January 31st, 2020
INDIA (INS)—Women play key roles in the leadership of two India-based ministries that have been partnered with Intercede International for decades.
Himalaya Crusade is based in West Bengal—a region difficult for several reasons: opposition to Christianity from other religions, restrictions on Christianity from local governments, and challenging travel conditions in the rugged Himalayas.
Himalaya Crusade was registered in 1970, but founder Subhang Sodemba began evangelizing and planting churches long before that. After Sodemba’s passing in 2001, his wife Rev. Ruth Sodemba directed the ministry for several years. She then continued working in an advisory role until she passed on to glory in January 2019.
Early on in this ministry’s work, Ruth Sodemba supported her husband’s evangelism work by running a small farm. “Selling the eggs and the produce of the little farm, I used to give all the money for his ministry work,” explained Ruth Sodemba in a 2003 interview with this author. “I have four sons and two daughters. All are married and help me in the ministry. My God has strengthened me with each upcoming challenge in my life. Being director is a great responsibility, but I thank the Lord, who has raised up people to help me in the ministry.”
Now Joseph Sodemba, one of Ruth’s sons, is the ministry director. Sabrina, his wife, has worked with him in ministry since 2008.
“Our role especially is to strengthen the ministry of Himalaya Crusade,” explained Sabrina Sodemba in a 2015 interview with Intercede’s Eliud Herrera. “Our role is to work with creating new leaders, strengthen the networking with the different leaders. We have the generation of old leaders and the generation of new leaders. Our role is to promote a healthy network between the workers.
“Our biggest challenge now is that our ministry is very large. We have a lot of workers—the work has expanded. But the problem is that we don’t have sustainable programs to support the churches or the workers. We have around 200 workers. More than 250 churches are there. At least we need to give each worker good support of about $130 a month… so that they will be able to meet their basic needs. That is another challenge we are facing—to remodel our financing support for the workers. That is one of the goals we have kept for us.”
In September 2019, Romila and Promilla Sodemba—both daughters of Ruth and Subhang Sodemba—visited the Intercede office in Fort Erie, Ontario. Both of these sisters are deeply involved with the ministry of Himalaya Crusade. In my September 2019 interview with them, Romila explained,
“My main goal is working among women and women’s ministry. We have lots of women’s ministry in the area. We get together very often—in conventions, in quarterly fellowship. Women’s ministry has organized quarterly meetings. That is, one-day meetings. We get together and we share our testimony there. They like to sing songs and we give messages. That’s the time we get to meet all the women of different areas—like Sikkim, Darjeeling, Nepal, Kalimpong. The Word of God is shared by the pastor’s wife.
“In the individual churches they do Thursday meetings,” said Romila Sodemba. “That is only for mothers. Each of them gets a turn to share the Word of God. We pray about women’s issues. Those who are sick, those who cannot afford medical treatment, the Mother’s group gives about $10 to support them for the medical help. We also do counselling with the mothers who are affected by their husbands and children, especially depression. We pray for them.
“We have Wednesday fellowship from our church. We meet on Wednesday at 12 o’clock at the church and we pray. Especially we pray for all the nations, all the sponsors who are helping us, supporting us. For the political leaders we pray. For all the health requests that come to us we pray. Through this fellowship, we have been able to deliver the demon-possessed.
“We’ve been able to go visiting mothers—where they have a lot of problems with children’s issues, husband issues. Especially the husbands betray them, but still they are in the house having a relationship with the wife, but outside they have a different relationship. That is the main cause of women in our area going through depression. We try to counsel them and we pray for them.
Sisters Romila (left) and Promilla Sodemba visit the Intercede headquarters.
“Himalaya Crusade has sustainable programs for women, and we would like to support them to do tailoring,” explained Romila Sodemba. “Tailoring is very important. We would like to give them tailoring machines so that they can have a sustainable system. We would like to teach them. They can sustain themselves from these programs.
“If we can have a small community hall where we can teach them about how to sustain themselves but also to know the Lord—that is our main aim. We are also in need of medical teams. We have a lot of medical teams coming from abroad for medical camps. We have been able to do a few medical camps in areas where the people are in need of medical help.”
Promilla Sodemba works mainly with children, and with three HIC Bible schools. “I personally counsel about women’s house abuse,” she explained. She also checks into cases of suspected child abuse. “Especially I work with students, children and some of the women.”
The Mother of the Siloam Family
For 62 years, since 1958, Siloam Evangelical Fellowship has won thousands to Christ through literature distribution, evangelism, and practical demonstrations of Christ’s love. SEF’s headquarters is in Karnataka, the state least receptive to the Gospel in South India. Although there are a number of Christians in Karnataka, most of these are concentrated in the southern part of the state, reports the ministry. SEF focuses on reaching the cities and tribal people in the northern parts of the state. Beginning from their headquarters in Hubli City, SEF workers preach the Gospel both in the city and in the entire Hubli region, consisting of more than 80 villages. The fellowship has a goal to reach every home in Karnataka with the Gospel within the next few years. SEF has also expanded its ministry into neighbouring states.
SEF founder Rev. Jesuratnam Buraga passed away in late 2018. Now his wife, Mariamma Buraga (see photo at top, centre), is the new leader of SEF.
“God has used my father for almost 70 years as an instrument to win the lost souls for His kingdom. I would happily say that thousands of lost souls were added unto His kingdom through Siloam Ministries,” testified his son, Titus Buraga, in a 2018 SEF Field Report.
“His life work in and through SEF stands as a challenge for the future leaders to continue in the path of wholesome doctrine and the life that pleases the Lord Jesus Christ,” wrote another son, Paul Buraga.
“After Pastor J. Buraga went to be with the Lord in Glory, we all prayed and waited for the Lord’s guidance as to who should take the responsibility of leading SEF ministry into a new dimension,” reported SEF in late 2018. “As a result of our prayers and God’s leading, the Board Members have unanimously elected Mrs. Mariamma Buraga the widow of the late Pastor Buraga, to be God’s chosen leader.
“Mariamma Buraga is lovingly known as Mother of Siloam family,” reported SEF in a December 2018 Field Report. “She was one of the founder ladies of SEF. She is a tireless worker, known as obedient, humble, generous, loving and prayerful. She was born again and married to Brother J. Buraga in the year 1963. They were blessed with seven sons and one daughter whom they raised to love and serve the Lord at an early age. She has been a blessing to Brother J. Buraga’s life and tirelessly supported him in all the mission work at the cost of her own health many times. Her prayers and continued support indeed enabled the late J. Buraga to expand the ministry further into different parts of southern India. Most of the time she accompanied him in the ministry in different parts of India, strengthening his hands in God’s work and devoting her life and time to serve the Lord in a unique way—balancing the family and the ministry alongside her husband, the late J. Buraga. She has a burden for winning souls for Jesus Christ, in order to extend the Kingdom of God. We would like to request your continued support of prayers for the new President of SEF, Mrs. Mariamma Buraga, and the ministry.”
Please pray for the Sodemba family and Mariamma Buraga to continue to lead their ministries for the glory of God.