[Sep 13, 2014]
16 years ago I dropped Elders Propst and Tuttle off at the airport in Saratov at the conclusion of the trial where their kidnappers were convicted. I didn't see either of them again until this year, when they arrived at the airport in Calgary to speak to groups in connection to the "Saratov Approach" movie. Tuttle came out for opening weekend in January. Both Propst and Tuttle came out for our joint West/East Stake youth conference.
Apparently, no one had informed Propst that we had just had the freak summer snow storm of the century, because he arrived in sunglasses, shorts and flip-flops. The person next to him on the plane showed him pictures that people had sent him from the storm and Propst started to worry. Of course, most of the snow was already melting, but we there was still some left at the higher elevations -- like the Temple.
They flew just before noon, so we hit Tubby Dog for some lunch. Tubby Dog is a hole-in-the-wall spot on 17th Ave known for hot dogs with outlandish combinations of toppings. We all agreed that I probably got the best one, laden with chili, bacon, cheez-whiz and a fried egg -- elegantly entitled "Sherm's Ultimate Gripper".
We stopped in at the house for a few minutes en route to the youth conference, mainly so Propst could press a shirt and make himself beautiful. Scott was absolutely enthralled when Propst pulled out his iPad and logged into the Clash of Clans game, especially since Propst had all the fancy upgraded troops that Scott has been dreaming about. The whole kidnapping/movie thing might give Tuttle and Propst a certain amount of celebrity status, but it was Clash of Clans that really made Propst a star.
We arrived at the chapel near the end of the movie, which the youth were watching in the gym. We had the DJ who would run the evening dance handle the audio, and I had perched the projector at the top of a 10 foot ladder to hit the 40-foot screen on the stage. Waiting in the hallway, we bumped into a teary woman leaving the gym who has a son serving a mission overseas and just couldn't quite handle it, although she had seen the film before.
Once the credits rolled, the lights went up and I introduced our special guests, who opened it up to the youth for some Q&A with the comment that "there are no bad questions." That statement was immediately tested, as the first question was "Do you like waffles?" Strong start. Propst and Tuttle took it in stride and answered the question before moving on to perhaps a more pertinent question. Propst likes Belgian waffles and Tuttle is more of a pancake guy, for the record.
There were some really good questions, and Propst & Tuttle shared additional details that really put a personal touch on the whole experience. One thing that stuck out to me was how they said that they prayed constantly during the whole experience, and Propst said that he promised God that if he made it out there alive, he would take every opportunity to share this story with people to strengthen their faith. In the 15 years since he came home he has averaged at least 1 speaking engagement per month, more at the beginning and more with the film's release. Another message was that a missionary experience changes you, whether you get kidnapped or not. If you decline the opportunity to serve, you miss that chance to learn and grow as a person, and it is unlikely that you would have another opportunity quite like that in your life. They both said that they would not trade their missionary experience away, regardless how it turned out, and that's one big reason why they chose not to cut their missions short when they were released. In the Sunday service that that we had the next day, several people commented on the film that we watched, and one girl said that she had never really considered serving a mission, but now she wanted to have that experience for herself. Pretty neat to hear.
After the film was over, we launched Tuttle off to the airport asap to catch a plane to Portland, while Propst stuck around to pose for some photos in our Russian-themed photo booth. Who doesn't love a good Russian photo booth?
When it was all over, and once Propst and I had downed some delicious poutine, we retired back to our place to chat and play some more Clash of Clans.
Scott was supposed to go to bed, but shortly afterwards we saw a small hand jut out through the upstairs railing with a note (written on the back of a sticker) that read:
"Wath clan ar you in?"
Scott ended up coming back downstairs to sit with Propst and examine his elite-level clan. It was the start of an alliance, as Propst recruited his son Sam to be in Scott's clan, and Propst showed up in our clan periodically in the weeks that followed to hand out level 6 balloons and other awesomeness.
While Scotty was downstairs, Katie was upstairs, saying her prayers as follows--
Thanks that Travis and Propst could come to our house. And that Propst could stay for one night. Even though it's not two nights.
The next day Katie said "I love Propst. I wish I could live with him."
D: Do you mean you want to leave and live at his house far away.?
K: No, I mean he could live at our house, silly.
Propst and Tuttle aren't planning on moving in, but they might come back to Calgary visit us or at least to take a crack at Sherm's Ultimate Gripper.