Church history is dotted with narrations of the caring ministry of women that helped the early church grow, even amidst persecution.
"What women these Christians have!" exclaimed the fourth century pagan Libanius, when he admiringly referred to Anthusa, mother of the famed preacher John Chrysostom.
Saul, the persecutor of the early Christians, "began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison."(Acts 8:3) Students of Christian history can say the same of numerous women who have endured affliction and died for the sake of their Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ.
Fewer than 200 women have been mentioned in the Bible, as compared to the almost 1500 men. However, the contribution of women have been significant in Bible times and thereafter.
The work of India Pentecostal Church of God started in Kumbanad in the year 1930 - the same year that Pastor K. E. Abraham and family moved to Kumbanad from Mulakazha. In 1930 itself a prayer meeting was started by a handful of women in Kumbanad - Saramma Eapen, Annamma Mammen, C. Mangalasseril Mariamma, Keeprayat Annamma and Saramma met under the leadership of Mrs. Annamma Abraham (Mrs. K. E. Abraham). These women were the pioneers of the Sodari Samajam, the ladies' wing of the India Pentecostal Church of God.
Today, the Sodari Samajam's essential function is to serve or assist in the growth and healthy sustenance of the church, by and for women, through spiritual activities and charitable works.
The methods followed by the women workers in the early days was very different from that of today. Besides prayer meetings, the sisters visited homes and evangelized the sisters. They wanted to reach out to other women at any cost, for which they even helped in agricultural work, laundry, cooking - just so that they could spend time with the women folk to encourage and pray for them and teach them the Word. Right from the very beginning, financial and physical assistance was offered to those in need. Many women and their families have come to the pentecostal faith and churches established through the sincere love, efforts and prayers of a handful of sisters.
Although I am documenting the history of the IPC Kerala State Sodari Samajam - it would be unfair not too mention the role of women across IPC in other states of India. Women evangelists were always the labor force when the IPC started its work in many places. Their intercession, house visits, and bringing people to the church were major reasons for church growth in the early days.
The full time lady evangelists were pioneers in church planting and the early IPC congregations grew because of their consistent efforts.
As per the HANDBOOK released during the Platinum Jubilee of the IPC, in the year 1999 - the then State and Region Presidents submitted a record of the number of local churches, ordained pastors, non-ordained pastors and women evangelists in their respective jurisdiction. I am herewith reproducing below the number of women evangelists, as mentioned in the above mentioned HandBook of the IPC.
Mrs. Annamma Abraham, beloved wife of Pastor K.E. Abraham, was known as the 'mother' who welcomed and extended hospitality to thousands of people who were visitors at Hebron, Kumbanad, the headquarters of the IPC. The warmth with which she entertained guests was indeed heart touching. She played an important role in maintaining the "solidarity of IPC and unity of God's people". Annamma did not spend a thought or rupee for her own needs or comfort. She did not think twice about giving up what she could have rightfully claimed for herself. Her every thought was the expansion of the Lord's work. She handled all her God-given responsibilities with ease - be it encouraging women from the Word of God or cooking a quick meal for unexpected visitors or washing the clothes of the servants of God. One of my vivid memories is of her walking around outside the Hebron Bungalow with a coconut broom stick in hand, sweeping away dry leaves.
Her faith was immense. Personal prayer life and utmost devotion to God's Word were her sustenance. She desired neither gratitude, praise nor recognition. Whatever she did, she did it wholeheartedly, as unto the Lord. She was blessed with a good sense of humor. She admonished and corrected people using her sharp wit and wisdom - all of which was received very well.
Annamma actively participated in all spiritual activities. Having been an elementary school teacher she understood well the need to coordinate and teach the Word. Under her supervision, the Ladies Bible Training Center at Hebron Bible College was initiated and a very systematic, practical and effective training course was offered for women who had a call for full time ministry.
She gave leadership to women's fellowships. She served as President of the IPC Sodari Samajam for several years. She organised camps, special meetings and motivated women to become intercessors. She was promoted to glory on 31st May, 1980.
Miss. Annamma Mammen, a native of Kumbanad, was educated and had traveled extensively. She was very courageous even as a teenager and endured affliction for the sake of the gospel in different parts of India and other countries of the world. Many Malayalam hymns have been composed by her during the painful times she endured for the sake of the Gospel. She influenced the early sisters who were in full time ministry. Her fluency in the English language made her a proficient preacher of the Word in many nations even as early as the 1950's and 1960's. I have heard her speak confidently in Telugu. The Lord used her powerfully to fearlessly take the Pentecostal truth and share her experience in many places. She abstained from marriage and her life was an inspiration to many other women who wanted to serve the Lord as full time evangelists.
Mrs. Annamma Chacko, was married to Pastor P.T. Chacko after her studies at the Nicholson High School in Thiruvalla. She served as a pioneer missionary in Andhra Pradesh with her beloved husband from 1936. She was a very understanding, hard working and hospitable lady. The circumstances were frugal but were lived out with dignity. She attended to all the domestic work and spent time for intercessory prayer - for the work and workers. She visited the sick and needy at home or hospital and did this with diligence. Her fluency in English and Telugu languages was a blessing for the ministry in the city which she used to share the Full Gospel at Ellore and Secunderabad. Annamma conducted Women's meetings at the St. Thomas SPG Cathedral, Secunderabad in 1943 and 1944, following which a few ladies from other denominational backgrounds attended the Kumbanad Convention, obeyed the Lord in taking water baptism and were filled with the Holy Spirit. Two of them were Mrs. Butt and her daughter Dr. Dorothy Butt.
After outdoor preaching she would return home to pray for the seed that was sown - the Lord honored the efforts and gave a rich harvest. She was promoted to glory in 1964.
Other powerful women used of the Lord in Andhra Pradesh were Mrs. Mariamma Samuel (Wife of Pastor P. M. Samuel), Mrs. Mariamma Thomas (Warangal), Mrs. Rushiamma John, Miss. Rosamma John, Mrs. Joy Abraham Samuel etc.
Pennamma ‘sannyasini’ (meaning ‘ascetic’) served with the IPC for the last seven years of her life. Chinnamma sannyasini from Niranam, Sosamma samnyasini and Mrs. Aleyamma Oommen (mother of Pr. Reji Mooledom) are some notable women whose ministry contributions cannot be forgotten.
Mrs. K. E. Abraham served as President of the Sodari Samajam until she entered into glory. Since 1980 June, after the home call of Mrs. Annamma Abraham, Mrs. Mary Abraham was handed over the responsibility of the Sodari Samajam and served as its President. Mrs. Annamma George, Mrs. Mariamma Mathews, Mrs. Annamma Mathews, Mrs. Susan Abraham also served as Presidents. Mrs. Mary Abraham served as Patron of the Sodari Samajam until one year before her home call.
Mrs. K. E. Abraham had a burden to start Bible Class to train women called for full time ministry. She also traveled to other places in Kerala conducting meetings for women and holding camps etc. The Bible Class was held at Hebron Bible College during the summer months when the men's classes were closed for three months each year. Between 20-25 sisters were trained each year. Senior pastors of the IPC taught them various subjects. Some of the sisters who taught were Mrs. Mary Abraham and Mrs. Annamma Mathew.
Mrs. Mary Abraham, wife of Pastor T. S. Abraham, served as a High School teacher, Headmistress and Inspectress of schools in Andhra Pradesh for over 33 years. She was an active lady evangelist in the twin cities of Secunderabad -Hyderabad. Since June 1980 she gave leadership and served as the President of the IPC Kerala Sodari Samajam. She encouraged participation of all and was able to bring together ladies from various places, initiated one day and three day camps at district and state levels. Mrs. Mary Abraham traveled with other sisters to many districts in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, giving opportunities for others ladies to grow and take up leadership. She ensured that sisters from other states were recognised and given time at the Kumbanad convention. Mary Abraham was an industrious and prayerful woman of God. She taught life lessons from Bible women to the students and ignited in them a passion to serve selflessly and sincerely
Mrs. Annamma Mathews - daughter of Bro. A.C. Mathews and wife of Bro. George Mathew, Alummoottil, was a school teacher in Kolkata and Kuwait until she returned to Kerala in the 1980's. A very dynamic and sincere woman of God, she started her ministry involvement in the activities of the IPC Kerala Sodari Samajam a few years after Mrs. Mary Abraham came to Kerala from Secunderabad. A highly capable and committed lady with a great sense of responsibility and accountability - she managed and ran well for twenty years, the Ladies Bible School along with Mrs. Susan Abraham. She was devoted to any work she undertook. She took much pain to identify and help women in need and brought in resources which was faithfully handled. Mrs. Annamma Mathews' contribution to the Kerala Sodari Samajam is commendable where she served as its President or Secretary for 21 years and also as Principal of Ladies Bible School from 1994 to 2014.
Mrs. Susan Abraham - wife of Pastor T. J. Abraham, started her ministry with the IPC Kerala Sodari Samajam in the 1980's with Mrs. Mary Abraham. Mrs. Susan taught at the Bible School and handled various responsibilities such as running the institution for several years. Besides serving as the President and Secretary of the IPC Kerala Sodari Samajam for twenty one years, she has been a noted lady preacher. Sis. Susan's powerful and very systematic way of presenting the truth of the Word of God has been a blessing to many. Her skill of managing and organising prayer and other women's programs have been a time of learning for younger sisters. Mrs. Susan served as Vice Principal of fhe Ladies Bible School for eight years. IPC Kerala saw many women who were used of the Lord mightily. Some of them apart from the names already mentioned are Mrs. A. C. Mathews, Mrs. Thankamma Thomas, Mrs. Annamma George, Mrs. Mariamma John, Mrs. Mariamma Mathews, Mrs. Kunjujamma Benjamin.
ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE / OFFICE BEARERS OF THE SODARI SAMAJAM:
Vice-President - 2
Joint Secretary - 2
The Kerala State Sodari Samajam is divided into 12 zones. The representatives of these zones are also part of the State Committee. One representative from among the Sanketham Sisters was also part of the governance. The Sodari Samajam has no written constitution. It continues to work for the overall development and progress of the sisters of IPC.
SODARI SAMAJAM BIBLE SCHOOL:
In 1975, Mrs. K. E. Abraham started a three month long Bible class for sisters where 20 to 25 sisters attended the classes. Most of these sisters who used of the Lord powerfully, for the expansion of the Kingdom of God.
For twenty years (1994 -2014) many ladies were trained for ministry at the Ladies' Bible School under the leadership of Mrs. Annamma Mathews and Mrs. Susan Abraham. Many senior pastors of IPC Kerala State were regular teachers here. One and two year certificate and diploma courses were offered on a regular basis.
Sisters Mariamma Mathews, Mariamma John, Susan Abraham, Praise John, Joyamma Varghese, Elizabeth Abraham, Annamma Daniel and Lilly Regi were some of those who taught during this period. The graduation of those who successfully completed their course was held every December along with the Annual Meeting of the Sodari Samajam - both services were well attended by large number of believers and pastors.
Fasting prayer is held on the first Tuesday of each month with a committee meeting, one day camps, chain prayer, annual meetings have been regular activities of the Sodari Samajamgraduated got married to pastors and are being
Sodari Darshanam is the official publication of the IPC Kerala Sodari Samajam. It was first published in September 1997. Since then 2 issues every year has been brought out featuring ministry reports, news items from various zones, articles by sisters etc. Mrs. Annamma Mathews served as its editor until 2014. I am glad another Souvenir is being released to commemorate the work of the Ladies' in IPC. Sodari Darshanam.
Sodari Samajam executives have always been mindful of extending help to the needy. Identifying those in need and connecting with those who can extend help has been a major area of work. Sisters with financial struggle are suitably helped. IPC congregations in USA, Kuwait, UAE are generous donors to the many projects of charity undertaken by the Sodari Samajam. For over twenty years Mrs. Annamma Mathews and Mrs. Susan Abraham along with the Executive Committee members provided commendable leadership to this ministry. Today, the work is being carried forward by Sis. Aleyamma Thomas - President of the Kerala Sodari Samajam and Sis. Susan M Cherian, Secretary along with the team of executives.
ANNAMMA ABRAHAM BUILDING:
The Sodari Samajam Ladies’ Bible School classes was held at the building named Mrs. Annamma Abraham Hall in Hebronpuram, Kumbanad. This also served as the accommodation for the lady students of the Bible School. During Kumbanad convention week, this dormitory provided shelter to many women.
I deem it appropriate to explain here the history of the Annamma Abraham Hall. In 1974, after the homecall of Pastor K. E. Abraham, the church gifted Mrs. K.E. Abraham with an honorarium of Rs. 25,000/-. She used that as seed money to start construction of a Dining Hall and a Sisters’ Dormitory. Pastor T. S. Abraham continued and completed the work of both the facilities. The Sisters' Dormitory was given the name Mrs. Annamma Abraham Hall and for 39 years this dormitory housed many young women who were trained for mission work. This Sisters' Dormitory was demolished in December 2015 to make space for the new convention stage, with the assurance that a new suitable facility would be provided for the Sodari Samajam and its activities.
Sanketham was a project of the IPC to help care for the sisters who abstained from marriage and were engaged in full time Christian ministry. In Kerala, full time women evangelists were housed in SANKETHAMS (literally means 'refuge') and cared for by the church. Sisters who abstained from marriage for the sake of mission work and committed to living in submission to spiritual leadership lived in Sankethams. Miss. Annamma Mammen, a well-known handmaiden of the Lord, motivated several sisters to stay in Sankethams and be involved in the ministry. The church took care of these sisters, who left their homes and set themselves apart purely to serve as Bible women.
Sisters Annamma Thrikunnapuzha and Leelamma from the Mezhuveli Sanketham, Sisters Chinnamma and Annamma of Thiruvalla Sanketham, Sis. Mariamma of Niranam, Sisters. Chinnamma and Ammini of Venmoney Sanketham, Sisters of the Ranni Sanketham, sisters of the Ottapalam and Thrisshur Sankethams have served faithfully and are now resting with the Lord.
Sis. T. K. Aleyamma at Kayamkulam; Sisters Leelamma Varghese, Aleyamma Mathew, Leelamma Thomas, and Thankachi at Thiruvalla; Sis. Achamma Joseph and Mercy K G. at the Mezhuveli; Sis. Aleyamma at Thrisshur; Aleyamma Abraham or Malabar Ammachi as she is fondly called is 100 years old and lives with Chinnamma at Cherukole; Sis. Elsy at Venmoney are some of the sisters currently residing at Sankethams and serving the Lord.
For many years the IPC Kerala Sodari Samajam had been financially supporting and encouraging the sisters of the Sankethams.
However, it must be mentioned that the era of unmarried sisters stepping out for full time ministry has been a thing of the past. There is no motivation or interest to encourage such sisters in the church.
Many women have served faithfully in and through the Sodari Samajam of the IPC - both in Kerala State and outside. Space does not allow me to recognise and mention all the names.
All those mentioned and involved here have been women - ordinary women who may have been less than perfect. But their commitment and zeal to serve the Lord is commendable. Their dedication, and life time commitment deserves recognition. They have each made major contributions towards the building of Christ's kingdom on earth. They have allowed God to work in and through them over a period of time. It is my prayer that each of us will be inspired to commit ourselves to the Lord afresh to be used for Kingdom purposes.
Our mothers and grandmothers faithfully served the Lord and were used of the Lord who worked in and through them.
Are you and I willing to allow God to work in and through us?
History Courtesy: Sis. Starla Luke