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Polish youth bring the Reformation to life in 5 cities

Adventist booth draws thousands during popular book fair in Krakow.

An old-fashioned door. 95 theses. Nails hammered into wood. This is not a picture from 500 years ago, but is rather how young Adventists in Poland are publicly sharing the Reformation message today. October 31, 2017 is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany.

If you had visited Krakow’s historic main square this week you might have been surprised by a group of young Adventists wheeling an old-fashioned door into the center of the square. Once set up, ‘Luther’, complete with black wig, beret and monk’s robe, begins preaching while nailing his 95 theses to the door. Each of the thesis was hand crafted. To all intents and purposes, this new Luther has become a live version of the well-known painting by German Renaissance artist, Lucas Cranach the Elder. 

“This is how we told the story to be noticed and heard,” said Michal Rakowski, a 26-year old PR manager and lay activist. His reformation idea grew out of the Public witness his team generated in 2016 with the release of the Desmond Doss film, Hacksaw ridge. [See: Hacksaw Ridge opens unprecedented witnessing opportunities in Central Europe.]

“How can we show Luther’s legacy to the general public and in the most accessible way we can find,” Rakowski states. They sought something that would be viewed as relevant in a country were 92% of the population identify themselves as Catholic, and where Adventists number only 5,700 in a population of over 38 million.

After much discussion, they decided on a re-enactment. This happened in five of the biggest cities in Poland. In Krakow, this was particularly significant as their witness coincided with the International Book Fair.

The highly respected book fair attracted 70,000 visitors this year, including literary celebrities such as Dan Brown and Eric Emmanuel Schmitt. The attention-grabbing Luther reenactment attracted 10,000 visitors to the Adventist booth, making it a very popular destination.

 

The Adventist booth featured leaflets from Signs of the Times, books including The Great Controversy and Ben Carson’s Gifted Hands, Hacksaw Ridge books and DVDs, and other materials about the Seventh-day Adventist Church. 

Specifically, for Reformation 500, The Adventist Church in Poland prepared additional resources, including 20,000 copies of a Signs of the Times Magazine dedicated to the Reformation, and information on the “Lineage” and “Reformation Journey” video series. 

Thousands of people came to visit us, usually at first paying attention to our original design and the actor playing Luther, and then getting to know Adventism, very often for the first time ever!” said Rakowski.

During the Hacksaw Ridge film release, Adventist churches opened their doors to special seminars on ‘The faith of Doss’.

This year, young adults in Krakow organized a scholar’s conference. Professor Zbigniew Pasek, one of the most highly-regarded Polish specialists in religious studies and Protestantism, was the keynote speaker. 

“Luther was a real human, not without flaws,” Pasek said. “We don’t need to treat him as a saint.” Also giving presentations, were a Lutheran priest, a philosopher, and an Adventist pastor. Five hundred years on, the audience recognized that the Reformation is still relevant, particularly the daily reformation of our hearts.

An eye-catching, Andy Warhol-inspired painting, equally caught the attention of the audience, linking modernism to the 16th century. Many volunteers were involved in bringing this project to fruition, and the design team had their hands full. 

“The Reformation is vital when it comes to the way we talk about the most important message under the sun,” shared Rakowski. That is why the entire team worked so hard on the variety of projects that brought the Reformation to life and made it relevant for today. 

The hard work paid off. “It was totally worth it, when it comes to new friendships we made at the book fair, local media covering the Luther conference, and the fact there were no free chairs left at the event,” Rakowski enthused. “People stayed to listen to the whole discussion. This is something we’ve never experienced before.” 

With Hacksaw Ridge and Reformation 500 now under their belt, this experienced and active team of committed Adventist youth are now looking to the future to decide on their next big project, sharing their Adventist faith in a creative and relevant way for their fellow young people. [tedNEWS]

For more information and photos visit the Krakow Adventist church website and Facebook page for more photos of the event. Thanks to Michal Rakowski and the Adventist Church in Krakow for sharing their witness, and to Alisa Williams, managing editor of Spectrum Magazine for assistance with editing.