March 22, 2016
Many students join PathwayConnect to further their educational or vocational goals, but they soon realize that PathwayConnect is so much more than that. In addition to social and temporal blessings, PathwayConnect almost instantly puts students, and all involved, in touch with God. Inviting the Holy Ghost into participants’ lives is structured into PathwayConnect, and many draw closer to God as a result of the spiritual side of a PathwayConnect education. Missionaries, students, employees, and instructors alike have grown spiritually from the blessings of faith and miracles that PathwayConnect brings to their lives.
PathwayConnect students can use the program to increase their faith in the Lord and His love for them. This was the case for Ryan Frank, a regional sales manager from northern Idaho and a former PathwayConnect student. He, his wife of 11 years, and their five children have seen the blessings of faith grow in their family since he enrolled in PathwayConnect.
One day at church, service missionaries assigned to BYU-Pathway spoke in Ryan’s ward. He said, “I had a spiritual awakening. I had always wanted to go back to school; I just never got around to it. The Spirit bore witness that this inspired program was for me, and I needed to start right away.”
Following the Spirit is something that Ryan has continued doing, even while humbly recognizing his own shortcomings. Ryan attributes much of his growth to the spiritual lessons he learned in PathwayConnect: “Though I’m far from perfect, the PathwayConnect program has helped me to live closer to the Spirit. I know that I can accomplish and learn challenging things.”
PathwayConnect has also helped Ryan see the benefits of a system that combines social, temporal, and spiritual learning and growth. He said, “PathwayConnect has taught me that getting an education doesn’t just have to be a temporal pursuit. Spiritual learning paired with temporal learning helps me to learn at an accelerated rate. The Lord has blessed me with increased humility. As I learn more, I more fully realize how little I actually know.”
Investing time and effort in PathwayConnect opens up an opportunity for all its participants to grow in faith and knowledge of the Lord as everyone grows together under the guidance of the Holy Ghost. In this way, PathwayConnect fulfills one of its primary goals — to get the gospel down into students’ hearts.
The success of this initiative is staggering. In the seven years since the Pathway program launched, students have shared countless inspiring stories of personal and spiritual growth that have truly shown how PathwayConnect is achieving this goal. Following is some data collected from students in PathwayConnect as they’ve completed the program:
Missionaries are vital to maintaining efficient and happy PathwayConnect gatherings, and they grow from the program just as much as students and employees do. Specifically, missionary couples have numerous opportunities to grow spiritually through participating in PathwayConnect.
Elder and Sister Godfrey were called to the Russia Yekaterinburg Mission in May 2013. At the time, Yekaterinburg did not have any PathwayConnect opportunities, but they had a dream that gave them new conviction regarding the growth of PathwayConnect. “Elder Godfrey felt like the most important blessing he wanted during his mission was for Yekaterinburg to get PathwayConnect,” Sister Godfrey said.
Much of their efforts went into making that dream a reality. It was difficult and it took a long time, but eventually they were able to see the miracles happen — the creation of the Virtual PathwayConnect pilot in Fall Semester 2014. By gathering online instead of in person, those living in areas where large distances or legal restrictions limit their opportunities to learn and enjoy the blessings of PathwayConnect have found an answer to their prayers. The hope is that this pilot program may one day be available throughout the world for others who face similar limitations.
The Godfreys see the growth of PathwayConnect as a faith-building miracle, a sign of God’s mercy and love. “The Lord is kind and gracious,” Elder and Sister Godfrey said. “The pilot was new. We had never heard of it, but it fits the needs of those interested in PathwayConnect who lack the means to attend a local gathering.”
With the advent of virtual PathwayConnect, Elder and Sister Godfrey were eventually able to see PathwayConnect in Yekaterinburg. Their testimonies were strengthened through witnessing so many of their prayers being answered. “I have had my greatest wish given to me by our Heavenly Father,” Sister Godfrey said. “I see the hand of the Lord in the pilot’s growth and success.”
Employees of BYU-Pathway have the unique opportunity of watching the program bless the lives of people all over the world. J.D. Griffith, managing director, feels that his time at BYU-Pathway has taught him to trust God and face the future with faith.
Concerning the spiritual growth he has felt as an employee, J.D. said, “One of the greatest blessings of working in Pathway over the years has been learning to rely more fully on faith in the Lord in all I do. As a relatively young employee of BYU-Idaho in 2009 when Pathway was created, I quickly came to the realization that the Lord had a plan for educating the members of His Church all over the world, and my goal was to simply not get in the way. This, however, is easier said than done.”
As BYU-Pathway has distinguished itself as a one-of-a-kind program across the world, J.D. has relied on the guiding hand of the Lord to surmount difficulties.
“In creating Pathway, we were truly designing a program like no other in higher education. Because there are no comparable programs, we often found ourselves taking great steps into unknown areas. Early in the process of designing Pathway, when we would bump up against a problem or concern, I had to learn to patiently wait for solutions. Those solutions would come in the form of people we would hire, technological advancements, or simple insights through trial and error,” J.D. said.
J.D.’s spiritual growth has led him to develop a strong, personal motivation for helping everyone involved with BYU-Pathway succeed. He knows that everyone has the opportunity to experience similar personal growth.
“Over the years, I have truly come to the realization that our job is to work as hard as we possibly can and then to have the faith that our Heavenly Father will make up for our shortcomings. Most importantly, working with Pathway has taught me to rely on our Heavenly Father and to have faith in His divine plan for each of us,” J.D. said.
While PathwayConnect is known for its benefits to students, instructors also reap significant blessings and grow spiritually as a result of participating in PathwayConnect.
Life Skills instructor Denise Routson said teaching PathwayConnect has helped her feel closer to the Spirit as students are encouraged to freely share their testimonies in discussion boards and assignments. “You can’t help but feel uplifted when grading students’ assignments,” Denise said.
Basic Writing instructor Trent Mikesell also credits PathwayConnect with strengthening his testimony. “Through PathwayConnect, I feel that I’ve developed a real spiritual sense of the importance of sacrifice. I have seen what students sacrifice to gain an education, and it has inspired me to make my own sacrifices to do the important things that the Lord has asked us to do. I have also felt the importance of being regular in my scripture study, prayer, and temple attendance.”
Growing In Faith
Everyone involved with BYU-Pathway has an opportunity to grow their faith and testimony in the wisdom and love of the Lord. Whether student, missionary, employee, or instructor, BYU-Pathway is here to help us grow closer to the Lord in every way. It is up to us to get the most out of this program every day we are involved with it. We can join with Trent Mikesell in saying, “My increased spirituality helps me be more patient and loving with those who are most important to me.”