March, 2014

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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 skills.
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.


The Highlight Reel___________________

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 gift.


UMC Foundations

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.

Tanzania Annual Conference

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 they started.


Emmanuel Center's First Visitors

Emmanuel 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 encouragement.  

Prayers and Pictures

Our first honey harvest

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.

Amazing 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 continued development.

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.

You can support us or projects we are working on through the Advance Special of the United Methodist Church. Send a check to “Advance GCFA” at  P.O. Box 9068, GPO New York, NY 10087 with the advance number and name in the memo line that you wish to support or go on-line at

Eric Soard #3021468
Liz Soard #3021467
Wesley College and Education Center #3021925
Emmanuel Center #3021924



Church Construction and Development #3021923

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