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Childers, reached Wednesday night in Los Angeles just before attending a screening of Machine Gun Preacher, alleged Akim has also stolen money from him. Childers said he gave Akim almost $19,000 to build a school at the orphanage, but that Akim only used part of the money for the project, which is now "at a standstill," according to Childers. He also claims that Akim used some of the money for himself, and that he will no longer send money to Akim for projects at the orphanage.

Plans to build a school at the orphanage are on hold.
Photo: Uma Julius

Plans to build a school at the orphanage are on hold.

Childers said that long ago he had agreed to give the community $30,000 for building the school, and that when he gives them the balance—about $11,000—he will not give it to Akim, but to other community leaders. "And I will give it to them in front of someone from the government, so they can see [the transaction]," he said. "So if they don't finish the school, it has nothing to do with us." Childers said he would give the community the remaining money as soon as he returns in early October.

When asked why he would want to remain in a community where so many people are angry at him and want him to leave, Childers downplayed the issue.

"I kind of disagree on that," he said. "You might hear that from some people, but what about all the other ones who aren't saying that. Hear me out: I'm not going to try to convince you that I have just as many people wanting me there, just because there's a handful saying no. I guarantee, all of these accusations go back to Joseph Shillingo or Festo Akim. But I have way more people wanting me there than what you're talking about. That's all I can say.

"I've been in Sudan going on 15 years. I have a lot of friends there. I'm not going to say there's no problems in our ministry, but I can't control what goes on there when I'm not there. But we have taken every precaution that we could to correct anything that was going on, even the things that were out of our hands. But when I go back, I'm going to sit down with the community leaders and try to get them all happy."

'Genuinely cares for people'

Childers is not without his defenders.

Rafael Padro, a pastor from the U.S. and a longtime friend of Childers, is watching over the orphanage while Childers is away. "I want the whole world to know that this orphanage is a very, very special place," Padro said. "And that's all because of Sam Childers."

Butler, the Scottish actor who plays Childers in Machine Gun Preacher, said in one interview that he appreciates the Childers who, after finding God, "found this higher purpose, first in God and then in this mission." Butler spent "quite a lot" of time with Childers before the film was shot, and says he's "such an incredible guy. It was big boots to fill, but it was a joy to do." In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Butler cried for a full two minutes while discussing how Childers's story had moved him.

Actor Gerard Butler (left) plays Childers in Machine Gun Preacher, which opens tomorrow.

Actor Gerard Butler (left) plays Childers in Machine Gun Preacher, which opens tomorrow.

Deborah Giarratana, a producer of Machine Gun Preacher, has known Childers for years and has even visited the orphanage in Nimule. She said she saw no problems at the facility, but added that she knows that the sometimes gruff Childers can rub people the wrong way.

"Sam is not perfect by any means," Giarratana said. "In fact, he's quite tough and even difficult sometimes. But underneath that cowboy tough-guy skin is a broken man who genuinely cares for people. I've seen it with my own eyes.

"How can a man risk his life to rescue kids and then later mistreat them by not feeding them or taking care of them. Yes, his methods are unconventional, almost controversial, but you can't deny how much he cares for children. So maybe he might need more administrative help at the orphanage, but overall he does his best."

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'Machine Gun Preacher' Under Heavy Fire