Sam Childers was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota, the son of Paul Childers, a union ironworker. Sam had two older brothers, Paul Jr. and George. He also had a sister, Donna, who died of a heart problem before she was a year old. While growing up, his parents moved from place to place following construction projects.
In the spring of 1974, a couple months before Sam turned twelve, his family moved to Grand Rapids, Minnesota. He was going into seventh grade that fall, and the two years between then and when he started high school were some of the most influential times of his life. It was in these formative years that Sam discovered cigarettes, marijuana, and alcohol which lead to many years of drug addiction, drug dealing, and alcoholism. Sam also developed a love for motorcycles and the lifestyle that often follows a Hells Angels biker.
Over 30,000 children have been abducted by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the region. Some relief organizations report as many as 50,000 children have been abducted and 1.7 million people have been displaced. The abducted children are generally forced to be child soldiers or sex slaves until they escape or are rescued. Thousands of children have become orphans as a result of brutal LRA attacks on remote villages in Southern Sudan and Northern Uganda.
Not long after his first trip to the Sudan, Childers and his wife Lynn founded the Angels of East Africa, the Children’s Village in Southern Sudan. The Children’s Village currently houses and educates over 300 orphans, with over a thousand children rescued since its inception. The staff at the Children’s Village are primarily Sudanese orphans and widows themselves. This is currently the largest orphanage in Southern Sudan and is unique in its approach of leading armed rescue missions directly into LRA territory. The Children's Village is the only non-governmental organization that does not pick up and leave when fighting breaks out in the area. However, this claim cannot be verified.
In November 2009, Childers appeared on Debra Peppers' television show Outreach Connection in Quincy, Illinois. He revealed that he also rescues children abducted in Northern Uganda in Africa.
A biopic is currently being shot about Childers. The film, titled Machine Gun Preacher, is directed by Marc Forster film with Gerard Butler portraying the preacher.