Missions History: William Cameron Townsend

“The greatest missionary is the Bible in the mother tongue. It needs no furlough and is never considered a foreigner.”
-W. Cameron Townsend
In 1917, a young man named Cameron Townsend faced a perplexing decision. A few years before, he had joined the Student Volunteer Movement, pledging to serve in overseas missions. However, World War I intervened, and he signed up to fight the Germans with the National Guard. Matters came to a head when he was assigned to be in two places at once- fighting in France, or giving out Bibles in Guatemala.

What would Cameron Townsend do next? 

A Difficult Decision

Worried about persecution, Townsend visited the Bible House office and made the excuse of being assigned to France. But the recruiter called him a coward for choosing battle over Bibles. Stunned, the young man wrote a letter to his commander and asked for a discharge. It was granted, and he soon left to spend a year serving in Guatemala.
While there, Cameron saw extreme poverty and utter ignorance of Christ. When he asked the people, “Do you know who Jesus is?” they would often answer, “There is no Jesus who lives in this village. Maybe He lives in the next village.”

A Life-Changing Moment

But the moment that would transform William’s life occurred near the end of his time in Guatemala.
One fateful day, he was witnessing to a Cakchiquel native about God’s wisdom and sovereignty. 
The native responded, “If your God is so smart, why can’t He speak my language?”
Cameron couldn’t answer him. 
Haunted by that moment, the young man soon dropped out of college and joined Central American Missions. 
He studied linguistics and, twelve years of painstaking work later, finished the translation of the New Testament into Cakchiquel.

A Fresh Focus

At this point in his ministry, Cameron realized that missionaries should focus on people groups rather than whole nations. 
In many nations, there were distinct people groups who spoke unique languages—not the standard language of the country.
By 1934, Cameron founded a training camp for Bible translators. He called it Camp Wycliffe. It involved language study, primitive living conditions, and daily schedules.
Within a decade, Camp Wycliffe grew so much that it divided into the Summer Institute of Linguistics and the Wycliffe Bible Translators. 

A Multiplied Ministry

For 60 years, Cameron Townsend served in Latin America, leading the work in Bible translation. During his lifetime, Cameron oversaw the translation of the Bible into 100 languages. He also founded the Jungle Aviation & Radio Service to provide safe transportation for remote missionaries. 
Although Cameron died of leukaemia in 1982, his legacy continues with Wycliffe Bible Translators today. As of this writing, over 550 language groups have the entire Bible in their language. Even better, more than 1300 language groups have the New Testament in their mother tongue. And the work is still continuing! At the local church’s prison ministry, we are excited to see what God is doing!
Cameron Townsend was an ordinary man with an extraordinary God. He saw a great need, and he sought to meet that need with God’s help. 

What About You?

What needs do you see in the lives of people around you? Have you asked God to help you meet those needs? Contact us at the local church’s prison ministry to learn more about serving others!
Are you searching? Jesus has the answers for addictions and stubborn habits. For more information, send the Crossmans a private message here on Facebook or come to a church service at Prince Albert Baptist Church. Take the first step in a walk of freedom!

For more information, call (306) 940-9554 or email anchorofhopeheb@gmail.com