By Lillian Arp
For over 30 years, Afulua Tuivaiti, of the Pesega 6th Ward in the Pesega Samoa Stake, dreamed of one day going back to high school, to complete the learning she had missed out on . . . and perhaps even continuing on to university. She just didn’t know how.
With a family to take care of now, not a lot of income and many church and community responsibilities, Afulua began to feel like it was too late for her, that pursuing her education might be impossible. But then, a senior missionary couple in her ward told her about the PathwayConnect programme run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
PathwayConnect is a low-cost, 4-semester course that prepares learners to begin a university degree, which they can then do online with Brigham Young University (BYU). The programme is available worldwide and promoted through the Church alongside our self-reliance classes.
When Afulua learned about PathwayConnect, she became hopeful, wondering if her dream of studying again could actually come true, and then another senior missionary couple got involved. “Elder and Sister Abbot introduced me to Pathways,” Afulua explains, “and another generous missionary couple offered to pay [my tuition fee]. What a blessing!
“How Heavenly Father [has] answered my prayers, to me is a miracle.”
Afulua immediately signed up and soon attended her first class, which was a little intimidating.
“My first semester, I was nervous and scared because I didn’t speak English well,” she says, but now in her third semester, that problem is well behind her. “[My English] is improving and I’m not scared anymore. Plus, I was never alone. I got encouragement from my church leaders, teachers, and classmates,” Afulua says.
She is especially grateful to Sister Ho Chin, wife of the Apia Samoa mission president, and the missionaries in the stake office who helped her, particularly with her technology needs, and to her bishop, Lautua Fa’aofo and his wife Apu, who continue to support her along the way.
“Also, I am getting closer and closer to the Lord,” she says. “[This experience] has really strengthened my testimony.”
It’s a testimony that has kept her motivated and uplifted throughout the journey so far, which hasn’t always been easy. Afulua takes care of her 85-year-old mother and 5-month-old grandson, which – added to her other household chores – keeps her extremely busy every day. “I can only study at night,” she says, and often does until she falls asleep.
But she perseveres.
With one more semester to go in PathwayConnect, Afulua is determined to continue on to the BYU degree programme and is entertaining a few options for that next step.
“I am very interested in Hospitality and Tourism Management,” she says. “I believe it could be a very good busines for me one day.” In fact, Afulua is already putting aside money for a future business investment, “but I’m also thinking of studying Applied Health.”
She has some time yet to decide on a major, but Afulua is already clear about one thing. “I have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He answers my prayers and leads me to the right path.”
Afulua’s faith in God, and her commitment to her goals, has also inspired faith in herself. “There will always be obstacles along the way,” she says, “but I will always try to overcome them and encourage myself to put more effort in so that I can accomplish my plan.”