Writer: Caleb Trujillo
Without the efforts of the service missionaries, Pathway sites simply could not function. Chances are you have been personally inspired, motivated, or influenced by a Pathway missionary. Much of their work is behind the scenes and goes unnoticed, but it is essential for the organization and efficiency of the Pathway experience.
"If we as missionaries can feel the purpose of Pathway and express it on a personal level, the students will grow, progress, and feel that great need for education. This connection can be very powerful," said Elder Geoffrey Miller of the Mexico City, Mexico-Tlatelolco site.
Like most Pathway missionaries, Elder Miller and his wife, Evelyn, were called by local priesthood leadership to serve in this calling. Once a Pathway site is put in place, the missionaries begin recruiting potential students and informing them of the basic functions and blessings of the program. The missionaries work hand in hand with local priesthood and Relief Society leaders to target and reach out to individuals who would be blessed by Pathway.
"Pathway can be such a powerful priesthood tool. We've seen it is best if the Area Presidencies and Area Seventies are aware of the program and can get Pathway into the stakes and individual wards. It's most effective when used starting from the top and working its way down," said Sister Shirley Benjamin of Nampa, Idaho.
Arlen and Shirley Benjamin served as the very first Pathway missionaries in 2009 and have been very involved in the program ever since. Both agree they have experienced great spiritual growth through their service.
"Wearing that name badge opens doors of opportunity to answer questions and start conversations about the program and the gospel. You also sense an increased amount of the Spirit to impact others and know of their needs," said Sister Benjamin.
Pathway missionaries' dedicated time and service is not only limited to Thursday night gatherings. Their duties lead to approximately 12 hours of service per week, year-round. Throughout each semester they participate in recruiting activities, interview newly admitted students, meet with the weekly lead students, help prepare the Thursday night learning environment, make occasional in-house visits, and much more. They are also busy with their own personal responsibilities and commitments.
"We like to review the different assignments that the students are involved in so we are better prepared to help facilitate the Thursday night conversations," said Sister Karen Bair of Colorado Springs, Colorado. "We monitor their responses and these help mold our preparation for the next week's lesson. We just try to set the stage for the night, let the students take it away, and then help wrap things up when time is done."
Thursday nights offer both the students and the missionaries a chance to learn and grow with help from each other.
"Those Thursday night gatherings are an important aspect of the program," said Elder Bill Bair, husband of Sister Karen Bair. "It gives all of us an opportunity to discuss the class material in a venue where we can share those personal insights one with another. It helps the students gain a deeper and personally unique understanding of the material."
"It is a great way to get used to the balance of family, school work, and spiritual duties," said Brother Miller. "We use the BYU-Idaho learning model of teaching one another. It's a great way to learn from different views and perspectives. These meetings also give us all a greater sense of unity. We grow together as if we are one big family."
These bonds of unity are only a few of the wonderful blessings that the Pathway missionaries gain through their service.
"Being with the students and getting to know them and the challenges they face is a unique opportunity. The experiences that I've had throughout my personal life have given me the chance to mentor and guide them in any way that I can. This program is more than just school work," shared Sister Bair.
Her husband added, "We almost feel like additional parent figures or family members to the students. It's been inspiring to see the example of these people who truly care about their education and want to better their lives and support their families. They are following the counsel of the prophets and it's truly touching."
Elder Miller shared a unique way that his family has been blessed because of his Pathway service. "My children are curious as to what my wife and I do with our time in Pathway. They want to know why we are helping. It creates an opportunity for us to show our children the importance of Church service and gaining an education."
"I have gained a greater recognition and understanding that Heavenly Father knows the needs of each of His children. He specifically knows how and where we can be of service in His kingdom. He makes it clear that if we are willing to serve, He can bless us deeply and tremendously," shared Sister Benjamin.
To many couples, the opportunity of being a Pathway missionary is an answer to prayers of a desire to serve the Lord.
"This experience makes me feel good to know that I am fulfilling a mission at this time and serving the Lord," said Elder Bair.
"Sometimes circumstances such as health, children, work, and other responsibilities require us to stay close to home. Pathway service gives the opportunity to those who cannot leave home, but still desire to serve a Church mission," shared Sister Benjamin.
Pathway opens doors of opportunity not only to students, but also to couples with a desire to complete a Church service mission. If you are interested in becoming a Pathway missionary or learning even more about the typical responsibilities of this calling, please visit here for more information.