February 10, 2018

'Hacksaw Ridge' Attracts Best Foreign Film Award and Baptism in Poland

Jan Kot & Victor Hulbert, Trans-European Division News

Hacksaw Ridge,Mel Gibson’s blockbuster movie on the courage of Seventh-day Adventist World War II medic Desmond Doss has been awarded the title of ‘Best Foreign Film’ at the prestigious Polish award ceremony Bestsellery Empik 2017. The award ceremony on February 6, 2018, recognized the best-selling books, films, CDs, games, and magazines across the country. Hacksaw Ridge outstripped other cinema hits such as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Bridget Jones 3.

The ceremony was broadcast live by TVN, Poland’s largest private TV network. Once again, Polish Seventh-day Adventists feel rewarded for the hard work they put into highlighting the faith of Desmond Doss during last year’s film release.

However, the level of satisfaction is at its highest in Krakow where, just the Sabbath before the ceremony, Natalia Tatarczuch was baptized as a direct result of watching the film. Natalia had never heard of Seventh-day Adventists but was so inspired by the faith and courage of Doss that she went to see the film twice before searching out the Krakow Seventh-day Adventist church on the Internet.

When church pastor Artur Dżaman met Natalia, he stated that she could not wait for baptism. “Every conversion is a special event in my pastoral experience,” he said, “but this was unique.” Excited, Dżaman noted that God could touch people’s lives in very different places. “Just as he cried out to Adam in paradise, ‘Adam, where are you?’ Natalia found God in the movie Hacksaw Ridge,” he said.

Natalia’s experience has given Dżaman a new vision. “As a church, we must be where there are people. We must be the salt of this earth. Salt in soup and not in a salt shaker. I am immeasurably delighted for this miracle of conversion. God is great!” he said.

Throughout 2017, the Adventist Church in Poland went to extraordinary lengths to make sure that this was not just a movie release, but an opportunity for church members, youth, and Adventist media to share the faith of Doss. The Adventist Publishing house released two books on the Doss story as well as thousands of copies of a special edition of the Signs of the Times magazine. Hope Channel Poland gained permission to dub the Desmond Doss documentary, The Conscientious Objector, by Terry Benedict—who also served as a producer of Hacksaw Ridge. It was made available on DVD and, working with the distributor, was also added as an extra on the Polish DVD release of Hacksaw Ridge.

Adventist young people were also a significant part of the witness, using social media, special evangelism programs, Desmond Doss t-shirts, magazine distribution alongside historical US military vehicles in the town square, and even organizing a Desmond Doss fun run.

“In my entire life as a Seventh-day Adventist I have never seen our church gain such good media coverage,” said Marek Rakowski, the executive secretary of the Adventist Church in Poland.

That visibility increased as the church presented DVDs as a special gift to many public figures including the Catholic primate of Poland, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, as well as the president of Poland Andrzej Duda.

The entire missionary project was also an excellent opportunity to promote Hope Channel Poland, which was officially recognized as a legal media entity last year within the government register of broadcasters.

A result of all this activity is that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is now far better known in Poland. While members rejoice in the ‘Best Foreign Film’ award for Hacksaw Ridge, they rejoice even more in the knowledge that people like Natalia have seen their lives changed through the faithful witness of one conscientious Adventist, 75 years ago.