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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.


 

Jordan Update #5

2018-07-24

Well, our conference in Amman, Jordan, is over and everyone is back home safe and sound. In fact, I’ve already enjoyed a few restful nights and a wonderful Sunday with old and new friends while speaking at Grandfather Golf and Country Club in North Carolina.

2018 07 24 image 01The Middle East-North Africa conference may be over, but for most of our 68 delegates, their work is just beginning. It’s one thing to watch me teach our new course, Chiseled: Becoming the Masterpiece God Created You to Be, but quite another to get ready to teach it yourself. We spent half a day in small groups letting each person teach one section and receive helpful coaching from their peers. I wish you could have seen the energy and enthusiasm fill the room as each man and woman began their transition from student to teacher. They’re now confident they can effectively make this new tool their own with personal stories and culturally appropriate illustrations.

Most of the 12 countries represented are Arabic-speaking, so our pastors and leaders left the conference fully equipped with workbooks and PowerPoints in the language of their hearts. But for a few, like Curnilius Gill, his wife Naheed, and son Shakeeb, there’s another major hurdle they must clear. In Pakistan, Arabic won’t get them very far. Shakeeb will need to translate Chiseled into Urdu directly from my English version. 2018 07 24 image 02If past performance is any indication, Shakeeb and Curnilius will have high quality resources ready to go in a few short weeks. I asked Curnilius how last year’s course, Revolution: How Millennials Can Change the World, our resource on the life of King Josiah, was going in Pakistan. He smiled and told me they had already taught it in 38 cities across the country and trained many pastors to teach it to their own congregations. There are huge generational issues in Pakistan, and having a father and son teaching the same course doubles its impact.

When I asked Curnilius if he thought Chiseled would have similar reach in Pakistan, he replied, “Oh no, sir. We will take this new course to many more people in many more churches in many more cities.” I’m pretty sure the smile that covered my face needed no translation! I hope you’re smiling right now too, because your partnership through donations and prayers makes all this possible. If our delegates’ work is just beginning, then we too must continue to pray fervently and give generously. Some are going back to difficult and even dangerous situations. Will you join me in supporting them with your whole heart? Thank you so much.

Jordan Update #4

2018-07-19

Today’s update comes courtesy of Rob and Susan Turner from North Carolina. Rob and Susan attended this same conference with me three years ago in Beirut, Lebanon, so they had a head start on relationships with about a third of our delegates. But the story that impacted them most was from a family none of us had ever met before. Enjoy!


2018 07 10 image 01Susan and I had the opportunity to talk with many of the participants at the MENA conference during the week we spent with them in Amman, Jordan. In all, 68 leaders and teachers from 12 countries came for training on Chiseled, Walk Thru’s newest course about the life of Peter. As donors with Walk Thru, we enjoy learning firsthand how God is using our leadership team and Walk Thru materials to speak into the hearts of people around the world. We were especially excited to connect and hear stories of God at work in and through our brothers and sisters as they serve Him in their own countries.

There were a lot of conversations over meals, during breaks, and after each day’s events. One particular lunch conversation was with John and Khatoon. They were neighbors in Baghdad, Iraq, where they had lived for most of their lives. Today they’re refugees living in an Iraqi refugee community in Amman, Jordan. John has been here nearly 2 years, Khatoon for over 4 years. They’ve been waiting all that time for visas to relocate to other countries. They both were told under threat of death to leave Iraq, that it wasn’t their country any longer because they were Christians.

Khatton came to Iraq after a truck bomb destroyed the police station in front of her house, which was also leveled by the blast. She’s here with her daughter, who is sick. She hopes to go soon to Australia, where another daughter lives. John is a widower. His daughter and son-in-law, Munda and Osamah, and other family are also here as refugees. Osamah has a miraculous story of his own involving his capture and release by ISIS. Munda is pregnant with their second child. John has a son in Canada, where he would like to go. Even if John and Khatoon wanted to stay in Jordan, they cannot work due to government restrictions, even though Jordan is open to receiving refugees. We learned that the path for refugees out of Jordan to other countries that will accept them runs directly through the UN. After applying, John and Khatoon can do nothing but wait. With over 500,000 Iraqi refugees in Ammon, no follow up visits or phone calls are permitted. (Ammon has grown from 6.4 million people to over 10 million during the most recent census. Half of that increase is from refugees coming from Iraq, Syria and Egypt).

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Despite their circumstances, Khatoon and John live with a joy evident on their faces and gratitude in their hearts for God’s provision. Through various means of support they are able to cover the essentials of food and a place to live. We asked them what was most important to them now, expecting to hear them say it was obtaining their visas. Instead they quickly answered it was the growth of their faith and walk with the Lord since becoming refugees. Both Khatoon and John told us about their lack of passion for the Word and fellowship with the Lord when they lived in Iraq. Although they owned Bibles, they rarely opened them and their worship once a week was very shallow. But today they eagerly tell of their journey and their joy studying the Bible, praying and growing in the fellowship of believers they’ve found in Jordan among other refugees as well as Jordanians.

Kahtoon and John are regular and frequent members of multiple fellowships, including a small church that meets in the basement of an apartment building in Amman. We attended the basement church where they worship for a Sunday evening service. The pastor taught Crucible, the story of the life of David. Today, although they have lost most of all they held dear, including their homes, although they long to leave Iraq and join their children in other countries, Khatoon and John praise God for His love demonstrated to them as refugees. They are truly grateful despite their circumstances for their new relationship with Jesus which they never had “back home”. Their newfound passion for God’s Word and the certainty of their future in Christ gives them hope above the uncertainty of life as refugees.

We’re grateful we had the privilege of meeting John and Khatoon. We were blessed beyond words by the testimony of their joy even as they shared how much they were encouraged by our time with them. We hope more donors will pray about making one of these trips.

Jordan Update #3

2018-07-18

Great news! Wahid’s hernia repair surgery went very well. They were able to do it laparoscopically so his recovery will be much quicker and easier. I spent most of today with Laila at the hospital along with a few other close friends. Wahid will spend at least one night in the hospital and then several days here in Amman before they fly back to Cairo for some quality rest. Thank you so much for praying! Wahid and Laila were blown away by all your messages of support and encouragement.

2018 07 18 image 01Today’s update is from Judy Huber, one of five Walk Thru the Bible partners who is sharing this adventure with us. Judy has been a generous partner of our ministry for many years and has made significant investments in the courses of the Biblical Character Series, including Crucible (David), Detour (Joseph), Chosen (Mary), Revolution (Josiah), and the course we’re launching now, Chiseled (Peter).

Here are Judy’s thoughts:

First, I just have to say that the Sunday night church service we attended was a pretty amazing experience for me. I was not expecting to hear Crucible being taught and it was pretty emotional. Both of the leaders were so passionate and the church was actively involved. To be able to experience such a special time will always be a treasured remembrance.

So, being in Jordan and attending the training sessions and visiting with the participants as well as sharing with them and hearing their stories - wow - It's a humbling experience and such an honor and a blessing to be able to see, firsthand, how the training process works.

There are 12 countries represented this week and this series is written for all because it is sharing God's truths. I felt as though it was written for me, not "them.” But God's truth has no boundaries. I can only imagine how it will encourage the faith of many and strengthen their walk with the Lord.

I am so thankful to be experiencing such a special time as this with these beautiful sisters and brothers in Christ and seeing enthusiasm for Walk Thru—what a blessing! There are times I am totally overwhelmed with all the emotions but never a doubt as to why I'm here. It's a "God thing"!

I talk about Walk Thru all the time, and this is how I explain it: "I have partnered with Walk Thru the Bible to produce materials that are taught around the world by trained individuals to reach thousands of people for Christ.” There is no better investment!

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Jordan Update #2

2018-07-17

I arrived here in Amman late Saturday night and rested most of Sunday. After a brief introductory session Sunday evening, I headed to my room to catch the second half of the World Cup Final. And that’s when it hit me: I’m an American visiting Jordan watching Croatia vs France in the World Cup Final in Russia and the announcer is screaming in Arabic. Talk about globalization! According to Wikipedia, “Globalization is the process of interaction and integration of people, companies, and governments worldwide. Globalization has grown due to advances in transportation and communication technology.” There’s nothing new about globalization. It’s just accelerating at an amazing pace in our generation.

Paul wrote this in Galatians 4:4: “In the fullness of time, God sent His Son.” Globalization is part of what made that instant the perfect moment for our Savior to come. Greece, in an effort to export its culture, made Greek the trade language of the entire known world. Care to guess what language most of the New Testament was first written in? And the Romans built roads all over their empire—great roads, remnants of which you can still walk on today. It wasn’t their goal, but they effectively paved the way for the spreading of the Gospel. But those days don’t begin to compare to the ease of communication and travel we enjoy today. It’s amazing that moments after I hit the send button, hundreds of you will be able to read this. Or that Thursday night I preached my final message at Mount Hermon Conference Center in California and 48 hours later I was being kissed on both cheeks by dozens of friends here in Jordan. If the first century was the fullness of time or the ideal moment for Jesus to come, then surely our moment in time is the ideal time to finish the task of global evangelism and discipleship.

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Those theoretical thoughts are about to get very real as our conference begins. There are over 50 delegates here from 12 nations eager to be trained to teach our new course on the life of Simon Peter called “Chiseled: Becoming the Masterpiece God Designed You to Be.” Then a few days later they’ll take this new tool home to Egypt, Pakistan, Iraq, Algeria, Morocco, Kurdistan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and even the USA. It’s humbling to realize that a gathering like this would have been impossible relatively few years ago. What an honor to be alive right now. And what a sacred responsibility to make sure we leverage the advantages of globalization to fulfill God’s eternal agenda. So keep praying. Wahid is resting comfortably in anticipation of his hernia surgery tomorrow. Keep watching for more updates because our team has some amazing stories to share with you!

Jordan Update #1

2018-07-16

Greetings from Amman, Jordan. I’m here for our annual Middle East & North Africa training conference. I had an update planned for today, but instead, I’m bringing you an urgent prayer request. Our international director, Dr. Wahid Wahba, also serves as our regional director for this part of the world. If you’ve been around Walk Thru the Bible for a while, you’ve likely come to know what a good leader and special friend he is.

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Yesterday at lunch, Wahid looked terrible and didn’t order anything. He thought he was suffering from a kidney stone and went to his room to fight through the pain until it passed. Thankfully, late last night he decided to go to a hospital and get some medicine. Turns out it's not a kidney stone but a strangulated hernia. He is now back at the hotel from the hospital.

Wahid is scheduled to have surgery for his hernia here in Amman at 10:00 am Wednesday. That’s 3:00 am Atlanta time. He has to wait a few days in order to get the blood thinner (Aspirin) out of his system. Laila flew over from Cairo early this morning and is here with him now. I just spoke to him and he seems to be feeling better thanks to the pain medicine. Please pray! Last year Wahid couldn’t come because of visa issues. Now this year he’s here but not able to participate and help lead our conference. He is frustrated and disappointed but he and Laila are thankful to be under the care of an excellent doctor in a clean, modern hospital.

Please pray and send a return message to let him know you’ve got his back. I’ll group your messages together and pass them along to Wahid and Laila. Thanks, and watch your inbox for updates on Wahid and our conference over the next few days. We need your partnership in prayer!

Ukraine Update #5

2018-05-15

Our conference is over and we’ve all headed home. Ellen and I decided to turn our Delta layover in Paris into a “playover” by taking a couple days to vacation in this gorgeous city.

My mind is still full of gratitude as I think about what God did during our time in Ukraine. Response to Revolution, our new resource on the life of Josiah, couldn’t have been more positive. This new course focuses on helping young adults become the leaders the global church desperately needs.

I knew this message would resonate with our established leaders, but what about the young influencers we invited to join us? Most of these Millennials knew very little about Walk Thru the Bible so they only came because a trusted friend invited them.

So what did they think of Revolution and their first exposure to Walk Thru the Bible?

Let me introduce you to a pair of young leaders, both named Vitaly.

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The Vitaly on the left is 34 years old and is the director of youth ministry for the Baptist Union of Russia. He equips and encourages youth leaders in 1,800 churches. He travels a lot and plans to use Revolution at conferences all across Russia. He’ll need to change the name of the course to avoid the wrath of Mr. Putin and the rest of Russia’s political leaders, but that’s not a big deal. He hopes to share this life-changing teaching with 2,500 teenagers at their national youth conference this August. For him, the timing of our conference couldn’t have been better and he can’t wait to learn more about other Walk Thru resources.

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The Vitaly on the right is a youth leader from Tallinn, Estonia. He leads and teaches a network of churches and youth groups. At 32 years old, he is committed to change all of Estonia and its surrounding nations using Walk Thru courses. He believes Revolution will be well-accepted by all denominations and all age groups. Vitaly plans to take the course and "try it out" within weeks with different youth groups from different regions, share it with key leaders, and then launch it on a national level. Estonia is a small country with huge influence because it has the best Internet in the world. Vitaly and his friends may just be the key to helping deliver our ministry in ways we haven’t ever thought of.

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I could share about other leaders but their responses would start to sound redundant. The verdict is unanimous. Revolution is exactly what our leaders from 15 countries believe they need to encourage Millennial and Gen-Z young men and women in their efforts to change the world. Like Josiah, they’re cause-oriented and passionate about correcting the problems inherited from past generations. Hopefully, also like Josiah, they’ll discover that God’s Word is the only way to make changes that truly last. Prayerfully, many, many young people will respond to Revolution and join the Josiah Generation.

Our conference may be finished, but the real work is just beginning. Will you join me in faithfully praying for these men and women now that they are home? Some of them serve in very difficult places. Let’s stand with them as they boldly share what they’ve learned this past week. And please watch Pathways magazine for updates on how God answers these prayers. Thank you, friends.

Ukraine Update #4

2018-05-11

Five days ago we started with 500 people. Then our group shrunk to 55. And now we’re down to only about 25.

By every conventional measure of success we are failing miserably. And yet, our week is unfolding exactly how we planned, prayed, and hoped it would. Let me explain.

Ellen already shared about the amazing launch of Revolution with more than 400 teenagers and young adults along with dozens of older church leaders. Our team here in Kiev continues to receive excellent feedback from that event.

Then we moved to a hotel on the outskirts of the city for a conference with 25 key Walk Thru the Bible national leaders from across Europe along with about 30 influential local pastors who couldn’t attend our big event. I taught Revolution again so these 55 could experience it for themselves. I love smaller groups because the discussion and sharing can go so much deeper.

Now the 30 local pastors have left us and only our 25 leaders remain. They’ve come from Belarus, Egypt, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, and possibly a few other places I can’t think of right now. They’re mostly our European country directors plus a few others from outside this region who couldn’t come to their own continental conferences earlier in the year.

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These leaders are key to the global spread of the message of Josiah. We believe this new course will call people of all ages back to God’s Word and help transform their lives, families, churches, communities, and even nations. They’re not only learning how to teach Revolution themselves, but how to train hundreds of others who will hopefully teach it to tens of thousands.

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This is Walk Thru the Bible at its essence.

We believe 2 Timothy 2:2 to the core. Like Paul told Timothy 2,000 years ago, “The things you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful people who will be able to also teach others.”

We’ll never reach the world by addition. But the miracle of multiplication makes global evangelism and discipleship realistically doable.

In my next update, I’ll profile a few of these leaders you’ve likely never met before, as well as update you on a few old friends. Until then, please keep praying for us.

And don’t feel bad that our group is shrinking. It’s all part of God’s plan so we can ultimately grow beyond what our most faith-filled dreams can imagine!

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Ukraine Update #3

2018-05-10

Before there are successful high-profile events like Ellen described in our last update, there are lots of behind-the-scenes days like today that most people never hear about. Our launch of Revolution with more than 400 Millennials and Gen-Zers plus several dozen older church leaders was only possible because of partnerships with influential churches, key denominations, and like-minded parachurch ministries.

And partnerships don’t just happen. Every good organizational partnership can ultimately be traced back to strong personal relationships.

Today Yuri, Boris, and I made several visits to celebrate partnerships and deepen relationships. One was to Mission Eurasia (formerly Russian Ministries and originally Peter Deyneka Ministries). The other was to the Baptist Union, a denomination of over 2,500 churches here in Ukraine.

At the Baptist Union, we met with three key leaders responsible for curriculum, church planting, and next-generation leadership development. It was encouraging to hear about the impact of Walk Thru resources and training over the past 25 years. But it was even more thrilling to hear their excitement about our new focus on younger generations—especially their enthusiasm for the potential impact of Revolution across Ukraine and beyond.

It’s one thing to find common ground with shared strategies and priorities, but the real fun happens when there’s a connection at the heart level. That’s exactly what happened today.

I think pictures say it better than my words ever will. The first photo captures the required formal group shot of any such meeting. They’re really big on pomp and circumstance in this part of the world! The real story is carried by the other two pictures.

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The second photo shows the Baptist Union’s church planting director heading back to his offices with a stack of our resources as he said, “I love to read, and I’m so happy Walk Thru the Bible is still producing great tools in my language.”

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The third picture is even cooler. The seasoned leader with me wasn’t able to attend our big event. Thankfully 7 of his 11 grandchildren did and 5 of them had already called to tell him all about it. During our study of Josiah, one of them decided God wants him to be a Bible teacher and public speaker. I can’t imagine a better endorsement for our new resource. Just look at the smile on his grandpa’s face!

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Eventually, all this good will needs to be translated into detailed plans and hard work. But for today, God answered every prayer more thoroughly than we could have hoped. We’re not just partners with an influential denomination—we’re truly friends with its leaders!

It’s hard to believe, but the most important part of our trip is still to come. It’s time to train our Walk Thru the Bible leaders from all over Europe to take Revolution home to their countries and multiply its impact through their own network of partnerships and relationships. Stay tuned and keep praying!

Ukraine Update #2

2018-05-09

Today’s reflections are courtesy of Ellen.


Yesterday was an exciting day at Regent Hill in Kiev, Ukraine. With gleaming pots full of coffee and trays of delicious Ukrainian cookies at one of the finest event venues in Kiev (our event would not have been possible without the generosity of its owner!), our team welcomed 400 teens and young adults, plus several dozen local pastors and leaders, to the launch of Revolution: How Millennials Can Change the World and What They Need from the Rest of Us. There was a lot of excitement and expectation as the time approached. We wondered if everyone would come, but the auditorium was filled by the time the worship band began the music.

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Phil, Boris (our national director for Ukraine), and Vladimir (a popular local pastor), team-taught the sessions, each presenting with their own style, which added to the effectiveness of the messages. Session Three was especially powerful. Boris interviewed four attendees, each representing the different generations: Builders (ages 75-96), Boomers (ages 58-75), Gen X (ages 38-58), and Millennials (ages 18-38). Listening to each one describe their experience of particular points in the history of Ukraine during their lifetime was so interesting. But more importantly, it allowed them and the audience to gain a new perspective for each generation, their identity, and their value and roles in God's overall purpose for His kingdom. By listening instead of criticizing and resisting one another, each began to appreciate and value the other. After the Millennial described his perspective, the older Builder humbly asked for forgiveness and pledged his support to help younger leaders move the gospel forward in this generation. The Spirit was present. It was quiet until the silence was interrupted by spontaneous applause. These were beautiful moments, and we could feel God's pleasure.

All the planning and prayer and hard work that went into this large event proved to be worth the effort. We're continually amazed with the quality and giftedness and faithfulness of our team here. It was an especially huge blessing to see all their families involved in making the day a success, highlighting the focus of the course that the Millennial and Gen-Z generations are the leaders of today, not tomorrow!

Ukraine Update #1

2018-05-07

It was 1994 when I made my first international trip for Walk Thru the Bible, right here to the newly independent nation of Ukraine. Has it really been 24 years since I came here for the first time? I left a big piece of my heart here, and thankfully I’ve been able to come back and check on it every 3-4 years since that initial CoMission trip. But this trip is extra special because my wife, Ellen, is with me for the first time. Seeing Ukraine through her eyes is like rediscovering my first love.

After a desperately needed night’s sleep and a restful day, Yuri drove Ellen and me to their apartment where his loving wife, Natasha, and their son, David, had prepared a traditional Ukrainian feast. Think Thanksgiving, only with an entirely different menu. There were several courses, but we could have stopped after the introductory bowls of borscht, a hearty soup made of beets, potatoes, and carrots, with a spoonful of sour cream on top.

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Yuri and I have been friends and partners in ministry for more than 20 years. Any time I get to spend with him is full of raucous laughter, heartwarming memories, and mutual encouragement. But this year we were in for a totally unexpected surprise. Natasha has been taking English three hours a day, three days a week. Gone are the days when she has to wait for Yuri to summarize our conversation in Russian. When she took Ellen by the hand and led her to a separate room, Natasha bubbled, “Now we can talk, just the two of us, like I have always wished we could.”

Later this week we’ll convene our European regional conference with delegates from nearly 20 countries. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of stories and pictures to share as we equip our European leaders to launch Revolution, our new resource focusing on the parallels between today’s young adults and King Josiah. But first, there are other strategic opportunities that need your prayer support. Tomorrow I’ll be teaching Revolution to more than 400 young adults and a few dozen influential pastors and church leaders. Then the next day I’ll be meeting with two different groups of denominational leaders to explore how Walk Thru the Bible can help them accomplish their God-given goals.

I used to view days like today as a necessary waste to overcome jet lag and begin to adapt to a new culture. Oh my, has my mind been changed over the past 24 years! How many times did Jesus purposefully lead his closest friends (we call them disciples) off to a remote location simply to enjoy and encourage each other? God, as three persons in one being, is relational to His core, and that’s the primary reason He created us humans. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of early mornings and full agendas before we fly home. But could it be that tonight with Yuri, Natasha, and David turns out to be one of the most eternally significant events of our trip?

Speaking of relationships, our entire ministry would cease to exist without your partnership. So mentally pack your bags and share this adventure with us through the miracle of prayer. Without Him we can do nothing, so please commit to pray each day as God surprises us with what He has planned for us to experience, teach, and learn. Thank you dear friends, and please stop coveting my borscht!

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