‘Thank you for working with us, for working with our languages because they are very dear to us and a deep part of who we are. Where many do not care about us and do not see us, you have cared, you have seen. Thank you!’ – Ceren* leader
Speakers: More than 1 million
Start date: 2019
Projected end date: 2024 (with an ongoing yearly review)
The Ceren people place a great emphasis on the provision of hospitality and generosity. Hand-shaking (with the right hand) is the most common form of physical greeting, which is often followed by the placing of the right hand over the heart (a symbol of sincerity). Their homes are in the hills in one of the most isolated and under-developed regions in their country. The majority of people earn income through agriculture, but few people have access to healthcare and clean water, and transport is limited due to poor infrastructure.
The majority of Ceren people do not understand the national language and only speak their own language, Ceren. Literacy rates are also low and there is little recognition of their language on a national level, meaning few written resources exist in Ceren, including Scripture. Almost all the Ceren people are devout Muslims and Christians are frequently persecuted.
Due to attitudes towards Christians, translation of the Bible has not yet begun. The focus is instead on blessing the community through helping to develop the language and establish pre-schools. So far the Ceren team has built positive relationships with prominent local leaders, a number of local preschools have been set up with trained local teachers, and the language is gaining recognition. The hope is that these will be the stepping stones to Bible translation, beginning with a series on ‘Lives of the Prophets’ to resonate with the local culture.
Join in praise and prayer for the Ceren people:
- Praise God for the positive relationships that the team has built in the local community and for the fruit these relationships are bearing
- Pray for an open door in the local community to allow Bible translation to begin.
- Give thanks that the preschools are growing in number and continuing to be a blessing to the community.
- Ask God to protect the team and their families from persecution for their faith.
- Pray that the team members who follow another faith, but who have shown interest and asked questions about Jesus, would come to know him.
*name changed for security reasons
This project is partially implemented with the support of the Micah 6:8 Foundation, under the aegis of the Fondation de Luxembourg.
Just before the schools closed for the winter break, Gabe*, the new office manager, took a phone call from the Ministry of Education. They wanted to come and visit the preschools before the break. When Gabe went to pick up the inspectors he found that only one man had come – the rest were too frightened because of security incidents in the area. The man who came was also Ceren, so he understood all of the classes and saw the children reading and writing in their own language. At the end of the visit he said, ’It all looks very good!’
A few days later Gabe received another phone call from the inspector.
‘I liked the preschools very much. All the work your office is doing is very good. I liked them so much I want you to come and put a preschool in my village next year too!’
Praise God that the preschools are being seen favourably by the government and the community.
‘I just want to know the way to God!’
You may remember from the last update the story of Amir*, a man from another minority group who is seeking God, and who had a dream about sheep and a shepherd. Amir has been meeting with a Christian foreigner for the last few months, but the man had a very indirect approach. This left Amir wanting to find out the truth even more, so he asked to meet with two members of the Ceren team. The team members explained to him that growing as a Christian is very much like growing as a baby; the word of God is our food and as we grow we want more and more.
Amir replied, ’But sir, I just want to know what the way to God is! If you know it, please tell me. If you don’t, that is fine, but just tell me either way.’
The team members replied,
’Amir, Jesus says that he is the way, the truth, and the life. If anyone wants to find God, they must go through Jesus.’
Will you be our friend?
Overseas team members Peter* and Chris* have returned to the project. Chris was recently attending a wedding and was sitting with a number of local women there. She chatted briefly with them in the national language while they were waiting for their food.
One of the women asked her, ‘Do you even understand our language?’ Chris had understood most of the conversation during the afternoon, but she replied, ‘A little.’ When they heard this the women were very interested and asked her a lot of questions about why she lives there and what her office does.
Some of the women at the table spoke Lama*, a language very similar to Ceren. When they heard that the office worked with Ceren they asked Chris if she spoke any. Again she smiled and said, ‘A bit.’ At that moment her phone rang and she took the call quickly, speaking in Ceren. The women were amazed and asked her to be their friend.
A change in updates
We wanted to let you know that these project updates will be changing. In order to ensure we are stewarding resources well, we shall send updates twice a year rather than quarterly. These updates will also include news from the wider translation world in areas where, as in the Ceren area, Christians face severe persecution. We hope these continue to encourage you to pray for the Ceren people and others in difficult situations.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the preschools being seen favourably by the government and the community
- Gabe, who has transitioned from office assistant to office manager
- Peter and Chris’ warm welcome back into the community.
Please pray for:
- courage to start a Bible storying project soon
- the Ceren people to desire Scripture in their own language
- wisdom as the teachers start the third year of the preschools.
School at long last!
We rejoice that Ceren pre-schools have finally been able to reopen following many months of being closed due to restrictions – news which was met with much excitement from the local community.
To ensure that teachers were ready to go, the team ran a refresher course and has been really encouraged by the results. Lessons are going well, children are more engaged than ever before, and with the community’s increasing support, attendance has been at an all-time high.
Finally, with so much lost ground to make up, teachers have been working hard to deliver lessons six days a week and are planning to extend the school term.
Salty and sweet
Ahmed* is from another local minority group. His life has a whole new flavour following a life-changing journey. He reluctantly went with his friend, Amir*, to somewhere he never thought he would go – a foreigner’s house. A house he saw as filled with sin and darkness.
Ahmed and Amir had both been seeking deeply for the truth about God, and this restlessness took them to where they had heard there was man who could help them. Amir told the man about a dream he’d had of sheep in need of someone to follow. As they discussed this, Ahmed sat quietly in the corner, afraid to even move; but as he sat, a strange sense of peace flowed into his heart and light flooded into his whole being. The darkness he had feared wasn’t darkness at all – it was instead the sweetest presence he had ever experienced.
Today you will find Amir and Ahmed regularly meeting to study the Bible in secret and bursting with love as they encounter Jesus:
‘All my life it was as though I was drinking salty water! It soured my soul and I hated everyone. But now, since I have met Jesus, it is as though I am drinking sweet water! And I can’t help loving those I meet. I love everyone – I love people who are different from me, I love people who are like me, I just love everyone!’ – Ahmed
The Ceren team has been encouraged to see God at work in the country, and pray that Ceren people will also encounter Jesus soon.
A changing team
The team will soon be saying farewell to their office manager, Ron*, who has found another job. He leaves on good terms and will continue to work with the team informally in the future.
It has been encouraging to see Ron go from being a reluctant teacher-in-training, to someone who is now using his God-given skills to bless the community. Over his time with the team Ron has enthusiastically trained many new teachers, monitored pre-schools and formed vital links with the ministry of education. He has been instrumental in developing the Ceren language. Pray for Ron as he moves on and that he will one day meet Jesus.
Over the next few months the team will be consulting with local leaders to find a new office manager. While Ron is leaving, overseas team members Peter* and Chris* will soon be returning, following many delays as a result of Covid.
The bread of life
The Ceren people place a great emphasis on hospitality and generosity. The team has been greatly blessed by this during their time in the community that has welcomed them in.
The picture is of Ceren bread loaves being baked in a tandoor oven. Bread is the mainstay of the Ceren diet, so Jesus’ statement, ‘I am the bread of life’, touches a deep chord in Ceren hearts. The team is longing, one day, to share more of this life-giving bread with the Ceren people through Scripture. For now they continue to shine for Jesus as they live and work alongside the community.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- lives changing in the Ceren country as people encounter Jesus
- the refresher course which prepared teachers so well after many months of no lessons
- pre-schools being able to reopen
- the warmth and hospitality of the Ceren people.
Please pray for:
- opportunities for Ceren men and women to accept Jesus into their lives
- a new office manager who can continue to develop the link with the government
- the opportunity to start Bible storying soon
- the transition of Peter and Chris’s family back to the country.