Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Eric & Liz Soard: Building Meaningful Relationships in Tanzania

In 2015, we are highlighting UMC missionaries who have been commissioned from the Southeastern Jurisdiction to serve around the world. Many of these missionaries accept volunteers to help with the important and necessary ministries they have established or are in partnership with. Contact UMVIM, SEJ for more information on how to serve!
Building Meaningful Relationships in Tanzania
Eric and Elizabeth Soard are a young couple on the forefront of the United Methodist effort in Africa. Together since college at Lambuth University, they felt a calling to Africa, and began their time on the continent as volunteers in a country that would eventually become their second home: Tanzania. Presently, they are commissioned UMC Missionaries in the Lake Zone near Lake Victoria, where they are church planters and discipleship trainers. Along for the journey are their 3 sons, Derrick, Kaleb, and Micah.
The Local Community
The Soards have many roles and responsibilities in the Lake Zone, including laying the foundation for the first UMC University in Tanzania. For the last three years, they have concentrated their efforts on building up the local church body, and have established 10 new churches so far.

"Our focus is on building the local community of Christ, to mobilize them to engage with each other and the community around them" says Eric. "We want them to be able to the answer the questions, 'Would your community notice if you weren't here?' and furthermore, 'Would your church members miss this part of their lives if you weren't here?'" Through intentional discipleship and leadership training, the Soards are ultimately leading these congregations to be self-leading, self-replicating, and self-sustaining.
UMVIM Teams and Building Relationships
While the Lord has equipped the Soards for their work in Tanzania, they cannot do it alone. The churches belong to the local congregations, but UMVIM teams are needed to help where they lack the resources to cross the finish line.

Over the last couple years, they have asked the members of their local congregations what they would consider the most valuable part of having volunteers serving alongside them. They answered, "knowing people are praying for us, taking the time to offer their knowledge to us, and building relationships with us."

A mission journey to Tanzania with the Soards might be filled with bumpy roads and a lot of dust, but it serves as the background to the warmth and hospitality you will experience while there. So many teams opt to stay in the comfortable cities and more developed areas of the country, but the extra effort you spend getting to this part of Tanzania will be rewarded with meeting the wonderful people, sharing meals with them, and being given the opportunity to sit down and talk to them about the place they call home. "The work is important," says Eric, "but it's secondary to the relationships."
Earlier this summer, UMVIM, SEJ Executive Director Paulette West traveled to Tanzania to personally visit with the Soards to become more familiar with their mission, and to help establish sister-to-sister church partnerships here in the SEJ. (Click the video above for a recap of her time there!) If you are interested in learning more about serving short-term in Tanzania, or what a meaningful partnership with the Soards could look like for your church, please contact Paulette West at or Eric Soard You can also follow the Soards' journey on their blog,

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