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Spring Hill woman has personal connection with Bible teacher with role in 'War Room' movie

BROOKSVILLE — With two of her favorite Bible teachers about to make their acting debut, Joan Poole has already made plans to see War Room this month at the GTC Beacon Theatres.

A pastor's wife and Bible teacher at House of Grace Covenant Church in Spring Hill, Poole said she has appreciated the studies conducted via DVD and seminar by the women. She was surprised to learn they would be in a movie.

"I have done many Bible studies by Beth Moore. She is an awesome lady," Poole said. "I've done one study by Priscilla Shirer. Her presentation was very good; it really held your attention."

War Room is the fifth film produced, written and directed by Alex and Stephen Kendrick since 2002 (Fireproof, Courageous, Facing the Giants, Flywheel). It debuts in theaters Aug. 28 and focuses on the theme of prayer as a powerful weapon for healing a failing marriage.

While Beth Moore accepted a small role in the film, Priscilla Shirer plays the female lead, Elizabeth Jordan.

In the film, Tony and Elizabeth have great jobs, a beautiful daughter and their dream house. But in private, the Jordans struggle under the strain of a crumbling marriage. Tony basks in his professional success and flirts with temptation while Elizabeth resigns herself to increasing bitterness. Their lives begin to change after one of Elizabeth's real estate clients challenges her to establish a "war room" and gives her a battle plan of prayer for her family.

As with the previous Kendrick Brothers' films, War Room uses both drama and humor to present a serious message. T.C. Stallings plays Tony Jordan, Alex Kendrick is Coleman Young, and veteran actor Karen Abercrombie plays the role of the woman who is such an inspiration to Elizabeth, Miss Clara. Comedian Michael Junior plays Michael, Alena Pitts is young Danielle Jordan, and Moore plays Elizabeth's boss, Mandy.

Busy rearing two sons, writing and speaking, and working with her husband in their Going Beyond Ministries, Shirer, a New York Times bestselling author, told the Tampa Bay Times that she "never in a million years" thought she would star in a film.

"I have brand new respect for people who do this for a living and are able to do it well, because it really is quite a difficult thing to not look like you're acting when there are cameras all around you and 20 or 30 people in a room helping to capture one scene," Shirer said. "So it was an adventure, something we all had to work hard at, spend long hours doing. But I'm praying that as people see this film they'll see that it was well worth every bit of that effort."

Shirer has been working on the film for more than a year, putting in 13- to 14-hour days all last summer.

True to the movie's theme, Shirer said that prayer saturated the process.

"It didn't matter whether you were a makeup artist or had something to do with set design, everybody had morning devotions together each day," she said.

It was getting a "go for it" from God that encouraged Shirer to do the film, she said.

"I love that about God, that sometimes he just gives you a parameter, but within that parameter there is lots of opportunity based on your desires, based on our wants and based on your likes and dislikes to just go on an adventure with God," she said.

The film's message about being strategic and specific when praying for families helped her in her own prayer life and should be inspiring to all ages, Shirer said, noting that her daughter in the film, Danielle, begins to copy her mother's example. By the end, her husband responds as well.

The ending, Shirer said, is powerful.

"One thing I love about the Kendrick brothers' films is that the ending scenes always make you leave the theater with a little bit of a chill down your spine, because it's called you to decision," she said. "Am I going to have just enjoyed this movie and my popcorn and soda and clapped my hands and laughed hard — which we hope you do — but am I going to do something with that challenge? So my desire is that people will do something with that inspiration and figure out how they are going to implement it in their lives."

Poole is already expecting to be blessed by the film, she said.

"I probably will go with a friend (who also did the studies)," Poole said. "I love going to the movies, and seeing a Christian production is a great treat."