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Not Afraid to Have Dreams

Latvian pioneer follows an unusual prompting that led to increased faith and a capacity to serve

Velga Senkans and her husband were the first Latvians to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after the Soviet Union dissolved. 1
Facts and Statistics, "Latvia," LDS Newsroom, accessed May. 1, 2016.
Since then, Velga and her husband have worked tirelessly to strengthen the Church in Latvia for nearly 25 years. Now, after years of service in her homeland of Latvia, Velga feels that God is directing her in unexpected ways.

“Growth of the Church means we have people who are ready to be proactive and do something in order to improve their lives,” said Velga. “The Lord has prepared a way for our members to continue their education and become more self reliant. Church growth follows the spiritual growth of its members.”

After years of busy Church service and family life, Velga felt something was missing

Velga Senkans
Velga Senkans was the first Latvian to join the Church after the Cold War.

“For nine years, my husband served as a Europe East Area Seventy. Together we traveled to different cities and nations for conferences and leadership trainings. We have five children in our family, and our youngest son is mentally handicapped. During this time I couldn’t develop my career as a psychologist; my work was being a mom.”

Velga enjoyed these years of difficult yet rewarding service. But as her children grew up and moved on, she struggled to fill her life with the same purpose she felt in the past.

“In August 2015, I was at a point of my life where I didn’t know where my place was or what to do,” she said. “Our four eldest children had finished their missions and studied at BYU, and our middle son was serving a mission. My youngest son was growing and needed to be more independent — he didn’t need my assistance as much. I was depressed when I thought about my future career and didn’t know what to do.”

Velga received a life-changing prompting she wasn’t expecting

Velga was excited when PathwayConnect came to east Europe. She felt it would strengthen Latvian Church members. "PathwayConnect means new possibilities for the Church and its members to receive an education based on the gospel,” she said. “It attracts proactive people who are ready to work hard, and helps people rely on the Spirit to make decisions and take more responsibility.”

When PathwayConnect became available in Latvia in 2015, Velga encouraged local Church members, especially young adults in Riga, to attend. Little did she know that she herself would be inspired to join the program after motivating so many others to do the same.

Velga, her husband, and kids in Riga, Latvia
Velga and her husband in Riga, Latvia, with their children

“One night I awoke, and a very clear thought came to my mind: ‘You must study in PathwayConnect.’ I decided to follow this prompting, and the next day I called the service missionaries assigned to BYU-Pathway and asked if 50-year-olds can also study in PathwayConnect.”

The PathwayConnect gathering group in Riga welcomed Velga with open arms. After applying online, she began attending weekly, face-to-face gatherings at the local institute building.

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The prompting was difficult to follow, but Velga learned something important

Finding time for PathwayConnect initially proved difficult for Velga, who still had many Church responsibilities.

I receive joy and confidence from PathwayConnect to do new things... to have dreams and realize them.

“I am trying to be a good visiting sister and serve well in all my callings: branch historian, mission historian, designer of the Liahona Latvian pages, and Director of the Family History Center,” explained Velga. “My husband and I have also conducted courses on marriage and family strengthening in the Church in Riga and even in some other Baltic countries.”

In the beginning, Velga also felt discouraged about the weekly assignments, but soon her experience in PathwayConnect changed her mind.

Riga, Latvia photo
Many young single adults call Riga home, and Velga motivated some to join PathwayConnect there with her.

“The first lessons were challenging for me,” she said. “I started to doubt and wonder if and why I really need these assignments. But the first lesson about the principles ‘studying by faith’ and ‘learning by the Spirit’ helped me change my attitude. I started to get joy from studying, and I tried to inspire my classmates. Since then, I have been enjoying PathwayConnect — there has been a lot of spiritual and temporal inspiration. I followed a prompting from the Lord, so here I am. I am happy about my decision.”

Now, something inside Velga has changed

As she spent time in PathwayConnect, Velga became more happy and dedicated to fulfilling her other responsibilities.

“The topics — learning by faith, teaching by the Spirit, making good decisions, and setting goals — influenced my process of learning and daily life throughout the entire course. This helped me to be more happy and willing to serve others. I am more happy and serving with joy and creativity,” she said.

In addition to her previous responsibilities, PathwayConnect also helped Velga grow in confidence and pursue new hobbies.

Velga and her classmates gather in the institute building in Riga, Latvia
Velga and her classmates gather in the institute building in Riga, Latvia.

“I am more confident to share my knowledge with others,” said Velga. “I led the Strengthening Marriage course for couples in our branch, and I began teaching some other seminars in the Church. I realized studying about the family is my hobby; I like to work with couples and families.”

As PathwayConnect changed Velga’s outlook on life, she embraced her new education. She used the lessons she's learned to find purpose in her life and achieve new goals.

“Knowledge is invaluable. Knowledge can help make a lot of problems in our lives much better, especially when temporal knowledge goes together with the spiritual. I like the principle of lifelong learning. We are never too old to learn and study and make goals. I receive joy and confidence from PathwayConnect — joy to do new things, so I’m not afraid to have dreams and realize them.”

Just like Velga, you can receive confidence and support to accomplish your educational dreams through PathwayConnect. Apply today .

Velga completed PathwayConnect in July 2016. She plans to now earn a certificate in home and family studies , then pursue a bachelor’s degree in marriage and family studies through BYU-Idaho Online.