East Europe hungry for Bible

Missionary says people ‘lacked hope in an atmosphere of oppression’

Monty Tuttle grew up on a Kansas farm, went to Abilene Christian University to play football and worked as a financial planner and preacher till joining the Hurst-based East European Mission group and helping to distribute millions of free Bibles in 23 languages to 32 nations.

“The people in these former Soviet Bloc countries saw and experienced what atheism and a godless mind-set led to with the emptiness and poverty,” Tuttle said. “They lacked hope in an atmosphere of oppression.”

The native of Ulysses in west-central Kansas went to ACU to play defensive back and was on the Wildcats’ 1973 national championship team. He was a youth minister at Churches of Christ in Dallas and Amarillo, was a financial planner in Amarillo and preached at churches in Amarillo, Westchester, Pa., The Colony and Decatur till going to work as EEM’s Abilene-based regional director in 2014. He and his wife Tamaria have three children.

At ACU, he roomed with free-spirited quarterback Clint Longley, who played for the Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers and Toronto Argonauts from 1974-77.

“Clint was a fun roommate,” Tuttle said. “We had a good time.”

With a $5.5-million budget funded by churches, individuals, foundations and fundraisers, EEM gave away a record 1,330,826 Bibles last year after distributing 877,743 in 2018 and 1,197,036 in ’19.

Having visited Ukraine three times along with Croatia, Serbia and Greece, Tuttle said his organization gets its Bibles from Biblica, The International Bible Society, in Colorado Springs, Colo., and distributes them at a cost of $5 each.

“Our team in Europe does a wonderful job with the costs of distribution, permitting and the logistics of crossing borders with export-import taxes,” he said. “High school students tell us they love reading the Bible and studying it in their schools because it’s about life, hope and love.

“A Muslim refugee who is now a Christian said his favorite verse is John 4:8, ‘Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love.’ All he had known was punishment, fear and anger. He said, ‘I was so angry, but now I know that God is love.’”

Before the Soviet Bloc collapsed in 1989, Tuttle said, its citizens “were seeking freedom and a new way to live because God had been ripped away.

“Those countries tried to take God and the Bible out of society and now we’re finding that a lot of people want God back,” he said. “Biblica scholars translate directly from the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts.”

Tuttle spoke April 11 at Downtown Church of Christ in Midland, where Co-Minister Greg Fleming said Tuttle’s report “that refugees coming into Europe from Iraq and Syria are open to learning about Christ” was revelatory. “That news is not well-known,” Fleming said.

“There is a lot of conflict in those places and it’s dangerous for them to remain there. Monty is motivated by his love for God and the Gospel and his love for lost people. He was part of an a cappella group called The Sharks that sang in Midland a few years ago. They dressed up like 1950s guys.”

EEM also works in Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.

Its Bibles are in Albanian, Arabic, Belorussian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, English, Estonian, Farsi, German, Greek, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Polish, Roma, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian and Ukrainian.