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Our Journey in God's Life
The Official Newsletter of Eric and Liz Soard,
Missionaries in Tanzania
A Handshake Instead of a Handout
Last week we wrapped up Annual Conference in Mwanza. We had a great time, worshipped, sang,
celebrated work going on in the local churches, and received many
people for the first time to the still new church of Mwanza First United Methodist Church. Among those
first time visitors we had a representative of the District
Commissioner for opening worship, Bishop Ntambo
to visit a church that he had asked God for two years before, and Rev.
Allen Newton from St. James in Alabama, Mwanza’s partner church. Allen had the
chance to speak to annual conference about church partnerships and what
it takes to build relationships based on mutual trust and respect
instead of creating pseudo-partnerships that facilitate dependency on
one side and a feel-good, pat ourselves on the back feeling on the
other. The biggest thing I took away from what he said can be summed up
by saying, “Better a handshake than a handout.” A handshake preserves
the respect on BOTH sides of the relationship, instead of just on one.
We hope, in our work as missionaries, that this is the mentality that
we can help develop on both sides of the ocean and the cultural gap
which we often feel like we are straddling. It is gratifying to hear
the pastor of one of our church-to-church partnerships come with this
mindset, and it was great for all of the church leaders here in
Tanzania to hear that message from a church partner in the US, the
desire for a mutual, respect based relationship designed to build up an
ability and confidence, especially in those who traditionally are used
to being looked down on, and perceived as less able or without the
capacity to do even the simple things. As we prepare for a four month
stint in the US, speaking at churches and completing a few more
educational requirements, it has been exciting to see the handshake
mentality coming through in our work.
Churches are stepping up and maturing. Yesterday we worshiped with a
church that has had challenges in produce strong leaders that weren’t
the pastor, and yet yesterday for the first time reports were coming
from other leaders about the progress and programs of the church.
Training is taking place. We just finished the first of three UMC
Fundamentals workshops for the conference. This one was on worship and
reached almost 60 people who received training and materials to go back
into their churches instead of following
a route memory worship service, be creative in contextually building a
worship service that is both honoring to the traditions of the church
and the culture of the people receiving the gospel in worship.
Mwanza FUMC just received a donation from
their partner church to start a women’s sewing ministry. The donation
was an addition to the contributions the women themselves have already
given towards this ministry.
Seen in the pictures below, the Mara District have harvested the first batch of honey at Gamasara and other churches are not far behind. A
project that will be a source of income to both local churches and the
district development committee who are
facilitating the growth of this project.
We just received the first, rough estimate for Wesley College, a
college whose vision is to prepare servants for service to the
community through an educational environment that focuses on excellent
education and spiritual formation, academic knowledge and practical
As we extend our hand in farewell, even for this short time, it is
encouraging to see a hand coming back towards us in a firm handshake
and not palm up in a chronic gesture of dependency.
Sewing in Mwanza
A huge thank you to St. Jame’s
UMC in Montgomery, AL and their pastor Allen Newton for helping with
the purchase of sewing machines for the women’s group of Mwanza UMC. The women have been sewing by hand as
a group for over a year now, and selling the products. Much of the
profits goes towards the women’s fund that
helps widows, new mothers, and other women inside and outside the
church. The little they have managed to save they were saving for a sewing
machine to help in this work. Thank you for this capacity building
2014 was the first of a three year series of workshops
on UMC foundations that DRI (Discipleship Resources International) is
facilitating for the Tanzania Annual Conference. This year’s workshop
on worship was great and Taylor Burton-Edwards, Director of Worship
Resources for GBOD did a great job of teaching and was tireless in
answering the many questions from knowledge hungry church leaders
during three days in Mwanza.
This was the Mara District second year in a row to host
Annual Conference. It was great to have Bishop Ntambo
there as well as other special guests, especially Rev. Allen Newton,
pastor of Mwanza’s partner church, St.
James’ UMC. The conference, in addition to celebrating all of the
work going on in the conference through the presentation of reports
and lively worship also looked into the future of the church with
committees planning for the next year and the ordination of seven
deacons and two elders, of which three deacons were from the Mara
District, local pastors that we started working with three years ago.
It is great to see them reach their goal of becoming ordained pastors
in the United Methodist Church. They have come a long way from where
Emmanuel Center's First Visitors
Center started operations late last year and in June received their
first visitors from outside of Tanzania. Tom and Lisa Jones, along with
their children, came to see what was happening in Gamasara
and spent time with the women and children of the Emmanuel Center. It
was an uplifting time for the women and children as Lisa led devotion
for the women working in the community garden, taught Bible study at
children’s after school tutoring, and met with the women who make
batik. Just like the rest of us, the women of the Emmanuel Center
were encouraged to see someone take interest in them and their work.
A big thank you to Tom, Lisa, and family for your presence and
This week we sign the papers and submit the adoption
petition to the high court in Mwanza.
Prayers that it is accepted and in a timely fashion.
birthday cake made by Liz Soard for Kaleb and Derrick
Pray for the grandson of Pastor Domminick
Agunduson, he is two week old and having
trouble nursing. Prayers for the health of this baby and his
Bishop Ntambo ordaining the newest group of deacons at
Tanzania Annual Conference
Prayers for Wesley College. We have started drawing up
plans for construction. Prayers that God puts the right people in
contact with this project, it is too much for just two people.