August 26, 2016
The Spirit swelled in the room as four out of twelve recent PathwayConnect completers bore testimony at their completion ceremony. One of them, a stake president from Santiago, Chile, who had struggled for years to learn English, shared his experience: “In PathwayConnect, there is something different — there is the Spirit. You can learn English in PathwayConnect because you don’t learn with just your head — you learn with your heart.”
PathwayConnect Completion Ceremony:
Some PathwayConnect groups choose to hold an unofficial meeting following their final PathwayConnect gathering where missionaries and students commemorate and celebrate completing the program.
Ismar Vallecillos, area manager for the South America North and South America South areas of the Church, listened intently to his words. As an area manager, Ismar has met with many students and local leaders, but despite all of his time with BYU-Pathway, this experience was a new one for him.
We have no doubt that this is an inspired program.
“I had never been to a PathwayConnect completion ceremony,” said Ismar. “I had seen countless pictures, heard plenty of stories, I had talked on the phone with leaders and missionaries, and I had even read about them, but I had never attended one.”
In addition to the ceremony, Ismar made stops in five Chilean cities — Concepción, Temuco, Los Ángeles, Chillán, and Santiago. At trainings, firesides, and meetings, he and Elder Mark A. Bragg of the South America South Area Presidency spread the current and future vision for PathwayConnect in the area.
On the last night in Santiago, Ismar and Elder Bragg spoke at a fireside that was recorded and will soon be distributed as a training for PathwayConnect students, missionaries, and leaders all around Chile.
Elder Bragg spoke about how PathwayConnect would help members achieve the Area Presidency’s goals. “We have no doubt that this is an inspired program,” Elder Bragg repeated often, placing the support of the Area Presidency squarely behind BYU-Pathway.
His comments were the perfect conclusion to the trip, reminding Ismar of the blessings available to PathwayConnect students. It was something they had both witnessed the night before, at the graduation, and throughout the trip.
“The Spirit was so strong,” Ismar remembered. “I think for me, it just further confirmed and strengthened my belief in BYU-Pathway. I know that it does good, I know what it’s doing for members, but to be there firsthand just strengthens the conviction that this is a good program and it’s doing good for people.”