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Mon, Oct. 14

Kidnap victim recounts harrowing story to Harkins Theatre audience

Screencap courtesy

Screencap courtesy

Imagine holding a clothes iron in your hand, ready to strike someone dead so you can escape a seemingly impossible situation in order to save your life.

Travis Tuttle struggled with that exact scenario during his mission work in Saratov, Russia, 15 years ago. This past weekend, he shared his story during a question and answer session at Harkins Theatre in Prescott Valley.

The session took place after the screening of the independent film, "The Saratov Approach," which depicts Tuttle's experience, along with his friend and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) fellow missionary Andrew Propst.

Both men's lives took a dramatic turn when two desperate kidnappers, Sergei and Nikolai, hijacked them under the pretense of wanting to learn about God. The abductors beat and shackled their victims, seeking a hefty $300,000 ransom.

Tuttle said the film accurately depicted the experience for the most part, as he fielded questions from the audience.

Q: Did your faith wander during your ordeal?

A: No, I knew that either way, everything would be okay.

Q: In the scene where you were about to overtake your captors, why did you both pass it up?

A: We were full of adrenaline; we came up with several ideas on what to do but started to apply the big picture to everything. Basically, we had to be fully committed to killing someone and that's a scary thought. We had to think of the other missionaries and how this would affect other peoples' lives...this was our turning point and we knew then that we were ready to die.

Q: How did the kidnapping change your mission?

A: We were released on a Sunday. By Wednesday, I was in a different mission in Germany. I was very sad to leave and it was difficult to accept being away.

Q: What do you think changed Sergei's mind about killing you both?

A: Our strategy during our capture was to try and be friends with them or at least give them each precise reasons why they should not let us die. We tried to find commonalities and drive that home as much as we could. During (captivity) we began to understand our captors' problems and what motivated them to hold us for ransom.

Q: If you had to do it all over again...?

A: Absolutely. Of course, we lived. But this experience changed our lives for the better and helped a lot of people.

Tuttle and Propst remain friends and the LDS mission work in Russia continues. Tuttle said that his son might want to serve in Saratov and he will support his decision 100 percent, as the father believes the Russian mission is one of the best.

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