Editor's note: News editor Andrew McChesney is currently traveling in Eastern Europe with Trans-European Division communication director Victor Hulbert and reporting on Adventist work in the region. For a list of others stories, follow the links at the end of this story.
Seventh-day Adventist leaders in Poland are looking forward to the release of Mel Gibson’s film “Hacksaw Ridge” about the life of U.S. World War II hero Desmond Doss.
Their interest is not in promoting the movie but in sharing the story of Doss, an Adventist medic who stood true to God and saved the lives of 75 soldiers during a single battle. Doss became the first conscientious objector to receive the U.S. Medal of Honor.
“We believe that this will be a great opportunity to tell people about Jesus Christ,” Jaroslaw Dziegielewski, president of the Adventist Church in Poland, said at a regularly scheduled meeting of local church leaders in Poland’s capital, Warsaw, on Tuesday.
Marek Micyk, youth director for the church in Poland, presented plans for how Adventist young people would use the release of the film in November to share their faith in this predominantly Roman Catholic country of 38.5 million people and only 5,820 Adventists.
The eight-point plan — which Micyk, 37, said was inspired by Adventist public relations specialist Michal Rakowski, 25, and prepared by an eight-member group of young people — has already begun with young people translating Doss’ English-language Wikipedia page for the Polish version of Wikipedia. In addition, the church registered the DesmondDoss.pl web domain this week so Poles who enter his name in search engines will be able to find a website with information about Doss, the Adventist Church, and related Adventist issues such as vegetarianism and the Sabbath.
On the streets, young people will be stationed outside movie theaters with free booklets about Doss — possibly a translated version of a 32-page booklet that is being prepared by the church’s It Is Written television ministry for distribution in the United States.
“People like to hear true stories,” Micyk said. “So people will come out of the movie theaters wanting to learn more about Desmond Doss, and we will try to share something more.”
An outdoor running challenge is being considered for Warsaw and other cities. Participants will be invited to carry a heavy object around a course, similar to Doss’ heroic actions when he carried 75 wounded soldiers one by one to safety in Okinawa in 1945.
“People will not carry other people as Desmond Doss did, but they will be given some kind of weight and they will run,” Micyk said.
USB memory sticks with materials about Doss and the Adventist Church will be distributed to journalists, and popular Polish YouTubers will be offered information that they can use to record programs about Doss.
“We want to reach young people, and they use the Internet more than television,” Micyk said.
The local Adventist publishing house will print a Polish edition of the book Desmond Doss: Conscientious Objector, a 2005 biography by Doss’ wife Frances M. Doss, and the local Hope Channel is putting Polish subtitles on Terry Benedict’s 2004 award-winning documentary “Conscientious Objector.”
The Polish plans won immediate praise from Victor Hulbert, communication director for the Trans-European Division.
“I am very impressed with what you are doing,” said Hulbert, who attended the meeting of church leaders in Warsaw on Tuesday. “I am glad that you have seen the big picture, what is happening out in the world, and saying, ‘We can do something with this as a church.’”
Hulbert has been preparing for the film’s release for more than a year and put together a special sharing magazine with Doss’ story and his beliefs. The content of Hulbert’s magazine, published by the Adventist Church in Britain, is being offered to churches worldwide, and the Polish-language Signs of the Times magazine has translated several articles for its next issue.
Other parts of the world church also are gearing up for the movie’s international premiere on Nov. 4. The church in Australia and Serbia are also reprinting portions of Hulbert’s magazine. In North America, Pacific Press will rerelease the book Desmond Doss: Conscientious Objector, and Tennessee-based It Is Written will oversee the church’s local response to an expected inflow of questions connected to the Doss story.
Miroslaw Karauda, evangelism director for the Adventist Church in Poland, said the outreach initiatives planned for Poland might not only point people to Jesus but also help energize local Adventist young people.
“It would be great if our youth could engage in all these outreach initiatives,” he said. “We hope that these ideas could serve as a revival for our youth and inspire them.”
Stories from East European Trip: