January 23, 2017
What motivates a busy parent with a full-time job to drive seven hours every Thursday to attend a PathwayConnect group? Just ask Bryce Bird. The Ontario, Canada, native drove the 219 miles (352 km) to Michigan, USA, where his PathwayConnect group met each week — without missing a single gathering in all three semesters of PathwayConnect.
Education is Revelation
Bryce’s exceptional dedication to PathwayConnect is not surprising when given his motivation. For Bryce, PathwayConnect was a spiritual responsibility — a blessing given to him through revelation from God.
Bryce shared, “When I heard about PathwayConnect, I was very excited. After praying and searching the scriptures, I knew I needed to attend PathwayConnect. I found the closest group and signed up. That group was in Ann Arbor, over four hours and one international border away.”
To show his dedication, Bryce decided he wanted to obtain a college-level education with perfect attendance, a symbol of his determination.
Facing Adversity Head-On
But such a goal was more difficult than he expected. Bryce immediately faced challenges as he embarked on such a demanding goal. “I had to go through many trials to have perfect attendance,” Bryce admits. Sickness, money, time, and dangerous weather all became formidable obstacles to carrying out his plan.
Bryce realized that the biggest challenge was figuring out how to maintain a regular travel schedule every Thursday, a complicated task for one who didn’t even live in the same country as his PathwayConnect group.
Undeterred, Bryce carefully made the necessary arrangements: “It was a ten hour round trip to make it to the gatherings. My Thursdays consisted of me getting off four hours early from work and leaving for the United States. I would leave my house by two in the afternoon. I would arrive at the church about six-thirty or later. I would have a great, uplifting class and be home close to midnight. I did this for all three semesters, not missing one class.”
Bryce didn’t back down even as medical problems threatened to disrupt his attendance goal. Bryce remembers, “In the first week I was diagnosed with a viral eye infection. The medication that was given to me made me very sensitive to sunlight. I still went to class. I wore two pairs of sunglasses and put duct tape around the edges because the light from the sides was too much. I did it and made it to class.”
Elder Utley, a PathwayConnect missionary in Ann Arbor, describes Bryce’s efforts in more detail: “He leaves work early, rents a car, and then drives to the gathering place, where he arrives 30 minutes early. When the gathering ends, he drives back, drops off the car, and walks home a little after midnight. The next day, he wakes up at 4:00 a.m. and goes to work early so that he can make up the time lost from the previous day.”
Bryce didn’t even give up when severe weather forced a sudden change of plans. He explains, “One week in January as I was driving, I found out that the highway to Michigan was closed due to a blizzard. I had to start down another route that would take three hours longer than usual. I realized that I would need to drive a total of 14 hours to make it to my gathering and back home that night.”
Elder Utley recalls that fateful night: “In their opening prayer the night of the blizzard, the class noticed Bryce was missing, so they prayed for his safety. It took him 7 hours to get to the gathering, but he arrived only 20 minutes late. When he walked into the gathering, he received a standing ovation from the class.”
Sacrifice Brings Blessings
Bryce drew his incredible motivation from his understanding that PathwayConnect’s blessings come to those who are willing to sacrifice. He simply wanted with all his heart the affordable education and real-life business skills that PathwayConnect has to offer.
He explains, “I have rented 42 cars, drove over 18,000 miles, and spent over 430 hours to make it to all of the gatherings. I have done all this because I know PathwayConnect is worth it — I need more practical business skills. I was willing to sacrifice because PathwayConnect brings blessings.”
Sacrifice is intrinsically intertwined with the spirit of PathwayConnect, since sacrifice is a gospel principle that strong testimonies, educations, and families are built on.
PathwayConnect’s director over the U.S. & Canada, Bryan Justesen, knows sacrifice is important in helping students grow: “As I’ve thought lately about requests to form smaller groups at ‘satellite’ locations that make it easier for students to attend, I’ve had a recurring impression — ‘don’t be afraid to ask students to sacrifice a little for the PathwayConnect experience.’”
Bryce’s sacrifice was one of the keys to his success. “PathwayConnect has not been easy for me but, I have worked very hard to do what I needed to do,” he says.
Bryce certainly sacrificed more than a little, and he is extremely happy and grateful with the blessings his dedication has brought. Instead of giving in to worry or fear, Bryce viewed PathwayConnect as a golden opportunity — a necessary step toward self-improvement and pursuing his goals of entrepreneurship. His memorable example should inspire all of us to increase our dedication to education, progress, and spiritual pursuits.