Thursday, February 6, 2014

Faith in Saratov

 It's Saturday evening and I'm sitting at home relaxing for the first time in a while when I get a phone call. Caller ID says Jenny Ellen Reynolds. I'm thinking "What does she want? She is usually crazy busy on Saturdays." I answer the phone out of curiosity. The call goes something like this:
Jenny Ellen: Kara love, what are you doing right now?
Me: I'm just sitting at home. What's up?
Jenny Ellen: Want to go to a movie in Richmond?
Me: What movie?
Jenny Ellen: The Saratov Approach
Me: When?
Jenny Ellen: Like now
Me: Ok come pick me up on your way out
Jenny Ellen: See you in a few
And that's how it happened. Jenny Ellen and Rich picked me up and we made the hour and a half drive down to Richmond. Now why, you may ask, would  we drive so far to see a movie. Good question. The answer is there is going to be a QA session after the movie with one of the missionaries from the movie. Plus, why not get in a car and drive so far, it just means we get to spend more time together. Ok, fair enough.
To give you some background information. This movie tells the true story about 2 missionaries in 1998 who while serving their mission in Saratov Russia were kidnapped and held for a $300,000 ransom for 5 days before being freed. The missionaries were lured into an apartment where they were beaten down, tied, gagged and held at gun point while being transported out of the city to a secluded location. Pictures were taken of the missionaries showing them tied up, blindfolded and held at gun point. The two captors, an older man who had many debts, and a young man who just found out his girlfriend was pregnant and didn't know how he was going to pay for it, would continually come into the captives room and threaten the missionaries. They would take their guns and hold it up to the missionaries or run it across their head and hands. They would put bullets in their hands. They would rattle the bed they were tied to. Needless to say it was not a great situation for these missionaries.
Back in the United States, the families are notified of what is going on, the FBI gets involved and of course church officials as well. The official stand of the church is that we will not pay ransoms as this can cause greater harm to other missionaries. What I found so interesting is how many religions joined together in prayer for these two missionaries and their families. It just shows that we all are children of God and when tragedies occur we are united in faith in God no matter your religious affiliation. One of the parents receive an anonymous phone call one night from a missionary telling them what their sons are thinking as they are held captive by telling them what it was like when he had been kidnapped while on his mission 20 years earlier. The families are also given money to pay the ransom and save their sons. This is a point of difficulty for the parents as they want to save their sons but they also need to follow the church policy. The question is posed by one of the fathers, "How can I sit here with the power to save my son and do nothing?" Powerful words and a great act of faith on the families part as they did not pay the ransom.
Meanwhile the two missionaries are presented with an opportunity to escape but there are so many unknowns and the spirit tells them this is not my will. They show great faith and obedience in putting the handcuffs back on and staying in captivity. They said that they felt calm after that during the rest of their captivity as they knew God was in control.
The story ends with the ransom not being paid and the captors deciding to release the missionaries. The missionaries were able to make it back to the city and get help. The two men who kidnapped them were captured and sentenced to prison. The missionaries were able to call home and speak to their parents. And, without question, the two missionaries decided to finish out their mission for the remaining year they had left. They were sent to different locations outside of Russia.
At the end of the movie and during the QA session I was so moved by the complete faith these two missionaries and their families had both then and now. They were unmovable in their faith in the Lord and never faltered or questioned what was happening to them. My new commitment is to develop and display faith as these missionaries so that when the time comes for me to have to stand faithful in the face of danger I will have no question on where my faith lies. 
If you have the opportunity to see this movie GO AND SEE IT!!!!! You will not regret it.  
Kara, Jenny Ellen, Elder Tuttle, Rich 

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