You'd be hard-pressed to make up a life more grippingly unusual than the one Sam Childers has led.
And with a story as extraordinary as his, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood came knocking. Machine Gun Preacher, which opens in UAE cinemas today, stars Gerard Butler as Childers and features Marc Forster, the director of the last Bond movie.
"It's like a dream," says Childers. "I never thought a movie, I never thought a book - I never thought any of this was going to happen. And I've got to give God the credit."
Machine Gun Preacher recounts Childers's often harrowing journey from a life of extreme debauchery (rampant drugs, sex, biker gangs and random violence) to becoming an ordained evangelical minister and devoting his life to saving orphaned children in southern Sudan and northern Uganda.
After witnessing some of the terrible toll the long-running war has inflicted on the population, Childers established the Shekinah Fellowship Children's Village in south Sudan, close to the Ugandan border, at the start of the new millennium. It's a place he describes in his autobiography, Another Man's War, as "a 40-acre island of safety and calm in the middle of a hellish civil war" and Childers claims to have rescued nearly 1,000 refugees, half of them children, since it was constructed.
If that was it, everyone would be hailing Childers as a selfless hero. But in fact, he's a controversial figure, thanks to his fondness for perpetrating violence against the groups that have caused so much suffering in the region, notably Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army, which uses extreme barbarism to wipe out entire villages to recruit children as lackeys, sex slaves and soldiers. Some of the events that Childers writes about are beyond depravity, so you can't help admiring his willingness to head into treacherous terrain searching for survivors when news of LRA attacks reaches his compound.
At the same time, Childers has plenty of detractors, with questions raised about his vigilante brand of humanitarianism, and whether all of his oft-recounted exploits are true. Many NGOs and aid agencies operating in that part of Africa argue that Childers does more harm than good. Not that he would ever see it that way.
"I always say, 'Imagine it was your child out there - would you want me to do anything I had to in order to try to save them?'" he says. "I think most people would say yes."
Given that his early life was so steeped in vicious aggression (he once nearly stabbed a man to death), it does appear that Childers gets a buzz out of leading his well-armed militia into potentially fatal predicaments. He's also keen to cultivate an image as the only man brave (or foolish) enough to take on the LRA. He's frequently called a mercenary, but it doesn't bother him much. "Not really, although I kind of wish I could get paid like a mercenary - they make a lot of money!"
But he's also a haunted man. While he's been with his wife Lynn for more than two decades and they have a daughter, Paige, the 48-year-old holds himself responsible for several deaths from his "sinner" past - people he introduced to drugs, including the first girl he ever loved. "Jackie was a sweet, innocent girl who I met at a very young age. She was 13, I was 15 and she was innocent in all things but I messed her life up."
Meanwhile, having a movie made about his life has given Childers a platform where people will listen to what he has to say. "A child is a child no matter what language they speak or what their colour is. For me, it's about giving a message of hope all around the world."