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Life in Exile: Bringing Peace and Prosperity to Rural New York

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The Acton Institute’s latest film series is having a profound influence on churches and communities of all kinds. Hearts are being stirred and inspired, minds are connecting mission with culture, and as a result, the church is unlocking a bigger-picture vision of God’s plan for creation.

Over at the Letters to the Exiles blog, Evan Koons is compiling letters and testimonials from viewers of the series, sharing how For the Life of the World is transforming their lives and communities.

In the latest letter, we hear the story of Judilynn Niedercorn, a self-described “crazy middle-aged woman from D.C.,” who recently felt the call to leave her 30-year consulting career and relocate to rural New York.

Why? She knew she wanted to “be in the world” and she knew she wanted to change culture, but she wasn’t sure about God’s precise plan. “I thought it was to go to school and learn to be a social worker,” she writes. “But nope…it is to bring peace and prosperity to rural Appalachian NY!”

She continues:

For a year, all of my devotions hit on the critical topics in For the Life of the World but I couldn’t see the big picture until I got the DVD. I watched the first one over and over and sat and cried out of relief and joy because it was such a gift to me to finally see how it all fit together and what I was being called to!

I’d been working with a local non-profit as a volunteer while in school. I saw how government programs support existing levels of poverty they do not change it. They enslave people more than they free people. They are essential to keeping people afloat but how do we get them to have their dignity back, to be able to do more, to have more to take care of themselves and build their community?

I asked around, “What can we do?” Everyone said “Nothing.” or “Change the Government.” or “These are not the deserving poor, these people are lazy.” I’d been in the process of discovery of what God was trying to teach me and where He was trying to take me and it all converged when I got my DVDs.

From here, she explains what happened at her church, which after viewing the series, is now “coming out of our bunker mentality and actually serving the community.”

Then, the change came for Niedercorn:

I am starting a non-profit: Northern Appalachian Socio-Economic Collaboration (NASEC). I work with non-profits, faith-based, civic non-government and government agencies to build their understanding that basically, we have to do economic development together for the life of our local community or it will die.

I couldn’t be where I am without having seen For the Life of the World…The work is hard and daunting. It comes to me through the community and ideas and I just keep saying yes, and figure that I’ll sort it out as I go. We are making changes for the good.

I don’t have a clue how all of this is going to turn out but we have so many irons in the fire that I have to keep bringing things back to look at the infrastructure we are building to make sure we can support and sustain whatever comes our way to do.

Read the whole thing here, or find more of these stories on Evan’s blog.

To experience the series for yourself, see For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles.

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Joseph Sunde is an associate editor and writer for the Acton Institute. His work has appeared in venues such as The Federalist, First Things, The Christian Post, The Stream, Intellectual Takeout, Foundation for Economic Education, Patheos, LifeSiteNews, The City, Charisma News, The Green Room, Juicy Ecumenism, Ethika Politika, Made to Flourish, and the Center for Faith and Work. Joseph resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and four children.

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