in 2001 to manage the orphanage. Childers speaks positively of Shillingi in his book, but says he had to fire him several months ago for corruption, stealing money, and impregnating one of the cooks at the orphanage. Childers claims that after he was fired, a distraught Shillingi started telling lies in the community about conditions at the orphanage.
Shillingi said conditions at the orphanage have been poor "since the beginning." In July, he said there had been no food at the orphanage for an entire week. He said he had "borrowed" food from local vendors to feed the children, but that when he asked Childers for money to pay for food, medicine, and supplies, Childers refused.
Childers admitted that there may have been food shortages early this summer, but blames Shillingi, saying the manager had stolen money that was intended for buying the food. "What you've got to realize," Childers said, "is that when I'm not there and I send them money, I can't control what he does with it." Childers said that food has been delivered to the orphanage every two weeks since it opened, and that there were no problems until this year—problems he again blames on Shillingi.
Since dismissing Shillingi, Childers says he is now seeking another Sudanese man to manage the facility full-time. In the meantime, Childers has asked a local pastor, Rev. Ransey Vule, a friend from Kenya, to act as compound manager. Shillingi, meanwhile, says he is considering legal action against Childers for the dismissal.
Meanwhile, Akim, the community leader who says he gave Childers the land 12 years ago, says he has been disappointed in how the land has been used. "The dream for which Sam opened this orphanage has not been achieved," and again urged Childers to return the land to the community. But Childers says that the land was not a gift, that he in fact purchased the land from Akim: "I have a paper that will stand up in any court that shows where I bought the land. I own the ground there." When CT asked to see the document, Childers said, "I'm not going to give that to you. I don't believe that's any of your concern."