August 9, 2016
Trickling through the doors in pairs, missionaries assigned to BYU-Pathway anxiously awaited their turn to check in for what would become a testimony-building experience for each individual involved.
On August 1-3, 2016, service missionaries gathered at BYU-Idaho for a Pathway Missionary Conference where they were able to learn how to better help their students and how to make it a more efficient and beneficial time for them.
“We wanted this conference to bring the purposes of Pathway into the hearts of our missionaries and Pathway Home Office employees,” Missionary Support manager April Spaulding said. “This conference was intended to provide a meaningful gathering experience for our missionaries. It generated enthusiasm through interaction and the delivery of helpful resources. Those resources allow missionaries to shepherd students and work effectively with local Church leaders.”
Along with 11 home office missionaries, 173 service missionaries traveled across the United States to come to Rexburg, Idaho, and participate in this historic conference.
Day One – Conference Kick-off and BBQ
On Monday, August 1, 2016, missionaries assembled on the BYU-Idaho Center stage, where thousands of empty seats served as a picturesque background for the speakers. Missionaries from across the United States and Canada gathered to meet one another and see the faces of those who have guided them through multiple phone calls and emails.
Pathway Managing Director J.D. Griffith welcomed and thanked the missionaries for their endless service and their sacrifices to come to Rexburg, Idaho. Missionaries were reminded several times throughout the conference of their importance to Pathway and how much their service means to the program. Other managers and directors also addressed the congregation. The theme for the conference — “Pathway is About Hope” — was then introduced and discussed.
To conclude the day, missionaries split into groups for a tour of the BYU-Idaho campus and Pathway offices. Missionaries discussed the “Spirit of Ricks” and came to understand why the campus is such a blessing and resource to the Pathway program.
David A. Bednar, then president of BYU-Idaho, said, “The phrase the Spirit of Ricks speaks to the commitment, to the sacrifice, and to the integrity of so many who have helped make this institution what it is today — and what it will ultimately and inevitably become in the future.”1
April shared how home office missionaries had “felt the Spirit of Ricks when they came to the campus, and the Missionary Support team wanted the many other Pathway missionaries to feel it, too.”
Employees and missionaries were then gathered for a barbecue picnic on the campus lawn. A family folk band and clogging group came together to entertain the audience as they met and mingled with one another.
Day Two – A Day Full of Learning
On Tuesday, August 2, missionaries began the day with an opening address from BYU-Idaho’s Online Vice President, Jon Linford, and were then split into various breakout sessions. These sessions, taught by Pathway area managers and directors, covered various topics regarding missionary responsibilities. The sessions were both insightful and spiritual experiences for the missionaries and employees who attended.
“I certainly enjoyed the breakout sessions,” said Sister Nancy Gray from Atlanta, Georgia. “There are so many more things I have realized I can do with my students and how I can be more in tune with them.”
Missionaries then participated in a session where they learned about the Evolution of PathwayConnect L version, how this version helps students improve their English fluency, the Church Education System Global Education Initiative, and how BYU-Idaho and Pathway have worked together to make English-language learning more accessible to members around the world.
“In our PathwayConnect site, we have many students who struggle with English, so I appreciated the explanation of the language solutions to this language problem,” said Elder Bill Gray from Atlanta, Georgia.
Those who participated in the conference had the opportunity to attend the weekly devotional with BYU-Idaho students, where they heard from Sister Robin Dunlop, BYU-Idaho Student Financial Aid Advisor, who addressed the topic of trust in the Lord’s plan.
Immediately following the devotional, missionaries attended a question and answer discussion led by J.D. Griffith. Some topics discussed included the virtual PathwayConnect pilot, PathwayConnect completion expectations, and the pilot expansion of PathwayConnect to members of other faiths.
Day Three – The Conference Conclusion
On the morning of Wednesday, August 3, missionaries were greeted with a message from the BYU-Idaho Dean of Online Operations, Kendall Peck. Missionaries then participated in presentations from Pathway Support Center Training Specialist Helene Clements and Pathway Communications Manager Andy Cargal. In their presentations, missionaries were informed about Pathway Student Support, how to help students become more self-reliant, and the history behind the Pathway program.
Once the conference concluded, missionaries were given sack lunches for their journey home.
Sister Karen Lorenz from Bismarck, North Dakota, was very emotional because of how blessed she felt for being able to participate in this sacred conference.
“I’m just taking away how much the Lord loves me to be able to have a part in this. I feel very privileged to be able to serve a mission,” Sister Lorenz said. “We were called a royal army, we were called consecrated, and I just really feel the love of my Heavenly Father.”
While the information and presentations were the same for each missionary and employee, every individual walked away with personal revelation of how Pathway can benefit their lives as well as the lives of those they serve.
“My understanding of PathwayConnect was pretty slim before coming to this conference,” said Elder Richard Lorenz from Bismarck, North Dakota, “but I have gained a bigger testimony of how students can come closer to Christ through Pathway.”
As the missionary couples slowly left the campus, they went with a unified determination to share the hope of Pathway to everyone they may cross paths with in the future.