Article By: Scooter Tramp Scotty
Photos Courtesy Of: machinegunpreacher.org
Originally Published In The February 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
The mid-March air was moderate in the Texas suburb. The little neighborhood road wandered past manicured yards that sat before upper-middle-class houses that lined either side of the street. Sometimes folks worked in yards or walked dogs. In one garage my Electra Glide sat beside an older Volvo. The four-bedroom home’s fenced backyard offered a swimming pool while inside the kitchen, two espresso machines waited beside a refrigerator stuffed to capacity. Near the living room’s cushy furnishings, a big flat screen hung over an electric massage chair. The bedroom’s king size bed offered separate heaters for each side. For over a month, I’d enjoyed the unaccustomed luxury of this place. It was a suburban adventure. Although I’d lost track of Toni Girl 20-years ago, we’d recently reconnected. She’s always had uncommon intelligence and, although far from wealthy by using her natural abilities coupled with hard work she’d created this sanctuary singlehandedly. But my bike had been sitting for too long. An extended weekend ride seemed appropriate, and I planned accordingly. The Giddy Up Vintage Chopper Show would begin on Thursday in New Braunfels some 130-miles west, and this seemed as good an excuse as any to move out. That Saturday the Machine Gun Preacher would also hold a poker run in a nearby town. I’d heard of this guy and seen the movie as well. For those unfamiliar with the name San Childers, or “The Machine Gun Preacher” here’s how the film portrays his story:
Sam was an outlaw biker/drug dealer/collection agent with violent tendencies who’d spent a lot of time in prison. Upon release from one particular stretch, Sam learned his wife had become a Christian. Eventually, Sam accompanied her to church where he gave himself to Christ. He cleaned up, and things changed. With uncommon earning capacity, Sam built a construction company that enjoyed considerable success. He also built a beautiful house for his family, and eventually a church nearby. On the day of its opening, the preacher failed to show, and Sam was forced to give the sermon himself. In time missionaries, recently returned from Africa, came to speak. Intrigued, Sam decided to see that country himself. Upon arrival, Sam found Southern Sudan in a state of civil war. The Lords Resistant Army (LRA) would often ride through poor villages, shoot everyone, and take young boys for use as child soldiers. Families sometimes sent their kids to sleep in the woods for safety. The war between Northern and Southern Sudan had left millions of children orphaned, maimed, homeless, starving, and dead. Shocked by these atrocities, Sam built an orphanage in the middle of a war zone. But the LRA burned it. Sam rebuilt, and when they come again, working with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), he fought back. In time, Sam took part in armed missions to rescue children from the LRA. He got the name Machine Gun Preacher while working in the dirt with a machine gun slung over his shoulder. Sam’s controversial exploits have expanded to now help thousands of children. This controversial yet intriguing character can easily be billed as, God’s violent angel.
“Preacher Sunday” would be my real excuse for this excursion. It was late morning as I entered New Braunfels. This mid-sized town sits in the Texas Hill Country; an area I’d not visited before but is undeniably some of Texas’s most beautiful. The River Road led away from town, and I was soon surrounded by large hills forested in various hues of striking green. Houses became sparse. The River Road Ice House came into view, its lot already filled with motorcycles. The Ice House and one local campground was the location for the majority of this rally. Finally, the campground to which my directions led me appeared and I turned in. The tiny road wrapped along the hillside under cover of heavy trees. Old motorcycles with tents set nearby littered the grounds. These were the unrefined bikers. I put in camp. The next day, at the River Road Ice House, I ran into old buddies from Southern California and Austin Texas, and we spent the day together. In the morning, I rode out to catch the preacher’s gig in nearby Sequin. I pulled into the church parking lot to meet a smaller crowd. Late model bikes and a more refined crew stood bullshitting in small groups. Behind them sat a beautiful truck with long boxtrailer, both offering the same fancy MACHINE GUN PREACHER paintjob.
I parked among the other bikes of this mostly Christian charity group and was made to feel welcome straight away. Besides Sam’s trailer, a donated chopper was being raffled. Supposedly, the money would go to Africa. Checking cash in pocket, I found very little. Although seldom used, I have a debit card and would just have to hit an ATM later. With no interest in the chopper, I donated the majority of my cash. Next came the poker ride. With no real interest in that either, I decided to accompany these guys to the half way point then split off, hit an ATM, and return to the church to wait for the sermon. After all, that’s mostly what I’d come for. Bikes lined up, and we headed out. At the ATM, being unfamiliar with use of these cards, I screwed up three times in succession and the machine shut me off. A call to my bank’s central office revealed that the card could not be rebooted till Monday. It was Saturday, I had thirteen bucks, a hundred and thirty miles to travel, and was hungry. Well, if I didn’t eat, the money would probably buy enough gas for the return trip.
As we piled into the church for the sermon, two women handed out snacks. Trying to appear inconspicuous, I grabbed extra. Eventually, Sam took the podium. The first thing that became apparent was that this guy’s grammar was horrible. In fact, he tended to speak like some backwoods hillbilly. I found this unpreacherly conduct entertaining. I learned that Sam now lives in Africa but makes forays around the word to raise money for his cause. Interestingly, he bragged about being a bragger. It seems Sam owns quite a few businesses in the U.S., one of which is a motorcycle shop. This, he said, accounts for his nice bike. Also, sponsors like HD and others give him fancy leather jackets, etc. In time he got around to the business of Africa. Using a slide projector, Sam showed how he’d dug almost 30 fresh water wells. His ministry also feeds about 8,000 people a day, and he’s got a 2,000-acre farm with two tractors on Sudan land from which locals work to grow food. Sam said many children live/starve in the streets and engage in the sex trade to sustain themselves. The orphanages take some in then expel them when they turn 15. “And what are they gonna do now?” he went on, “Without no skills, they just fall back into the sex trade. And who’s fault is that? It’s the church’s now ain’t it.” We were then shown slides of a six-story structure he’s building. This place is proposed to offer separate businesses on different floors. Two floors will be a hotel, while a hair and beauty salon, restaurant, and others, will occupy adjacent floors. The idea of this self-supporting business is to allow kids opportunity to learn honest skills that can be used in the real world. And there was more; all of it pretty inspiring.
Next, Sam said, “I figure anyone’s askin’ me for money I outta be able to ask him any question I want. So, I’m gonna give this mike out for anyone to ask me anything even if it’s personal.” Interesting proposal. After all, this guy’s a very controversial character. Among other missionaries, his violent methods are sometimes viewed as anti- Christianly. I read that one aid worker deemed Sam, “Batshit insane.” Another account calls him a “Douchenozzle.” There are also those who’ve tried to discredit him, yet no one seems to have succeeded in producing real proof. It’s all kind of a mystery really. I asked for the mic. “Sam,” I said, “I saw your fancy rig out there. Pretty high dollar set up. Too bad things gotta be like that,” he replied, “But if you don’t, no one will take you seriously.” “True enough,” I conceded, “You know, a couple of years back the four largest organizations raising money for cancer were all busted. NONE of the money went to cancer research. The investigation revealed they all had big houses, fancy cars, vacations to Tahiti, etc. There’s been others too. For many charities, very little money ever sees its intended purpose. In light of all this tell me…why should I trust a rich man like you?” Sam smiled, “Good question. First off, I got my own business, so none of the charitable money goes to me. From my businesses I take $65,000 a year salary an,’ I think that’s a lot. Last year I donated $11,000 of that to the kids. There’s some around here today that comes to Africa to help work with the kids. Maybe ask them. You can research me some more if you want.” Interesting answer. I handed the microphone back. After the sermon, Sam and I spoke for a few minutes outside. He admired my packed up bike, then invited me to another “Africa” rally in Ohio later that summer.
But everyone wanted the preacher’s attention, and he soon turned to them. While hanging with some of the other guys I met the man who’d donated that raffle chopper and asked if he thought Sam legit. He said, “I think so, but if not that’s on him. I legitimately donated this chopper to feed hungry kids. I think that’s all God would ask.” I liked his attitude. I then got to talking with a tall, 70-yearold, lifelong motorcycle enthusiast who still spends several months of every year riding the country. While talking, I mentioned my earlier escapade with the ATM. The guy pulled $100 from his pocket and handed it to me. I assured him I had enough to get home, but he insisted. The man said he never donates money to overseas causes and prefers to help those nearby. I thanked him, then stashed the bill in my pocket. After dinner at a local restaurant, I began the long ride back. As the old Harley’s beat its rhythm against the lonely pavement I couldn’t help but reflect on recent events. The time and impact of the words from those involved here left me much to think on. I’d heard it said that what you give will always come back to you three times over. Well, that’s exactly what just happened. Although I’ve no interest in religion, truth is truth, and so I had much to ponder.