‘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
Stepping stones to Scripture
For over five years influential leaders have been disputing the need to officially recognise the Ceren alphabet. Without this, no books may be published in the Ceren language. The team stepped out in faith to overcome this mountain earlier this year.
Office manager Ron* was determined to change things. Over a few weeks he planned, called and gathered all the important leaders together to discuss the need for approval of the alphabet. The rest of the team prayed as Ron worked, asking for God to help the leaders put their differences aside and see the importance of having a Ceren alphabet.
The team rejoices that the alphabet has now been approved and that the publishing of books in the Ceren language can begin. This is a step that, crucially, also brings the team one step closer to being able to publish Scripture in the Ceren language!
Traditionally in the Ceren country, students are taught to read through memorising words rather than sounding them out (phonics). But this means that people are unable to read a word they have not yet memorised.
The importance of sounding out is something that literacy consultants Chris* and Yvonne* have spent many hours working to change. They explained to the office staff, Ron and Gabe*, and Ceren teachers, how it allows people to work out how to read new words and that eventually they will memorise the word and not have to sound out each letter. Eventually a lightbulb moment came for Ron and Gabe:
‘Oh! I see! So this is like a stepping stone to memorisation! An extra tool for them when they come across a word they haven’t learned! This is very good!’ – Ron
Ron and Gabe are now able to more carefully monitor teaching, and keep emphasising to teachers the need to teach children in this way. The wider team praises God that Ron and Gabe are learning the importance of teaching children how to read and for their desire to pass this on.
Ready for teaching
In preparation for another year for Ceren pre-schools a teacher training course was recently held by the office team and literacy consultants. All of the 15 women trained expressed how much they had learnt in the session, and have now signed teaching contracts. The team praises God that the training went even better than expected and that there are so many good teacher candidates to call upon for the coming years of teaching.
The community has also been preparing for the new school year. They have readied rooms for teaching and are eager to begin. Pre-schools were due to start back in April but have been put on on hold due to the Covid-19 restrictions. As a result the team is looking at ways to teach differently in case schools are closed for many more months.
Persevering through Covid-19
The Ceren country has had a number of restictions brought in due to Covid-19. The local team members are all well but are now working from home preparing materials and translating teachers’ guides. However, the team leaders who are from overseas have been unable to return to work with the team.
In built up areas, where the office is, restrictions are rather strict. However, in the rural areas where the Ceren teachers are, people are able to work the land and move around to some degree. But pre-schools remain closed and there is no way of knowing when they will reopen. There are also fears for what might happen if there is a large outbreak as the country’s health system does not have the resources to cope.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- office staff having learnt the importance of phonics and the power of literacy
- the many good teacher candidates, and enthusiasm in the community
- relationships with local leaders continuing to strengthen, and the opportunities this is providing
- God protecting the team and their families.
Please pray for:
- God to overcome the mountain of impossibilities between the Ceren people and his most precious word
- God to speak to the Ceren people through this difficult time and to provide for them
- Wisdom for the team as they work out how to move forward over the coming months
- The Ceren country as a whole as they deal with the impact of Covid-19.
*name changed for security reasons