‘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
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.
Stepping stones to Scripture
The team rejoices that they have been able to take another significant step forward in raising the profile of the Ceren language. Once again they have seen God put them in a position of influence at government level.
This time the request came for two Ceren speakers to assist the Ministry of Education in putting together Ceren language materials at an upcoming workshop. Office manager Ron* gladly took up the invitation, but at the workshop quickly discovered that the man appointed by the government to put the materials together wasn’t actually a Ceren speaker, and knew very little of the language. Instead of protesting, Ron calmly and graciously proofed the man’s work, which was riddled with errors. However, this was met with opposition, and soon the man left all together. This ended up being a blessing in disguise, as it meant that Ron and his fellow Ceren speaker were left to work diligently on the materials.
The hope is that this will now lead to the government seeing the importance of people creating their own language materials, and the opportunity for a Ceren person to be hired into the position for Ceren curriculum development.
God given gifts
Not long ago, life for Ceren speaker Steph* was filled with baking bread for her family in the tandoor oven, dreaming sadly of lost opportunities. But to God these opportunities were not lost.
Last year Steph had been freelance writing, giving language lessons and taking part in teacher training, but for various reasons she was unable to continue. Just as she thought this life was lost she received a call from the Ceren team, inviting her to help with this year’s teacher training. Steph was nervous as she took up the offer, but excited to be able to use her gifts and do what she loved again. The training went wonderfully, and Steph taught the complicated vowel lessons with excellence.
The team praises God that he has brought forward people who are so gifted at literacy and teaching. Join in prayer that Steph, and the other office staff, will come to meet Jesus and realise that their gifts shine the brightest when serving God and others.
It has been a joy and a surprise to see one area of work flourish in the face of pandemic restrictions – storytelling. This is an area which has grown thanks to the initiative of a local Ceren woman who is using her excellent storytelling and writing skills to put together stories for the team. Alongside this, work has begun on a brief for a series of stories from the Bible focused on the theme of Jesus’ power, to be used in preschools. The hope is that someone from the community will soon be found to put the stories together. It has been encouraging to see an increasing number of local people taking the lead on developing their language, recognising that it is valued and raising awareness of the need to invest in it.
The impact of Covid has worsened in the Ceren country with the number of daily cases rising. Few people are observing the official guidance to physically distance, and hospitals are gradually becoming overwhelmed as they have few resources to cope. Poverty levels are increasing, and fear is gripping many people.
Thankfully, the villages where the preschools are located have seen fewer cases of Covid and the team members are all well. Preschools remain closed but the community has been working hard to find safe ways to reopen. This, alongside your commitment to stand with them, has been an encouragement:
‘We have been so blessed by your desire to help support and care for the people directly involved in the project during this pandemic. Thank you! I know that they have felt God’s love and care through your continued partnership.’
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- God providing gifted workers who care deeply about their people
- the team and their families remaining in good health and staying motivated
- local people coming forward with enthusiasm to help develop the language
- growing recognition of the language and the opportunities opening up to promote it.
Please pray for:
- wisdom in how to safely reopen preschools
- an opportunity to work with someone in developing a story set for Ceren
- protection over the Ceren country as they face the worsening impact of Covid-19
- Steph and her husband to be able to take part in writing and recording stories
- God to go before the team as they approach local contacts about being involved in the translation.