Himalaya Crusade works in northeastern India and in neighbouring nations – a region difficult for its opposition to Christianity from other religions; restrictions on Christianity from local governments, and challenging travel conditions in the rugged Himalayas. Despite these challenges and the global pandemic, Himalaya Crusade’s missionaries – who partner with Intercede International – have been serving God faithfully for more than 50 years and have seen dramatic results.
Himalaya Crusade was registered in 1970, but founder Subhang Sodemba began evangelizing and planting churches long before that. After Sodemba’s death 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.
Joseph Sodemba, her son, is the director now. Sabrina, his wife, has worked with him in ministry since 2008. “Our role is to strengthen the ministry of Himalaya Crusade,” explains Sabrina, “creating new leaders, strengthening 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.”
Evangelism is a priority of HIC. The Great Commission given by Jesus Christ to His disciples. Himalaya Crusade works through personal and mass evangelism, door-to-door evangelism, and literature and tract distribution.
Northeast India includes the seven sister states north of Bangladesh. Himalaya Crusade began preaching there in 1956. Many people there are very poor and have little food. Even though Christianity came to this area generations ago, many present-day church members lack a vital relationship with Christ. The tribes-people are animists, Hindus or Buddhists.
Moreover, this area is rife with political turmoil, as some eastern states such as Assam seek independence from India. This has resulted in killing, looting, plundering and whole villages being burned.
Despite these difficulties, HIC missionaries have planted more than ten churches in Assam and more than 20 in northwest Bengal.
Bhutan has long been a closed country to Christianity, and is steeped in lama Buddhism. Yet in 1970 HIC missionaries planted a church at the Bhutan border and have reached many Bhutanese with the Gospel. From here believers have gone into Bhutan distributing Bibles and sharing their faith.
Since then, many Buddhist lama priests have shown an interest in the Word of God. When HIC began, there were very few Christians and no strong churches inside Bhutan. Himalaya Crusade today has more than ten churches in Bhutan with more than 1,000 believers. They evangelize secretly because of government and Buddhist opposition. Some Christians have been jailed for baptizing new converts. HIC also holds training meetings for Bhutanese Christian leaders.
Though now a part of India, Sikkim was another Buddhist country forbidding Christianity until quite recently. Despite persecution and steep mountainous terrain, HIC missionaries have planted 35 churches there.
Being a fourth-generation Nepali Christian, HIC founder Subhang Sodemba was deeply burdened for his own Nepali people. He began working in Nepal in 1987 and so far HIC has planted at least 30 churches in four eastern Nepali states.
Though opportunities to preach are much greater than in past years, Christians are still persecuted – especially in the villages of Nepal. Often when a person turns to Christ, he or she is shunned by family members and ostracized from village life.
In all, HIC now has at least 128 churches and more than 170 Gospel workers in Nepal.
Growth of the ministry
Even though they were located in an area where mountainous terrain makes travel difficult and dangerous, by the year 2000 the ministry had grown to include about 250 Gospel workers, 128 churches, a children’s home, several elementary schools, a Bible school and a weekly evangelistic radio program.
HIC holds regular leadership seminars for pastors, evangelists and female workers.
HIC started Himalaya Theological College, at Salugarah, India in 1997. The college offers a three-year Bachelor of Theology program. HIC aims to equip its leaders fully in mind, body and spirit.
During this year, the mission conducted a lot of repair work on the men’s hostel. Heavy wind and rainfall caused a lot of damage on the campus.
Sick child healed
Last December Pastor A. K. Aaron Rai of a HIC church at Namchi planted a new house church in a village called Jaubari, with 15 families belonging to Sherpas (Buddhists). Mathias Sherpa from this village had a son named Meshok who was sick for a long time and could not be cured. He took his son to a witchcraft practitioner, but his son was not cured. Somebody told them to go to church for prayer. They had heard about Pastor Rai. So they came for prayers and Pastor Rai and his church prayed for the sick child and the child was set free from the illness.
Mathias’ whole family got saved. Mathias gave his land for a small church house and now they are having church fellowship here.
Prayer, relief work and networking
The pandemic has been a great matter of prayer for HIC. “We are making an Emergency Appeal for food drive funds and gifts for our outreach program: Save People Save Community in northeast India, Sikkim, and eastern Nepal. One month’s supply for a family of two to six people: rice, flour, antibacterial sanitation, vitamins for women and men costs $50. We need to reach out to 1,000 families with help.”
Within the past few months, HIC has planted four new house fellowships in Sikkim and West Bengal. More than 350 new souls were added into different churches and house fellowships. HIC was able to start a new work in Sikkim ministering to the Tibetan Buddhists in Sikkim. One of the HIC churches in Bojoghari, Gangtok, is under the leadership of Pastor Prakash Gurung and has been reaching out to Sherpas, Tibetans and Lepchas with Tibetan tracts and Bibles.
Please pray for Himalayan Crusade missionaries in Northern India and Nepal.
INS – Intercede News Service