`The whole world was lifted off my shoulders'

A "wonderful terrible" was about the only way Roy Tuttle could put into words the events of Wednesday, March 18, through Sunday, March 22.

"The wonderful is what we were hoping for, and it's what we received," said Brother Tuttle, speaking of the safe release of his son, Elder Travis Tuttle, and Elder Andrew Propst from Russian kidnappers. (See article on page 3.)The terrible was four days of not knowing the well-being of his oldest child - "Trav," as his dad calls him.

A physically and emotionally drained Brother Tuttle related during a Church News telephone interview the peace and comfort that descended immediately on him and his wife, Donna, after the 6 a.m. (MST) March 19 phone call from the Church informing them of the kidnapping. Elder Tuttle's companion, Elder Andrew Propst, was also kidnapped. (See article on this page.)

At the time, Brother Tuttle's parents, Merrill and Shirley Tuttle, happened to be visiting their son and family. Right after that first phone call, Brother Tuttle's father opened the scriptures and turned to D&C 84:88: " . . . For I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up."

"That was our family motto," Roy Tuttle said. "We were constantly turning to that scripture every time someone needed reassurance. We knew that through the power of prayer and through the power of the priesthood that Travis was going to be OK."

Despite that reassurance, however, the family, including daughters Michelle, 18; and Cambria, 16, slept fitfully for the next few nights. Halfway around the world, Brother Tuttle said, his son was leaning on his Father in Heaven - of that he is sure. "He was full of joy and prayer, knowing that the Spirit was with him. I'm sure that Trav was more concerned about us than he was with himself."

In fact, Brother Tuttle added, he wouldn't be surprised if his son had cornered his abductors and gave them the first discussion.

In the meantime, he explained, the community rallied around the Tuttle family. "We had denominations of every faith call us. It's been astronomical. I had a little lady call me and said she was Lutheran and she had taken the day off and had gone to her church to pray the whole day. She called yesterday [March 22] and said she was so happy and that she was going back to her church to thank Father in Heaven."

Brother Tuttle also said his company passed out yellow buttons to some 3,500 employees and that the chief executive officer urged prayer. A non-LDS neighbor tied yellow ribbons around English oak trees on every yard in the subdivision where the Tuttles live.

"What a missionary tool this has been and will continue to be," Brother Tuttle noted. "You will not believe what doors this will open, not just in Arizona, but throughout the world."

The Tuttles' bishop, Lynn Holyoak, who lives across the street and two doors down from the Tuttles, agreed. He has known the family for about 10 years; his son, David, played Little League with Travis.

"I told Roy, `I've never borne my testimony to as many non-members since I served my mission 30 years ago. Every [media] interview I did, we'd talk about faith and trusting Heavenly Father. It was remarkable how those reporters responded."

Then, at 4 a.m., Sunday, March 22, the phone rang once again - this time with sweet news. It was the State Department informing the Tuttles their son was safe with Church and Russian authorities. The Church phoned 30 seconds later.

"I started to tremble," Brother Tuttle related. "It was like the whole world had been lifted off my shoulders, and I know Donna felt the same way. Everybody was out of bed and jumping around and going absolutely bananas."

Later that day, they talked with their missionary. "The one phone call was short and sweet. He said he was being taken great care of. He said he was the happiest he had been on his mission. I am sure part of that came from his being safe. He said he was thrilled to be alive."

During the telephone interview, Brother Tuttle reflected on his son, who played tennis and studied two years of Russian language at Gilbert High School.

Brother Tuttle related the account of one of Elder Tuttle's investigators. Before his son's arrival in the area, the man, Carl, had been receiving missionaries for some time. He had been in two concentration camps during World War II and had had both legs amputated. He is also sight- and hearing-impaired.

"Travis and he have become the best of friends," Brother Tuttle said, referring to letters his son wrote about Carl. "He looks to Carl as his grandpa and Trav goes over at least a couple of times a week. He shaves Carl and cuts his hair. He mends his clothes. He washes his sheets and his clothes. Carl lives to see Trav."

Just before Christmas, Elder Tuttle baptized Carl.

"That is Travis," his father softly said.

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