May 10, 2017
After serving a mission and being married in the temple, how does a young parent become inactive in the Church and unsatisfied with life? And then how do you help the wayward soul experience a spiritual conversion so sincere it sparks renewed activity and enthusiasm in the gospel?
Erald Veliu let the little things get to him. He became busy, started working on Sundays, and found it difficult to keep the commandments. He felt pain as special opportunities passed him by. Now, after five years of struggling, he has been brought back to the gospel by a miraculous spiritual rescue through PathwayConnect. Others now see him as an inspiring example of faith and optimism, and he spends his time teaching others and pioneering human resource development in Albania.
A Broken Dream
Erald, 33, is a PathwayConnect student in Tirana, Albania, 25 miles away from the Mediterranean Sea. He and his wife have a young daughter and son.
He was happy as a returned missionary in 2004, having served in the USA San Francisco Mission. After returning to Albania, Erald continued to share the gospel, teaching and baptizing a young woman who later became his wife. They were married in the Frankfurt Germany Temple in 2005, and Erald was active in the Church. The future looked bright.
When I was away from the church, my family left the church also.
But all that changed when Erald faced a trial that brought him tremendous pain.
Michael Smith, a service missionary assigned to BYU-Pathway serving in Erald’s stake in 2015, describes Erald’s struggle: “Years ago he developed a smoking habit, which violated the commandments and caused him guilt. Soon the guilt from that habit was the main reason keeping him away from church.” Over time, Erald distanced himself from God and the Church.
For almost five years Erald struggled, never bringing himself back to church. Erald recounts those dark times, saying, “I missed a lot of the blessings that God offers us if we keep and follow the commandments and learn about the gospel. My daughter asked me to baptize her when she turned eight years old, and it really hurt me that I could not baptize her.”
Then Erald heard of PathwayConnect, and the remarkable happened.
Elder Smith met with Erald and explained the educational options of PathwayConnect in January 2015. Although Erald was initially interested in the career opportunities PathwayConnect provided, his wife and children were just excited to have Church members at their house again.
Elder Smith sees this first meeting as a miracle. “I could sense the excitement from the family as we sat down with Erald,” he said. “You could feel something special was happening in their lives, answers to many prayers offered over several years.”
The Miracle of PathwayConnect
Erald learned that PathwayConnect encouraged, but did not require, living the BYU-Idaho Honor Code. Realizing that this would give him an opportunity to work with priesthood leaders and return to church, Erald decided to enroll in PathwayConnect.
This decision was an important turning point in Erald’s life, Elder Smith said. “The day he decided to come back to Church and enroll in PathwayConnect, he stopped the habit that kept him from attending church.”
Erald attributes this spiritual development to PathwayConnect’s ability to invite the Holy Ghost into students’ lives.
When I came back to the Church, my family came back with me. Now we all go to church together.
“Most of my changes are a result of PathwayConnect,” Erald said. “PathwayConnect helped me toward spiritual growth by giving me the opportunity to open myself up to the blessings that God prepared for me. It gave me the opportunity to remember how important the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost is.”
PathwayConnect also reminded Erald how to apply gospel lessons in his own life, a skill he claims is invaluable to true conversion. For Erald, PathwayConnect creates opportunities for growing spiritually every single day, especially through interacting with his classmates.
“PathwayConnect taught me that meeting with other Church members and talking and learning with each other is the best way to feel and apply the gospel in our daily life. My conversion of heart was completed when I joined PathwayConnect,” Erald said.
And the blessings of PathwayConnect extend beyond Erald’s individual growth. Erald’s entire family was rescued as a result of his participation in PathwayConnect: “My family has received the blessings that I have received. When I was away from the Church, my family left the Church also. When I started coming back to the Church, they had the opportunity to come back with me.”
A Sincere Conversion
Erald has proven himself both an exceptional student and an inspiring example in the Church after joining PathwayConnect.
“Since that day back in January of 2015, Erald has come to Church every Sunday and has not missed a single PathwayConnect or institute class, even though he works 10 to 12 hours six days a week,” Elder Smith said.
Now, Erald is grateful PathwayConnect helped him gain spiritual confidence and understand how to deal with trials. He knows God is willing to help people in their darkest times.
“I know that I really had that conversion in my heart. I have learned that struggles and trials help us become stronger,” Erald said. “If we face problems and trials, we have to kneel down and bow our heads. We have to decide if we are kneeling to give up or if we are kneeling to ask in prayer for guidance on how to overcome these trials.”
PathwayConnect has also helped Erald open new career opportunities.
“I am heading toward a happy future. To be able to start my own human resource management business in Albania is my dream. PathwayConnect is really playing a big part in it. To be able to learn and prepare my future through PathwayConnect has blessed me greatly,” Erald said.
PathwayConnect helped by giving me the opportunity to receive the blessings that God prepared for me.
Erald takes his education and relationship with God seriously. He recognizes these things have changed his life for good: “I now know how to leave a legacy of good deeds, so my children and the generations to come will walk and follow the same path. I know that this is the true Church of Jesus Christ, directed and guided by God through a living prophet. Christ will be with us all our lives, to fight with us every battle that we will face.”
Erald has completed PathwayConnect and is making plans to pursue an entrepreneurial certificate while working to complete a bachelor’s degree in business management through BYU-Idaho online. He also serves in his stake’s High Council as a stake Self-Reliance specialist and a web publisher.