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phil-tuttlePhil Tuttle: Welcome to my blog! For those of you new to the site, I am the President of Walk Thru the Bible, an organization based in Atlanta, GA, dedicated to igniting a passion for God's Word—here in the U.S. and throughout the world. In this blog you'll find a crazy blend of random thoughts, bizarre humor, and even an occasional deep insight.

Please jump into the discussion because, as we all know, a conversation is way more fun than a monologue.


India Update #4

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Hello friends,

Thank you for praying today. The Chosen teaching event was well received and a blessing to all who came. There were several pastors with large groups from their congregations and a few priests did attend, so that was an answer to prayer. The Equipper for our team in this area felt they embraced the teaching. We'll find out more about this when Thomas does the follow up with them.

All the generations were represented. Many older folks with well worn Bibles were there, as well as dozens of school children, middle and high school age, many girls the age of Mary! It was impressive that they came on a Saturday, especially since they are still on winter break.

It was a nice surprise when two groups of young adults from the U.S. and Australia who are on YWAM's (Youth With a Mission) DTS (Disciple Training School) program joined us. They're spending their missions outreach months in India, Nepal, and Australia. One of the girls just graduated from North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Ga., just a few miles from our home!

With such a diverse audience, Phil had a challenging day. The translator, a professor from a local Bible college, really captured the message and purpose of the course and did a great job, another answer to prayer!

2015-01-11 image-2At the end of the day, a pastor came up and grabbed Phil's hands and said, "Thank you! I never knew that Mary had so much to teach me!"

Please continue to pray for us.

Phil, Chris Tiegreen, and Mark Schaaf are all preaching at different churches tomorrow around the city. Then on Monday, we head back to Hyderabad for our South Asia Regional Consultation with our 25 leaders from across India as well as Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh.

It may be a couple of days until you hear from us again.

Thank you for the prayers!


India Update #3

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Hi everyone! It's Ellen Tuttle in Calcutta (known as Kolkata in India), the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. Thank you so much for following our journey and praying for us! Your prayers are essential for the success of this ministry trip.

We're testing our new course called Chosen, on the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus. This will be its first international teaching.

Christianity is India's third largest religion with approximately 24 million followers, constituting 2.3% of India's population, comprised of Protestants and Catholics. Even though these two groups have theological differences, they're both distinct minorities, and they're hoping to unite when they have opportunity. This course on Mary would seem to be one such opportunity.

Please be in prayer for Phil. There are a number of priests from the local Catholic diocese coming. Our World Teach National Director, Rev. Sathyabal sent them a preview of the material in their Bengali language. Their first feedback is positive, and they are coming to the teaching of Chosen tomorrow. Praise God.

Prayer requests:2015-01-09 image-2

  • Pray that tomorrow will build bridges, not walls--for connections without compromise.
  • Pray that Phil and his interpreter work well together so the message is presented accurately and winsomely. There have been times when interpreters were excited about preaching their own message rather than what Phil is teaching!
  • Pray for every single person to be touched deeply by the Spirit through the Word.
  • Pray for health and endurance! The air pollution in Calcutta is strong, so our eyes and throats are burning.

As you are reading this on Friday night, it will be Saturday morning here, and Phil will be starting to teach. So before you fall asleep, pray intentionally for these requests. We really appreciate it and we know that your prayers are what releases God's power to bring real change and growth in the hearts of these people.

We'll let you know how God is answering your prayers soon!


Greetings From India

2015-01-08 image-1This picture captures one of the most beautiful sights in the whole world.

After two long flights, a tense encounter with an overly zealous Indian immigration official, and a few anxious moments as my bag was one of the last ones down the carousel, we finally walked out the secure door into the chaotic waiting area that screams, "Welcome to Hyderabad! You're not in Atlanta anymore, Dorothy!"

As I scanned the amazingly diverse crowd, I heard Ellen shout, "There he is!" Right at the same instant my eyes and Sathyabal's eyes connected. His grin spread across his face as we moved to hug each other. Not some polite cross-culturally-sensitive hug, but a sincere embrace shared by two brothers who have grown up as leaders together.

And there was our old friend, Samson, ready to welcome us with beautiful flowers. Ellen isn't just viewed as my wife here, she is loved and respected as "Madam President" -- a title she has never encouraged nor fully embraced!

It's been a day since that scene unfolded, but my mind has already replayed it several times during more than a few interruptions in my first night of sleep.

Greetings like that are precious. And we are blessed to be welcomed that way all over the world. The global network of Walk Thru the Bible is amazing, and it should never be taken for granted.

When William Carey came to India in 1793 I doubt he received such a welcome. And centuries before that, the Apostle Thomas risked his life when he brought the gospel here.

Even today, there are thousands who cross oceans, languages, and cultures to build bridges to unreached people groups. Our ministry builds on the foundations these faithful pioneers establish.

And so, it's good as we celebrate Sathyabal's warm embrace, to pause and remember those who are willing to journey where nobody is waiting for them. There are no hugs. No flowers.

Today there are still 4,000 languages that don't have the Bible. And 3,100 people groups without any Gospel witness.

God's heart is that every person come to know Him. And our calling is to create encounters with the truth that make that possible.

Some plant, some cultivate, some water, but only God makes things grow and brings the harvest.

And after the harvest arrives, the hugs soon follow. Especially between those who never forget that somebody took a risk to bring them the life changing news of Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection.

And that's true whether they're from Hyderabad, India or Normal, Illinois.

On The Way To India!

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A couple months ago, I sent you and a small group of friends and partners a series of real-time reports and prayer requests during my trip to the Philippines.

Your response was amazing! Our team and I were blown away by the number of email responses and the level of your engagement. I could actually feel your encouragement, and I believe the fruitfulness of that trip was a direct result of your prayers.

Therefore, I have decided to send a similar series of reports each time I head out to teach and train.

Which brings us to right now!

As you're reading this, Ellen and I are somewhere in the air on our way to India along with teammates Chris Tiegreen and Mark Schaaf.

We are flying out about 10:00 pm Monday, Atlanta time, and will land in Hyderabad about 24 hours later after a six hour layover in Dubai.

We'll help Sathyabal, our Regional Director, lead the South Asia consultation in Hyderabad with his Equippers from across India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan.

These 20 men and women will then spend the next year training thousands of pastors and leaders to teach our materials to well over a million people.

I'll be testing Chosen, our new course on Mary, with this group and gathering important feedback. Plus, I'll present this new material at public events in Kolkataand Hyderabad.

Ellen will be addressing a group of pastors' wives, and Mark and Chris will be speaking in key churches. We'll also be collecting reports on the launch of God's Grand Story and setting goals for the next year.

Our team will get back to Atlanta on Saturday, January 17.

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Please pray for us daily, as India is always a challenging trip.

The flights are long.
The food is intense.
The traffic is insane.
The noise is constant.
The poverty is heartbreaking.
The ministry opportunities are glorious.
The spiritual hunger is palpable.
The gratitude is humbling.
And our leaders there are fantastic!

Thank you so much for traveling with us through the miracle of prayer. And please take a couple minutes to send an encouraging response or two during the next ten days. And now it's time for takeoff!

Final Philippines Update

All I can say is thank you for praying. Ellen and I made it home on Wednesday after two plane rides and 24 hours of travel, but it was worth every minute.

I'm not sure I can express what it was like to watch God move in Manila. Lives were impacted and relationships were built, both in a personal and business sense. Thankfully for me, Fetan Tancongco, our national director for the Philippines, wrote an update about the ministry resulting from the trip. Forgive me for not writing my own email, but this update is too good not to share with you.

The host church created a great one-minute highlight video from the Detour launch that is also too good not to share.

Thank you again for your prayers and the encouraging emails you sent. We appreciate you and your prayers more than you know.

Dear Phil and the Walk Thru the Bible USA team,

Here's an impact report on the ministry of the WTB team in the Philippines in the last few days.


There is a good reason why Phil Tuttle and the WTB Team had a rock star welcome at this school of 5,000 students. Every year for at least 7 years, WorldTeach Ministries Philippines, Inc. (WTB in the Philippines) trains more than 3,000 teachers with 12 to 19 Walk Thru titles. With each new title, the head Dr. James Tan, himself teaches the course to the entire faculty. Just two weeks before Phil arrived, we just finished the 2014 Convention.

This is an outspoken Christian School, but because they have the best teachers and programs in the different Chinese dialects and good character training, even non-Christian families send their children here from kindergarten to college. Their reach among non-Christian Filipinos is very wide and deep.

The impact of this school straddles the two China's: PROC and Taiwan. This is why their school activities crosses over to these two countries. Dr James and his wife, Judith Tan, spend a third of the year in the two Chinas.

Dr. Peter Tanchi who co-taught Detour is a graduate of Grace Christian and Dr. James Tan was his Algebra teacher.

For its 60th anniversary celebration in 2015, Grace Christian is having a special printing of 3,000 copies with a foreword by Dr. James Tan and the Grace Christian logo side by side with Walk Thru the Bible.

Dr. James Tan is a trustee of Walk Thru the Bible Philippines, Inc. When asked what attracted him to this ministry he quickly points to clarity, biblical soundness and transferability.

Phil's encouraging message to the non-academic personnel about being a stretcher bearer was met with emotion. During lunch the key academic personnel shared how they have been impacted by WTB materials through the years.

I had to leave for a while and returned to the auditorium where Phil had just addressed 300 senior students. As I opened the door it was like I stepped into holy ground. I could feel that the Holy Spirit had descended. Students and teachers were in tears, some were hugging, some were continuing to pray. Not a dry eye around. I went to the front where my wife Dell was to ask her what just happened. My wife was a mess. She was in tears too and just hugged me saying that the Lord spoke to the graduating class.


Impact: Attendance

The attendance was somewhere between 5,900 – 6,200. The afternoon crowd was bigger as volunteers who were not required to buy tickets also joined. Add to this those who came after lunch. Walk Thru the Bible and CCF agreed to waive tickets for afternoon attenders. Apparently, some who came in the afternoon were invited by those who attended the morning sessions.

Impact: Dispersion

A good cross section of Philippine society was represented socially and geographically. From the survey conducted, there were lawyers, doctors, military men, people in media, sports, college teachers, heads of seminaries, students, whole families, whole church pastoral and administrative staff, small group leaders, overseas workers, it is difficult to see which demographic was not represented.

Some drove 8 hours from North Luzon and some drove 13 hours from South Luzon. Many flew from other parts of the country just for the event. Groups came from Palawan, Davao and Cebu. This means the three major island groups were represented.

Detour is now officially mandatory leadership training material across the CCF network covering 34 satellite churches and congregations in 12 other countries. In Central Philippines, the cable network in almost all hotels carry CCF events and services as a default channel. Each time you open the cable network, it is a CCF service or a CCF event.

Impact: Demographics

My family bought 50 tickets. We invited professionals, students, officemates, former classmates, nephews and nieces. The youngest was 17 the oldest was 60. Detour had impact across all ages. The common comment was: "it was like the speakers were talking about me." I had an accident the other night. I can barely type with my left hand. My Walk Thru the Bible team visited me. All they could talk about was the flood of reactions from those who bought tickets from them or whom they invited. The feet of the team have yet to touch the ground.

Impact: Sessions Contact Points

With huge extended families and a huge workforce 12 million of which are working in foreign lands like Joseph, our team anticipated that many Filipinos would be impacted by the first two sessions (Family and Work). We were right. Even the Detour Program host (the President of a Christian broadcasting network with a reach across Southeast Asia) commented to the audience that if we stopped the conference after the two sessions, the impact would already be tremendous.

What our team was did not expect was that each session was riveting. The host knew of the content and outline ahead of time. Still he was floored by the way Phil and Peter used personal stories and deep passion to bring the lessons home. The last two sessions (Forgiveness and Legacy) were like an explosion, people could not stop talking about it. Detour was the talk of Christian radio hosts since Monday. Many of the station managers who run stations across the archipelago attended the conference.

Hundreds made decisions for Christ. Many Christian leaders have been in ministry for decades thanked us for organizing this event because it re-calibrated their hearts and their visions and to dream big for God.

For a few, I have the feeling that the person they could not forgive was God himself. Including the person with whom I had a street fight that ultimately led to my salvation in 1974. Detours destroyed him. Dell and I had given up on him and his family. This Detour Conference reconciled him.

Impact: Quality of Material

Seeing two great preachers pass the baton of the Word of God to each other with the greatest of care and passion was amazing to behold. Peter Tanchi didn't change a single slide or a single word in the PowerPoint slides which Phil prepared. The quality and transferability of the material just rose to the surface. All that a preacher needed to was insert personal stories. The pastors of CCF quickly spotted this. They immediately missed their head of training who was abroad.

While about 30 attended the teachers training the following Monday at another church, CCF had previously made arrangements for a separate briefing and training of their pastors and hundreds of small group leaders across tis satellites.

Impact: Unifying Event

The Detour title like the Crucible and Raise Up A Child titles avoid doctrinal and denominational land mines. In the past, charismatic denominations do not attend WTB events. To see them coming to Detour taught by a Dallas Theological Seminary trained Phil Tuttle and Peter Tanchi with a strong conservative Baptist background was really something to behold. Invitations are already in the works for Detour at seminaries of Full Gospel with a preliminary target of 500 pastors. We had representation from every seminary we invited (30 of them).

Impact: Leadership Equipping Event

Dr. Peter Tanchi saw the value of the title as an equipping title. His mantra: we have to develop modern day Josephs. I am a teacher and equipper by gifting. I train corporate executives and church leaders. I am familiar with all our titles. Let me just end with this. I do not know if Atlanta is aware of what it has done. With Crucible back to back with Detour, Walk Thru The Bible has equipped Disciples and Church Leaders worldwide. If the Lord were to take Phil Tuttle and Chris Tiegreen home today (I said if), they have already been used through WTB for global impact. We so needed these titles, yesterday.


Peter Tanchi asked Phil to abandon his prepared sermon on Josiah to continue where Peter left off the week before on Joseph and preach from Genesis 45. Phil drew the crowd in as he told story after story that made the lessons personal. Each service ended with a call for those who wanted to be prayed for to come to the front to talk to a CCF Pastor. You could tell that it was a holy moment. Even the tech guys who are usually distracted by the technical details of their job were emotionally affected. You could just feel the breakthroughs and break-withs in relationships. The liberating power of forgiveness. Bondage breaking moments.

Over time we will see more and more of the impact of the Grace, Detour and CCF services. We will never know all of it, but what we have seen and heard so far, we know that God smiled at all that was done.

God was glorified.

In His Service

Isn't Fetan's update incredible? Be sure to check out the highlight video I mentioned above. Feel free to share it on Facebook or Twitter if there is someone you think would like to see it.

Again, thank you for your prayers and partnership. We're so grateful to God for blessing this trip.

Serving together with you,

Hello from Ellen!

Today's message comes to you from Ellen Tuttle:

After experiencing such a tremendous response to the Detour event on Saturday, you might expect a let down at Christ's Commission Fellowship's (CCF) Sunday services. But this was not the case! The momentum carried on into all three services. Thank you for your faithful prayers!

2014-12-12 image-1It was exhausting for Phil but also exhilarating to be given this influential platform to speak in person to 25,000 people yesterday. His message will also be seen and heard at CCF's 34 other satellite churches across the Philippines, plus another 12 congregations abroad including Sydney, Singapore, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. Amazing!

Phil continued Dr. Peter Tanchi's 10-week series on Joseph by preaching Gen. 45:1-8. As you know from the Detour series, God sent Joseph on detour after detour in preparation for the work He called him to do in Egypt and Israel and ultimately all nations, emphasizing that God cares more about the development of the dreamer than He cares about the fulfillment of the dream and how what the enemy intends for harm, God uses for good. In these verses, the story culminated with Joseph as supreme power in Egypt seeing his brothers for the first time in twenty years. They had come to beg for help during the great famine. Finally! The chance to get revenge against them for selling him as a slave and letting their father believe he was dead all those years--but NO! Instead of choosing revenge, Joseph's forgiveness of his brothers unleashed the Spirit of God to bring reconciliation and restoration to their family. The power of this message to choose forgiveness over revenge is still essential for all people to understand in order to break down the walls of separation that exist between them and God, and them and others.

The power of this truth was palpable in the room, so at the end of each service, those who wanted breakthroughs in their relationships, especially in their relationship with God, came to the front for prayer and counsel. Listen to this message on Detour

We concluded with dinner at Fetan and Dell Tancongco's home for all the WTB staff. They surprised us with the staff singing Christmas carols at the door and then a big turkey with dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pecan pie, along with many other yummy Filipino dishes.

It was hard to say goodbye. We have become quite attached to our Filipino WTB family!

Philippines Day 3

I can't tell you how much your prayers and encouragement mean. Thank you. Today's update comes from Wahid Wahba. Please keep praying - your prayers are making a difference!

-Phil Tuttle

It was surely a great day. We arrived at the CCF Church at 7.45am after another adventure with Manila traffic. I feel at home. It's no different than the traffic in Cairo.

2014-12-11 image-1The church building is terrific, state of the art. The main church auditorium can seat 10,000 people in its three levels. They moved into this church in May 2013. We were received by the many greeters with their smiling faces. They are part of the volunteer group. There were 237 young volunteers helping throughout the day. This is not counting the prayer warriors who attended the Detour course last week in order to be free to spend today in prayer for the event.

Their prayers and yours were heard by Almighty God. The attendance exceeded 5,000. Phil started very well breaking the ice by telling stories about his family and the size of his shoes. As he started the teaching you could immediately feel the anointing of the Holy Spirit on him. Phil was coteaching with the senior Pastor of the church Dr. Peter Tan-Chi , a very mature, seasoned Christian leader. It was appropriate that Peter taught the session about "Joseph and His Work", since he comes from a business background and is a successful businessman.

In other sessions he invited his daughter to tell her story. I could not stop my tears all the time she was sharing. When she was 15 years old, her parent left her at home with her siblings and two of her friends to lead a Bible study. During this time 10 men with guns broke into the house, ordered everybody to lie on the ground with their faces down and they started raping the daughter and her two friends.

When the parents came back, they found police cars surrounding the house and recognized that something wrong had happened. When they knew the story, God gave them divine wisdom to deal with the situation. Joy chose not to surrender to the normal reaction of blaming God for not protecting her, nor did she have bitterness towards the criminals. Instead she chose to forgive them and was convinced that they need God. Her parents didn't want her to go to normal counseling nor even to Christian counseling but to Biblical counseling, knowing that only the word of God can heal her and can use this experience for His glory. It was a great testimony.

Later on in the following session Peter invited his wife Deonna to tell her part of that story. Once again you couldn't stop your tears. What an incredible family. From the outside, everybody would like to be like them, but when you see the brokenness that they went through, it's another story.

As Phil was finishing the last session about "Joseph and His Legacy", he invited Peter's son-in-law, and his 12-year-old grandson to share from the pulpit. What a legacy.

As Peter asked the people who want to accept Jesus as their savior to raise their hands, you could see many hands raised. He led them in prayer. Then he asked those who wanted to pray that God might let them forgive others who hurt them, many hands were also raised. Everyone could see the hard work that was put into this event by Fetan and his team.

Dr. Peter is surrounded by very capable leaders, led by Ricky and JP.

Ellen did a wonderful job supporting Phil and connecting with people. I travel with Phil often. He is always great, but even better when Ellen is around.

Emily was very busy doing interviews and trying to gather as much material as possible for the production of the video.

Thank you Lord Jesus for a great day, we could feel you all around. Please help those who made decisions today whether to follow you as Lord and Savior or to forgive others.

Phil will be preaching tomorrow in the church's three services.

Wahid Wahb

Thanksgiving in the Philippines

The only downside of being in Manila right now is that we had to miss Thanksgiving. Not a tragedy, but still a little sad since it's one of my favorite holidays. But duty calls, so no Thanksgiving for our little group of Americans temporarily exiled 13 time zones away from the Mayflower's port.

Or so we thought. Thursday was a day of surprises for us.

Thanksgiving in ManilaAfter a relaxing breakfast with Fetan, our regional director, and his wife Dell, we headed out to Grace Christian College (formerly known as Grace Christian Schools).

In Manila, travel is not measured in miles or kilometers but in hours. Every intersection feels like a scrambled jigsaw puzzle that eventually clicks together one piece at a time. Not for the faint-hearted, but thanks to our fearless van driver we eventually arrived.

To call it a warm welcome could be one of the great understatements of the modern era. After hugs from the school's director, Dr. James Tan, and his wife Judith, we began a long tour of this incredible school.

James' mother, a widowed single mother of seven, founded Grace with no money and plenty of faith. Sixty-four years later, more than 3,000 students receive great academic training from an uncompromising Christian perspective in a fully Chinese/English bilingual context. The majority of students don't come from Christian homes, but by the time they leave about 80% of the kids and many of their families are committed Christ followers.

As we visited each age group, we were greeted by literally thousands of students cheering and waving from layers of balconies outside myriads of classrooms. In our country, celebrations like this are reserved for rock stars or Super Bowl champions. Though a bit awkward, we received this outpouring of love for what it was. Grace loves Walk Thru the Bible, and leverages what we create like few other ministries anywhere in the world.

This email can't begin to describe all we experienced. My one scheduled speaking opportunity turned into three: one with staff, one with 300 soon-to-be graduates, and one with the school's leadership team. In each context, God gave me just the right passage to share and quickly melted away all cultural and generational barriers. The response of each group was palpable and genuine.

We have so much to be thankful for! The only thing missing was turkey, cranberry sauce, and a piece of pumpkin pie. Until we sat down for lunch with Dr. At and his leadership team. Somewhere they found a turkey - I even got to help the caterer carve it! Turkey is a rare bird here in the Philippines, and most of our hosts had never had it or our traditional side dishes.

There's a reason Filipinos are known for their hospitality. We experienced their outpouring of love in every assembly, classroom, conversation, and detail during our six hour tour. More than anything, we experienced Grace - both the school and the spiritual reality.

It is hard to believe we had to travel halfway around the world to experience our best Thanksgiving ever! I hope your celebration was meaningful too. Thank you so much for continuing to pray for our team here.

Today is devoted to meetings, rest, and prep time for the Detour live event tomorrow. The registration count is now up to 5,200.

If Saturday turns out to be anything like Thursday, we may just have to celebrate Thanksgiving all over again!

Phil Tuttle
Walk Thru the Bible

Prayer Request #1 from Manila, Philippines

Greetings from Manila!

Ellen and I arrived here last night after 24 hours of travel. We're 13 hours ahead of Atlanta, so when you are heading to bed, we're starting the next day.

We've come here to launch Detour: Finding Purpose When Life Doesn't Make Sense (our new course on the life of Joseph) in Asia. We'll be training a number of Filipino master teachers who will teach the course themselves and also train dozens of other instructors.

The model live event will be held at Christ's Commission Fellowship here in Manila on Saturday. It's going to be huge, with 4,300 people already registered!

Fetan and his amazing team have done a phenomenal job planning and marketing this event. Many denominational, para church, government, military, and business leaders are coming.

There are several other events that I'll describe as they unfold. One of those is tomorrow, and that's what I need you to pray about right now.

When you're heading to bed Wednesday night, we'll be on our way to Grace Christian School. It's one of the largest Christian schools in the world with over 5,000 students. Grace is led by Dr. James Tan who is one of our Philippines board members. I'll be speaking to their faculty and students and having lunch with Dr. And Mrs. Tan.

They've already taken all their faculty through Detour and recently hosted a conference for 3,000+ Christian school teachers where 12 different Walk Thru the Bible courses were offered.

Dr. Tan loves Detour, and has just purchased 3,000 books so they can give one to each of their school families. This is especially strategic since hundreds of their school parents are Chinese and many have not yet placed their faith in Jesus. The potential impact here in the Philippines is huge, but so is the opportunity to touch many leaders in China.

Please pray for me as I share the Word tomorrow. And ask God to further develop my friendship with Dr. Tan.

Thank you so much for coming to Manila with me through the miracle of prayer!

Phil Tuttle
Walk Thru the Bible

The Man Who Wouldn't Take "Nyet" for an Answer

Sergei, one of our Walk Thru the Bible workers in Ukraine, kept asking and we kept answering. The answer was "No" or "Nyet" or "Nee". Whether in English, Russian, or Ukrainian they all meant the same thing: "Thanks for the gracious invite to a Russian banya, but we'd rather not."

I had experienced the full banya treatment before and was convinced that once was at least enough for me. It never was on my bucket list; but even if it had been, I had checked it off years ago. Chris Tiegreen our wonderful writer, and Wahid Wahba, our Director for the Middle East and North Africa, joined me in voting for other options on how to spend our one free day before we headed to Bila Tserkva. There, we would launch our new course Crucible at a large pastors' conference before returning to Kiev for more teach opportunities.

article3-1Yuri, our leader in Ukraine, just kept smiling and saying, "Everyone needs to go to the banya at least once." When I tried to offer up Chris and Wahid as sacrificial lambs, their firm refusals reminded me that they had heard my horror stories from my first visit to the banya in the mid-nineties.

So after a day of site seeing, our fears of the banya had mostly vanished and we were peacefully riding along on our way to dinner at the home of Sergei's pastor, Anatoly. What we didn't know was that Anatoly lived in a beautiful home on top of a snowy hill and had built his own private banya on his property.

Pastor Anatoly and his robe welcomed us with hugs, promises of a great dinner, and a whole series of instructions on how to prepare for our non-optional visit to his banya. Final attempts to dodge this cultural adventure were brushed away as meaningless chatter by this man who wouldn't take "Nyet" for an answer.

After exchanging our normal clothes for proper banya attire, we were each given hats made of one inch thick felt "to protect our brains from the heat." It was all coming back now. We were heading into a torture chamber and there was nothing we could do about it without causing a scene or making a major cross-cultural faux pas. When I asked Anatoly if he was going to beat us with birch branches, he smiled and said, "Of course, and you will thank me for it".

Read more: The Man Who Wouldn't Take Nyet

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