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March 30, 2020

Finding Faith in Fiji

Leone traveled 12 hours each way to attend his weekly gatherings and learn more about Jesus Christ

Leone Matavesi had never heard of PathwayConnect — or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for that matter — before Tropical Cyclone Winston, a Category 5 storm, hit Fiji in February 2016.

Leone and his wife, Jocelyn

The cyclone severely damaged many areas, including Leone’s home island of Vanua Levu. International volunteer groups arrived to provide aid. Leone coordinated several groups and was responsible for guiding them around the island. He never imagined that Jocelyn, a member of the second group to arrive, would become his wife.

Jocelyn grew up in Arizona and is a member of the Church. After she and Leone fell in love and got married, she told him about PathwayConnect and encouraged him to enroll. “I asked her if I could participate without being a member of the Church,” he said. “We tried, and I got in.”*

Once Leone was accepted, he faced a new challenge. At the time, virtual gatherings were not available in his area, so he needed to attend the weekly gatherings in Suva — a city on a completely different island. 

Leone’s commute required great sacrifice and dedication. He traveled 12 hours each way to attend the gatherings. “I left home around 4:00 a.m. to catch the bus and travel to the other part of the island,” he explained. “Then I caught the ferry across the sea for six to eight hours … and then a second bus that took another two to three hours.” Leone would attend the gathering on Thursday, stay at his sister’s home in Suva that night, then return to Vanua Levu on Friday. 

Leone is a scuba diving instructor and enjoys diving in his free time.

The commute was long, but it was worth it to Leone to receive an education. In addition to learning important academic and career skills, he looked forward to increasing his faith in Christ. “Listening to people in my classes talking about [Jesus Christ], it got to me. It made me really want to know more. That interest made me keep trying and wanting to move forward,” he said.

In fact, learning more about the Savior completely transformed Leone. “I used to … go out, drink alcohol, and party every night,” he said. “Once I came to know more about Jesus Christ, it just made me see that all those things were a waste. … It really changed me.” 

Although Leone is Catholic and his wife is a member of the Church, they both have strong testimonies of Jesus Christ and support each other in their religious beliefs. “Every Sunday we go to [The Church of Jesus Christ] in the morning and the Catholic church in the afternoon,” he explained. 

Participating in PathwayConnect also helped Leone discover talents he didn’t know he had. When he was assigned to be the lead student, he found his gift for teaching. He said, “I was kind of scared, but after a few minutes, I was totally okay, and I was just teaching and listening at the same time. It made me feel that I want to do it more.”

Leone and his family

Leone has followed through with that desire by sharing his knowledge with others. “After class I would come home, gather my friends around, and start sharing [what I was learning] with them,” he said. This led to discussions about the PathwayConnect program, and Leone encouraged his friends to apply. He said, “[I want them to] learn what I have learned and experienced in PathwayConnect — these good things.”

Leone believes anybody can complete PathwayConnect if they are willing to work hard. “I left school about 15–16 years ago,” he said, “and [coming back] really challenged me.” He completed the program last semester and is now working toward a bachelor’s degree online through BYU-Idaho. He and his wife plan to move to the United States so he can attend on campus.

Don’t you ever lose hope. Just hold on and have faith in yourself. You can do it.

Leone and Jocelyn in traditional Fijian attire

To current or future BYU-Pathway students, Leone says, “Don’t you ever lose hope. Just hold on and have faith in yourself. You can do it; you can finish it. You never know what’s really inside of you.”  

Leone’s life has been blessed and his faith has increased through his educational experiences. “BYU-Pathway is a place where you can find peace and happiness,” he promised. “You’ll find yourself happy like you’ve never been happy before.”

How has your education through BYU-Pathway strengthened your faith in Jesus Christ? Share below!


*To participate in PathwayConnect, applicants who are not members of the Church must have a close tie to the Church, such as having a family member, friend, or other close acquaintance who is a member of the Church; actively learning about the Church; or attending church meetings. They also must meet all other PathwayConnect admission requirements.

Comments on "Finding Faith in Fiji"

Bophasum says:

Great experience!

Freddy Panu says:

I am a return missionary of the church of 3 years, and my mission was to invite people by teaching them to follow Jesus Christ. My mission president told me, “Elder Panu, when you finish your mission you will play the thing you taught the investigators. Life after the mission is so hard in Africa. You need to look for a new job or think about your future studies.” Many things that didn’t give me a blackout opportunity to continue to do the things I used to do on my mission were the simple things like pray to the Lord, read the scriptures, and having the Holy Spirit like a companionship that will help me. It became even complicated to pray before or after bad. After being in BYU-Pathway each week, we just had a devotional that helps me watch and learned many lessons that keeps my mind to think about how wonderful Jesus Christ is. BYU-Pathway changed my life, gives me hope, strengthens my heart, and my mind. Now, I feel so close to him, my Lord, the Redeemer of my life.

Marlene says:

I am grateful for the story and your testimony.

Thomson Kapoloma says:

This is a very uplifting and refreshing experience from Leone, I seem to have had a similar experience and was about to abandon the program. I got strengthened and this one is just a thriller to prompt me to strive for success. I believe things happen for a cause. Having faith in our Heavenly Father makes everything to be possible, I am so convinced that no matter how difficult the journey may be, with faith in our Lord and His Beloved Son,Jesus Christ all things will work for good.

jose luis garcia brito says:

Hello, for me it is amazing experience, and each one of us have different situations or challenges during these amazing classes. In my case, it is not different, but when I heard his history, I saw that our Heavenly Father always will respond to our prayers.

Brooke Hudson says:

As a single mother, I work 5 days a week, and I have from the time I started PathwayConnect. I worked in an office for the first 6 months of PathwayConnect. I now have the privilege of working from home at a job that I started 5 months ago. When I’m done with work, I cook dinner for my daughter as well as my sister and her family. It is too expensive for either of us to live on our own, so we take turns cooking meals. Once dinner is over, I spend as much time as I can with my daughter before it’s time for bed. At bedtime, we read stories, we read scriptures, and we say our prayers. Then, I focus as much time as I can on my homework. In the time I have been a student of PathwayConnect I have suffered from pneumonia twice, bronchitis 6 or 7 times (maybe more), and had Covid. All while mourning the loss of my dear mother, my best friend who passed away less than a year ago. I want to say the trials are hard, but through my faith in my Father in Heaven I have learned that I can endure and do hard things. I have maintained my grades. There was a point, where I had to take a small break because I was starting a new job, and was just recovering from Covid. I was excited to start a new job, and when I recovered I was able to sign up again for BYU-Pathway. I didn’t want to give up. I dropped out of high school in 1999 due to some mental health issues, and finally obtained my diploma in 2011. I never wanted to give up again, I might take breaks but there has always been a desire inside me to finish my education, and the Lord directed me to BYU-Pathway. Through a friend, I was told about this incredible program. I tell anyone who will listen about the benefits, and what an amazing opportunity I have found in PathwayConnect. I have been an active member of the Church for a majority of my life, but the lessons I learn from PathwayConnect are deeper and richer than anything I have ever learned in Church. I almost like to refer to it as a boot camp of sorts. I love being taught how study my scriptures, and how to utilize the gifts of the Spirit to help and teach others. As well as to learn better ways to communicate with others. My favorite part is that it has made it easier for me to adapt to being a better disciple of Christ. This has changed my life in so many ways, I have never been this prepared to attend a university before. I wish I could be a part of PathwayConnect forever.

Poaru Martin says:

What a beautiful story of faith in the Lord and in yourself. Thank you for sharing your story, Leone.

Lely Riani Isihar says:

Thank you for sharing a lovely story about how BYU-Pathway has made a change in Leone’s life and how he has found the talents that he had never before known he had it in him. I agree with Leone that everyone can complete PathwayConnect although it needs hard work and faith to seek for help from our Heavenly Father to pull us through all the obstacles and difficulties and challenges which one has to face. Thank you so much for sharing.

Jennyfer Torres says:


viance18 says:

What a lovely story! Thank you for this story. It has helped me a lot as I’ve continued through BYU-Pathway. This journey is all about sacrificing, and I know that blessings will fall upon my head too.

Winnet Ngirazi says:

Thank you for the wonderful story and words of encouragements.

You definitely put a new whirl on a subject that’s been written about for years. Remarkable material — just incredible! I enjoy reading a post that will make people think. Thanks and we want more!

Jimmy Gideon says:

The education I have received so far from PathwayConnect has broadened my gospel perspective so much that I know now that my mortal mission as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to be an astute defender of gospel principles and contribute my quota wholeheartedly in helping to bring to pass our Heavenly Father’s work–our work too, that of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. It’s an education given to help me and others represent Christ and His church very well, and I am grateful Father gave me this opportunity. Now I have more confidence and insight and deep conviction that the works and words the Church carries out are divinely appointed. I am happy I enrolled in PathwayConnect.

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