Wycliffe Bible Translators

Cameron Townsend

Cameron Townsend (1896-1982) was a missionary in Guatemala, selling Spanish portions of the Scriptures door-to-door. In those days all the missionaries spoke Spanish, even though 60% of the population of Guatemala was Native American Indian. One day one of the Indians confronted him, wanting to know why Townsend’s God didn’t speak his language. Townsend took the question seriously, and in 1919 settled in an Indian town on the coast where the natives spoke Kaqchikel, a Mayan language. Townsend concentrated on studying their unwritten language and over the next fourteen years he learned the language to the point where he could translate the Bible.[1]

By 1929, when he was 33, he had translated the New Testament, mounted literacy campaigns, founded five schools for bilingual instruction, started a small clinic, a small printshop and a Bible institute.

He organized Wycliffe Bible Translators in 1934 with a vision of translating the Bible into all the remaining languages in the world. Townsend estimated there were about 500 languages needing their own Bible translation. That number increased to 5000 languages as Wycliffe translators began to realize the great number of languages among the tribal peoples of the world. The tribal peoples who live on the islands of Papua New Guinea probably account for half of the remaining languages for which there is no Bible.

Finishing the Task: Wycliffe is recruiting the next generation of translators to begin the work of translating the Bible into all the remaining languages. There are hundreds of translation projects still to begin, but the number is finite, and one of these days the last translation will be completed. It could happen in our lifetime. Read about “the finish line” here. A great amount of information on the state of Bible translation can be studied “at a glance” by clicking here.

A partnering agency in Bible translation is “Faith Comes by Hearing,” which we featured here. “Faith Comes by Hearing” is the greatest effort ever undertaken to record the Bible in every language of the world and make the recordings available on the internet, free to everyone.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Cameron_Townsend

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