William Cameron Townsead
American Christian Missionary-Linguist
July 9, 1896 - April 23, 1982
Paving the Way
On a mission to sell Spanish Bibles, William Cameron Townsend visited Guatemala in 1917 only to find that many people couldn’t read the Bibles. He found out that the Kaqchikel people did not have printed Bibles in their language. This birthed the passion in Townsend that everyone should understand the Bible in their heart language. To begin the work, he started a linguistics school in 1934 with two students in Arkansas and named it SIL (the Summer Institute of Linguistics, known today as SIL International). Each year, the number of students learning how to do Bible translation grew, and in 1942, he officially founded Wycliffe Bible Translators.
With SIL and Wycliffe tackling the goals of overall language development and teaching Bible translation, there was still a need of practical implementation. Townsend saw the need to supply missionary workers with boats, vehicles, radios, etc. to furnish the full Bible translation process to the people. Subsequently, the Jungle Aviation and Radio Service (JAARS) was founded in 1948 to provide technical and aviation services to SIL workers in remote areas.
Currently, these three organizations are still hard at work with efforts in 90 countries working on 700 scripture translations, and their work continues to spread worldwide.
Transportation & Equipment
SIL International was founded as the Summer Institute of Linguistics in 1934. Back then and now, SIL is a global, faith-based nonprofit whose goal is to develop language solutions with local communities to improve quality of life. Regardless of language, socio-economic level, or access to education, SIL's heart is to bring equality to all. Over the years, SIL's core focus areas include Bible translation, education, development, literacy, linguistic research, and language tools.
For the past 80 years, Wycliffe Bible Translators mission has been to bring God’s word to everyone in a language they can understand. Wycliffe’s approach to bringing Bible translation to people around the world is to be locally led and sustainable to have a transformational impact. Wycliffe USA works together with churches and Bible translation organizations around the world to provide resources and scriptures to meet the needs of all individuals in the Bible translation process. Wycliffe places missionaries of all occupations around the world for Bible translation projects.
The Jungle Aviation and Radio Service (JAARS) was founded in 1948 to provide technical and aviation services to SIL workers in remote areas. These language development areas give spiritual and practical solutions for workers to carry out their mission. JAARs can help with planes, boats, and vehicles to reach the farthest and sometimes dangerous places. Whether the needs are in islands, rainforests, or deserts, JAARS can get the job done. JAARS serves its people with transportation, technology, media, and training.
More than Bible Translation
Bible Translation, overall, supports a variety of needs of the minority language in that country. Most of these oral spoken languages do not have a written transcription form of their language. This causes them to struggle to gain the literacy skills they need to prosper in the majority culture.
The benefits of translation and literacy brings innovation to these minority language group's daily lives. The implantation enhanses their access to medical information resulting in better health. Language translation opens the opportunity for to learn marketable skills which promotes economic growth with neighboring markets. The creation of written translation provides the preservation of culture thanks to a written history. Most importantly, Bible translation brings people closer to God Himself—the One who transforms hearts.
Over the Years
William Cameron Townsead did cross culture work in Guatemala
Townsead wanted to expand translation around the world, not just in Guatemala
The first session of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL)
JAARS is founded
Language development work begins in Asia and Europe
SIL begins language development in Papua New Guinea, the first field work in the pacific
SIL invited to African partnership with the University of Ghana
First portable computer in linguistics fieldwork
Development of shell books in Papua New Guinea; Books that local artist draw pictures. Later, words are added for multiple language translations
SIL Developers invent Linguallinks 1.0 a software with a language library, word analysis tools, and database
Celebrates 50 years of language development in the Pacific; the PNG government created a set of commemorative stamps
Papua New Guinea receives HIV/AIDS educational resources
SIL international, JAARS, and Wycliffe Bible Translators have worked together throughout the years to make leaps and bounds on Bible translation around the world. Countless awards, software developments, country partnerships, language tools, and more have been achieved by these organizations. They can be proud of what they have accomplished in the last 100 years with massive expansion and language development bringing a fuller life to people around the world.
In 2000, Wycliffe celebrated their 500th Bible translation. The new goal is to have a Bible translation project started in every language by 2025.
We Need You
Jay and Jodi need your help to continue their mission of Bible translation. Through healthcare and communications, Jay and Jodi support the Wycliffe missionary community of Ukarumpa.
Through your financial gifts and offerings of prayer, they are able to help Papua New Guineans be transformed by God’s word.
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