Susan and Jesse Landess at the entrance to the corn maze honoring Seventh-day Adventist conscientious objector and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Desmond Doss, in the 75th anniversary year of his heroic deed delivering 75 wounded soldiers to safety under heavy fire. | Photo credit: Christa McConnell
Landess Farm is aiming to inspire with a corn maze honoring Seventh-day Adventist conscientious objector and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Desmond Doss, in the 75th anniversary year of his heroic deed delivering 75 wounded soldiers to safety under heavy fire along Hacksaw Ridge on the island of Okinawa during World War II.
“We just talk about his character qualities of kindness, compassion, self-sacrifice, and try to tie that in to what we’re presently seeing in society. We’re hoping that we can stimulate peoples’ thoughts in the direction of his character versus what we’re seeing in society right now,” said Susan Landess.
Jesse and Susan Landess, members of Anderson Seventh-day Church in Indiana, operate family-owned Landess Farm in Daleville, Indiana. Eight years ago, the farm began an annual corn maze tradition that operates during the fall. Last January, Jesse said the decision was made to pay tribute to Desmond Doss in 2020.
A former high school history teacher, Jesse incorporates historical education – often with some Bible trivia - in the mazes, influencing the decision to mark the 75th year anniversary of the Hacksaw Ridge feat, he said.
Twelve checkpoints throughout the 10-acre corn maze require guests to answer trivia questions related to Doss, his character, and his deeds. Based on their answers, visitors are directed left or right until they complete the maze, Susan and Jesse explained. The Congressional Medal of Honor Society assisted in the creation of the trivia questions.
Featuring Doss and his story opens the door for a “low-key” way to share faith with visitors in addition to historical education, the Landesses said. A booklet called “The Faith of Desmond Doss,” along with a Hacksaw Ridge tract, are given to visitors, offering more information about Doss and the Adventist faith that influenced his life.
Jesse said doing the will of God and not man, commitment, living conscientiously, and not giving in to pressure from others against morality are all traits individuals can learn from Doss today.
“[Revelation 14:13] is something that I quote to our customers: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord… their works follow them (NKJV).’ This is a prime example of a godly man who lived a life committed to Jesus. 75 years later, he’s impacting lives,” Susan said.
In the first weeks of their fall season, the Landess family said they have already encountered new opportunities to share their faith with visitors through the story of Desmond Doss.
One Friday evening, Susan said, some customers stayed late and a young man inquired about the Landess’s religion.
“That young man initiated the conversation,” Susan said. “What we pray for is that God will open the way, because we don’t want to be obnoxious, yet we don’t want to miss an opportunity that He presents to us. I love when that happens.”
Jesse was recently able to share a copy of "The Great Controversy" with a non-Adventist youth pastor who shared an interest in history with Jesse, Susan added.
“Little things like that mean a lot to us. That we can just tell people, God does care for every little thing,” she said.
Landess Farm hopes to welcome about 2,000 visitors this fall, Jesse and Susan said.
“It’s really neat to see Him work,” Susan said. “It’s a maze! It’s corn. God uses all kinds of things.”
If you’d like to visit the farm, you have until Oct. 30. Tickets are $8 and free for those 3 and under. For more information, visit www.landessfarm.com.
Shannon Kelly, Herald freelance writer