Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Happy Birthday, Uncle Cam

Today would have been William Cameron Townsend's 112th birthday.

When young Townsend tried to sell Spanish Bibles in Guatemala in 1917-18, he discovered that the majority of the people he met did not understand Spanish. Neither did they have a written form of their own language, Cakchiquel. Townsend abandoned his attempts to sell Bibles and began living among the Cakchiquels. He learned their language, created an alphabet for it, analyzed the grammar, and translated the New Testament in only ten years.

Concerned about other minority language groups, Townsend opened Camp Wycliffe in Arkansas in the summer of 1934. Named for the first translator of the entire English New Testament, the camp was designed to train young people in basic linguistics and translation methods. Two students enrolled.

The following year, after a training session with five men in attendance, Townsend took the five to Mexico to begin field work. From this small beginning has grown a global Bible translation movement that birthed a number of organizatins including SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics) and Wycliffe Bible Translators.

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