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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.


 

Ukraine Update #3

2019-04-18

I got to honor a special servant of God last night. We all did. And it was wonderful.

As I mentioned in my first update, Yuri Shelestun and his wife Natasha are hoping to immigrate to the US soon to join two of their kids and Yuri’s aging parents. This conference marked the official passing of the regional leadership for Northern Eurasia from Yuri to Boris Volkov, a strong, capable, young leader.

Last night was dedicated to celebrating Yuri’s 25 years with Walk Thru the Bible. We began with a traditional Ukrainian feast. It was mostly farm-to-table and all delicious. So many organic vegetables and unending platters of grilled salmon, pork, and chicken.

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Our new VP of International, Rich Leland, shared about meeting Yuri in 1993 on one of our first ministry ventures into the former Soviet Union. We were all stunned when Rich read this 9/17/94 entry from his journal:

“This is my second time working with Yuri here in Ukraine. I trained his wife Natasha 6 months ago in Odessa. They’ve been missionaries near the Black Sea for two years. Yuri has already taught 12 seminars and Natasha is close on his heals having taught 11 herself. They’ve been on TV here describing their innovative teaching. They are working with the “Light of the East” mission. I believe Yuri may be a possible staff person for WTB!"

Talk about discerning and prophetic! All of us who met Yuri years ago recognized he was one in a million. Communism robbed entire generations of ambition and the desire to excel. This was especially true for boys whose mothers often told them, “The tallest blade of wheat loses its head first.” The message stuck, and most set mediocrity as their target and often failed to achieve even that.

Yuri was different. Counter-cultural. Despite oppressive persecution for his faith, he pursued big goals and often exceeded them. His personality was winsome and his eyes flashed with a unique blend of passion and mischief. And his humor opened closed hearts because everyone sensed it was sourced in his deep personal joy.

Yuri was from a conservative Baptist background but soon grasped that Walk Thru the Bible’s tools were also needed by charismatic and Orthodox believers. In so many ways, Yuri was ahead of his time and wise beyond his years. His welcoming heart aligned perfectly with Walk Thru the Bible’s focus on the essential truths of Scripture that transcend denominational distinctives.

Add to all that, Natasha’s full support and formidable personal gifts, and it was clear that Yuri was a leader upon which we could build a movement. Thankfully God was quietly working in Yuri’s heart to confirm His will.

Now 25 years have passed and all of us would agree our high expectations were still too low. Yuri is deeply respected by all of our global leaders. He is loved by our many donors who have been blessed to meet him. And he’s become one of the closest friends and ministry partners I’ve been blessed to equip, encourage, and learn from.

Our evening ended with a sweet time of prayer for Yuri and Natasha. But right before we prayed, Rich presented Yuri with a beautiful plaque. In part it read:

“In grateful recognition of your nearly 25 years as Walk Thru the Bible’s Regional Leader in Northern Eurasia.

Your wisdom, energy, joy, and teaching gifts have inspired many thousands in Ukraine and across the nations. We will not know in this lifetime how many will be in Heaven because you opened God’s Word and gave them spiritual food. You have built a team that will ensure many more will come to know Jesus Christ and the power of His Word in the generations to come.”

I know many of you wish you could have participated in last night’s celebration. Whether you’ve known Yuri and Natasha for years or just met them through this update, if you’ll comment below and send them a greeting, I’ll pass your words of encouragement to them. Thank you for joining me in honoring these faithful servants of our Lord.

Ukraine Update #2

2019-04-15

Today I yield the floor to Rich Leland. Rich “retired” after pastoring 32 years on the island of Nantucket just in time to begin leading our international ministry last October. While this is a new role for Rich, it’s simply the next step in Rich’s 36 years serving with Walk Thru the Bible. He’s been training instructors all over the world for years, and already has the respect and trust of nearly all our current international leaders. Enjoy!


In this ancient city that straddles the Dnieper River, something else historic is occurring this week. Walk Thru the Bible’s newly constituted team of Regional Directors is laying plans for our next thrilling step forward serving people with the message of Christ.

I am so proud of this band of leaders from around the world. It is my privilege as VP of International to work side by side with this incredible group. We’re taking Walk Thru the Bible to the next level of “helping people everywhere live God’s Word.” The people in this room are experienced servants of our Lord. We went region by region today sharing the number of years each of us has served Jesus through WTB. Can you guess the total years represented in our room? Over 300!

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This morning Phil spoke of our new vision toward fulfilling our mission. It is the audacious goal of doubling the number of lives we impact within the next three years! It may seem audacious to us, but it is not so to our all-powerful, people-loving God.

Our directors are from Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Northern Eurasia, South Asia, East Asia/Pacific, Central Africa, Southern Africa, South America, Central America, and North America. And what a team this is! Please pray for God’s choice for a new director for the Middle East/North Africa region. With all the political, geographic, economic, and cultural differences, you would be blown away by the palpable sense of oneness. This sense of unity isn’t just being part of a common cause. It goes beyond that. The mysterious working of the Holy Spirit is present among us.

I wish you could experience our joy and excitement walking through what God is doing in each of our regions. Alejandro, representing Central America, rejoicing over what Stephen sees as the future in Central Africa. Or Boris from Northern Eurasia getting excited about Gil’s report of God’s work in East Asia/Pacific. And on and on it goes!

We actually believe the truth of Scripture, “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” We not only believe it but we’re living in that reality. The plans we’re setting are reachable with God’s help. And you are part of this through your prayers and gifts. Please pray that as we move ahead this joyful and purposeful momentum will continue to grow. Thank you, from around the world!

-Rich Leland

Ukraine Update #1

2019-04-14

Greetings from 35,000 feet somewhere over the Atlantic. I’m on my way to Amsterdam and then on to Kiev for the annual gathering of our global leaders.

But this year’s conference is going to be very different for several reasons, and we need your prayers each day.

  1. Rich Leland will be leading his first global gathering since becoming our VP for International Ministries last fall. Many of our global leaders already know Rich as he has led many trainings all over the world in the past three decades. He’s off to a great start, but this week will be yet another test of his leadership. Please pray specifically for him.

  2. Instead of our usual group of 30-40 country directors, we will only meet with our regional directors. We’ve divided the world into 11 regions including North America. 10 men and women have agreed to function in a new role of regional director. Middle East & North Africa (MENA) is currently vacant due to Wahid’s transition. Each of these 10 leaders is excited about their new role and responsibilities. Working with a smaller group will allow us to focus more on strategic planning, curriculum development, and financial stewardship for our global ministry.

  3. This will be Yuri Shelestun’s final conference leading our ministry in Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Eurasia. He and Natasha will be immigrating to the US as soon as their application is accepted. His father already lives in North America and his health is not good. Plus two of Yuri and Natasha’s kids live in the States. Boris Volkov (who some of you met at last year’s Live the Word conference) has been groomed to replace Yuri and is already leading well. And yet, this change will be emotionally tough for all of us. Yuri is a truly special leader and one of the best friends I’ve ever had. He will continue to teach our materials in many US Russian-speaking churches and I’m pleased that this is one of the best leadership transitions our ministry has ever experienced.

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Our team and I will be sending daily updates and prayer requests. This is my final big trip before my hip replacement on May 16, so please pray for less pain and no distraction from our important work this week.

As always, your prayers and notes of encouragement mean a lot to our entire team. I’ll share your responses with our leaders as the week unfolds. Thank you!

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India Update #2

2019-01-17

The year was 1982. Two strangers met here in Atlanta for the first time as they were being trained to teach Walk Thru the Old Testament. Our U.S. faculty numbered less than 50 and our total team worldwide was under 100.

Rich Leland was a young pastor serving in the northeast, and Jerry Hull was a seminary student in Texas. Both have taught hundreds of our live events since then. Little did they know they were beginning a lifelong friendship. And there’s no way either of them would have guessed they would be leading a training conference together in India 37 years later!

You’ve already heard from Rich. Now let’s hear Jerry’s perspective on his first visit to India to help equip Sathyabal’s team this week in India.


What an incredible experience I had leading the first ever India Kids’ instructor training in Hyderabad, India!

As Rich was training our South Asia leaders to teach Phil’s new Chiseled course on the life of Peter, I had the joy of working with 20 handpicked Sunday School teachers and children’s ministry leaders to be our first otLIVE for Kids teachers in India.

What started out as a quiet, shy group turned into a close-knit team of friends cheering each other on and building each other up. Each one rose to the occasion as they took sections of the OT storyline and taught it back to the others.

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They learned how to add drama to the storyline and make learning fun. It was like God was releasing them to teach like Him. They went from standing and reading things off their paper to ditching their notes and focusing and connecting with their audience adding new skits and illustrations along the way.

It was so encouraging to see them bring God’s Word to life in fun ways that I know their kids will love. They caught the vision for teaching as God teaches and captivated our attention. I believe we will be hearing of many, many young lives in India being changed forever by God’s Word. What a privilege to see the beginning of this happen right before our eyes.

I wish you could have been there with us to see the fire God lit in the hearts of our new kids instructors. I don’t think I’ll ever forget some of the things I saw take place in these few days. He is truly able to do “exceedingly abundantly above and beyond all we can ask or think” or even pray for. Thanks for joining us in letting God’s Word shine and bring light to young lives as well as well as old.

2019 01 15 image 1India Update #1

2019-01-14

Happy New Year to you and Happy Birthday to me! I’ve spent a lot of birthdays in India, but this year I’m home as we’re celebrating a delayed Christmas and three January birthdays with our whole family. That includes our first grandchild, Ava Mae, who is 10 months old and is beyond precious.

Our South Asia training conference started yesterday in Hyderabad, India. Rich Leland, our International Director, and veteran
instructor Jerry Hull, are there to lead the training with Vallab Sathyabal, our Regional Director for South Asia.

Here are a few pictures and a quick update from Rich to help you pray accurately.


For a New England boy, January in India is a shock to the system. My body expects snow and cold, but now it’s experiencing 85 degrees and sun. It’s the fellowship experience with amazing brothers and sisters, however, that outweighs everything else.

Jerry Hull and I are in the city of Hyderabad with Walk Thru the Bible Directors from 5 nations in South Asia, along with the twenty leaders of India’s various zones and states.

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We are training these leaders in the latest of Walk Thru’s Biblical Character Series, Chiseled. We follow Peter as Jesus sculpts his character, as well as ours, to look more like Him. Jerry is training some enthusiastic children’s instructors to teach otLIVE. More from Jerry will be coming your way.

The reception to Chiseled has been powerful. These veteran instructors let us know that God changed some major things in their lives through this course. Just imagine what will happen as this teaching spreads!

One of these leaders is from Nepal. I’ll call him “George” (obviously not his name). “George’s” journey took 48 hours, which is more than twice the length of our trip from the States. He took an all-night bus from Kathmandu to the Indian border, then a train for 36 more hours. It was a perilous journey.

“George” experiences peril at home as well. A new law in Nepal makes sharing one's faith illegal and punishable by jail. Yet “George” is eager to return home and start teaching!

Many of these Walk Thru instructors are willing to take risks in order to be trained. Certainly, there is risk and peril, but also great reward. As these leaders train hundreds of teachers, who in turn teach thousands of people, we expect well over 1 million in South Asia will be reached again this year.

Thank you for the vital help you extend to Walk Thru the Bible. Your willingness to contribute allows “George” and many others to continue God’s program of chiseling His people in South Asia, and around the globe, to become more like Jesus!

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!

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