rev eric soard
college founder and principal
"I am here to empower others."
When Eric and Liz Soard decided to serve three months in Tanzania in 2010, they thought they were filling a gap in time before their graduate school classes began. After delaying multiple times over the next couple of years, they put grad school on long-term hold and committed as full-time missionaries in 2012. Over these first years, they planted 15 churches and worked alongside ministries supporting orphans, village women, and street children in the Mara region of Tanzania. In 2014 they moved to Mwanza, the second largest city in Tanzania, to implement a new vision and start Wesley College.
When Eric first came to Tanzania he had five years’ experience as a youth director and plans to go to seminary and be ordained. He says, “I had no language skills, had never been to Africa, and I had no international experience.” After three years of learning ‘on the fly’, he felt the need to be better equipped. He completed a master’s degree in Community Development with an African residency component, through Eastern University, of Philadelphia.
Throughout this time, the Soards were learning a lot. What really struck Eric was that there were so many people in the villages who had huge hearts and obvious leadership potential. With the introduction of even a small amount of resources, he noticed people become more confident, take bigger steps, and begin to dream. With these observations Eric began to believe that education was the best route to building better community. “I started to dream of an institution that would do two things: provide easy access to education and create resources to go back into the community.”
In 2014 Eric brought a group of Tanzanian United Methodist pastors together to propose starting a college. Over two days, they dreamed together and envisioned what it should look like. Soon they were working through the accreditation process and looking for land. In every way, Eric says, “We weren’t looking at all at what colleges around us were doing. We were looking at the needs of the people of Tanzania.”
In 2015 the vision and plan for Wesley College was presented to the Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, and they endorsed it.
Its been inspiring for Eric to see his passion and vision for the college spread out to staff and students. “It’s exciting to know that I am no longer carrying the vision on my own, because others are picking it up. I am here to empower others.”
Eric recognizes that Wesley College is really just getting started now, and he looks forward to the day when Wesley’s graduates are servant leaders in the community. “That will be a finished product. We will never think that our resources are just for ourselves, we are entrusted to give them back. I look forward to the day when our model works well enough that others are interested to learn to do the same.”