Machine Gun Preacher's visa battle to get into Australia
A FORMER bad boy biker, who has been helping war-torn orphans in Sudan, has faced a 20-month battle to come to Australia.
Sam Childers, aka the Machine Gun Preacher, is the subject of a feature film on his work helping children caught up in the horrors of Joseph Kony's Lord Resistances Army.
But despite his work, which started in 1998, he was barred from entering Australia in August 2015, despite being in the country previously to promote his Christian ministry which includes an orphanage in the South Sudanese and
Northern Uganda border town of Nimule.
With a 'Bible in one hand' and AK47 in the other', Childers has helped saved the lives of thousands of women and children.
The locals started to call him "The Machine Gun Preacher" for his work in protecting kids from the LRA and Kony.
In 2005, Dateline NBC, were in Northern Uganda doing a story on Kony and came by Sam Childers.
"We had him booked to speak at around 40 events,'' Kevin Evans said.
"He was not allowed to board his Cathay Pacific flight to Australia due to his visa being suspended … even though he had been into Australia 8 or 9 times before.
"It took us 20 months of battling back and forth with the Australian border control and the Australian Consulate in Washington."
The battle came after changes to Australia's visa laws which meant greater checks on previous backgrounds. Childers, as a former bikie, had been in trouble with the law in the US many years ago, while his work in Sudan has been the subject of some controversy because of his unusual methods.
A Brisbane-based retired barrister volunteered his services, along with a commercial lawyer to secure Childers a multiple entry visa.
Childers will arrive in Australia for five weeks of speaking engagements, starting in Melbourne and finishing on the Sunshine Coast on September 24.
Queensland venues include Mackay, Toowoomba, Noosa, Nambour, the Whitsundays and Maryborough.
While the LRA and Kony are no longer the threat they were, there is a different war happening in South Sudan.
"The world's youngest nation is at war with itself - once Dinka and Nuer brothers that fought side by side (for 45 years) against the President of Northern Sudan Omar al Bashir and his armies are now at war with each other - brother killing brother as they say in South Sudan,'' Evans says.
"South Sudan is no longer threatened by Joseph Kony and the Lord's resistance Army (LRA) - they are hiding in the Congo and are very small compared to what they used to be.
"South Sudan now has to come to terms with its bloodiest war ever and the worst refugee crisis on the planet right now - everyday thousands cross the border from South Sudan into Northern Uganda and make thier way to the many refugee camps - which include Bidi Bidi - The world's largest refugee camp."
Childers has around 190 children at his Nimule orphanage that are there 24/7 - he also makes around 3,000 meals every day in his soup kitchen in Nimule.
While he has daily demands for more help, he says: "It's not possible to take more in."
He simply does not have the resources to make it happen.
Childers says the one thing that keeps him going are the faces of the children, something that are captured in beautiful images by Evans.
Angels of East Africa operates in three countries - South Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia.
The group looks after about 350 children, and prepares about 12,000 meals a day.