The 2013 movie The Saratov Approach tells the abduction story of LDS missionaries Andrew Propst and Travis Tuttle while they were serving as full-time missionaries in Russia. Both were twenty years old at the time.
On March 18, 1998, Elders Tuttle and Propst knocked on the door of a man they had met a few days previous. Inside his apartment, the two responded to his questions about the Church but instead of finding someone to teach the gospel, the two were bludgeoned with a metal baton, then handcuffed, tied up, and left with tape covering their eyes and mouth. Their ordeal lasted for five days before they were able to escape. Meanwhile, the abductors delivered a ransom note asking for $300,000 to officials of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Officials in the United States government became involved when LDS lawmakers demanded help and U.S. Embassy and FBI agents went to Russia to assist.
"I had no hope of ever walking out of there alive," Propst said."I still had a lot to do in my life." The two considered plans to escape.
During the five days, they were fed little and their captors played mind games with them.
- One of the kidnappers, a 19-year-old Russian man, had monitored them throughout the ordeal and the three had much to talk about, including sports, politics, the differences between Russian and American customs, and even the gospel of Jesus Christ, which the missionaries were in the country to teach.
- “We tried to build those relationships with him so if there ever was a chance for him to decide, 'Do I kill these guys or do I let these guys go,' hopefully the friendship we had tried to establish would save our lives," Propst said.
- Their conversations, like many dealing with the gospel, had been deliberate.
- Throughout the long days together, the two never neglected to pray—alone and together—submitting themselves to God. They believed that their faith would get them through.
- On the fifth day, their prayers were answered when an older captor came home very drunk and said he was going to let the missionaries go. It was a prospect that was hard for Propst and Tuttle to believe, but they hurriedly put on their coats and shoes and rode quietly, huddled in the back seat of a small car for about 45 minutes.
- “He says he could hear my heart pounding and I could hear his," Propst said of his companion. "There wasn't a word spoken that entire time. We thought we were being taken to our final resting place."
The companions were pushed out of the car into the snow and the vehicle drove away. The quickly called police and church officials and were taken immediately to Germany. For their safety, Propst and Tuttle were later transferred to separate missions in England, where they each received therapy and completed their two years of service.
- One of the Russian captors was arrested the day after the missionaries' release and the other was tracked down by police two weeks later. The older man served two years in prison, and the 19-year-old was put on probation and wasn't allowed to leave Russia for two years.
- "I wouldn't change anything," Propst said. "It sounds kind of crazy, but I think being kidnapped was one of the best experiences of my life … to learn those life lessons that most 19-year-olds don't get a chance to.
Propst lives near Mesa, Arizona, with his wife and children.