18 February 2018 | Hacksaw Ridge, the Mel Gibson-directed World War II epic about Adventist medic, Desmond Doss, has won the Best Foreign Film award at Bestsellery Empik 2017, a prestigious Polish award ceremony. The film beat out other box office successes such Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Bridget Jones 3 at the February 6 event broadcast on Poland’s largest private TV network, TVN.
Polish Adventists put a considerable degree of effort into sharing information about Doss as the film was released.
The Adventist community in the country reported a February 3, 2018 baptism due to a viewing of Hacksaw Ridge. A new convert, Natalia Tatarczuch, was baptised as a direct result of watching the film.
Tatarczuch had never heard of the Adventist denomination “but was so inspired by the faith and courage of Doss that she went to see the film twice before searching out the Krakow Adventist church on the internet,” according to a tedNEWS report on the baptism from the Trans-European Division of the church.
“Every conversion is a special event in my pastoral experience,” said Polish Pastor Artur Dżaman according to the report, “but this was unique.” Dżaman said that God can reach people in different ways. “Just as he cried out to Adam in paradise, ‘Adam, where are you?’ Natalia found God in the movie Hacksaw Ridge.”
The baptism has given Dżaman a new approach to ministry: “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!”
Adventists in Poland spent 2017 deploying a variety of creative ways to share information about the faith of Doss. Two books on the Doss story as well as thousands of copies of a special edition of Signs of the Times were published. Hope Channel Poland gained permission to dub the Desmond Doss documentary The Conscientious Objector by Terry Benedict. This was made available on DVD and, in collaboration with the distributor, was also added as an extra on the Polish DVD release of Hacksaw Ridge.
Adventist young people promoted the Doss story on social media, through special events like a Desmond Doss fun run, Desmond Doss t-shirts and magazine distribution alongside historic US military vehicles.
The denomination also presented DVDs to many public figures including the Catholic Primate of Poland, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, as well as the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda.
Hacksaw Ridge was of particular interest to Adventists around the world. Church leaders warned members about high levels of violence and some brief nudity in the film, but acknowledged that the production constituted a serious attempt by Hollywood veteran Gibson to tell the story of Doss.
The film, which was released in the United States on November 4, 2016, told the story of Doss, an Adventist World War II army medic who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for saving the lives of 75 men as a conscientious objector in the Battle of Okinawa during World War II.
There are 5,820 Seventh-day Adventists living in Poland.