By Professor William Lawrence Svelmoe

“Cam” Townsend is rightly often called the visionary founding father of the summer time Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and the Wycliffe Bible Translators. This joint attempt is now the most important Protestant challenge association on the earth, a venture which has dramatically replaced the tradition of what was referred to as religion missions. Townsend revolutionized Protestant missions by means of emphasizing that missionaries had to research the language of the folk to whom they have been despatched and to dwell between them with a purpose to comprehend their groups. His method under pressure education the missionaries in public wellbeing and fitness, uncomplicated schooling, and agricultural abilities. The validated good fortune of missionaries who Townsend’s plan resulted in SIL/WBT impact within the greater societies during which the association used to be current. Townsend used to be non-dogmatic in looking allies to pursue his goals, together with neighborhood political pursuits and tool buildings, lecturers, and different non secular faiths, expanding the impact of his team to the purpose that SIL/WBT grew to become a significant component within the nationwide affairs of the international locations within which they have been energetic, relatively in Latin America. The very luck of Townsend’s equipment resulted in difficulty together with his base within the usa. As conservative and evangelical monetary backers and potential missionaries observed the association and Townsend operating amicably with Roman Catholics, leftist political teams, and atheist and agnostic lecturers, the SIL/WBT bumped into hassle at domestic.

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Additional resources for A New Vision for Missions: William Cameron Townsend, The Wycliffe Bible Translators, and the Culture of Early Evangelical Faith Missions, 1917-1945 (Religion and American Culture)

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To do this they had to incorporate the Indians, who represented the majority of the population, into the project, if for no other reason than to avail themselves of their labor and land in building a productive capitalist export economy. It is in this context that the liberal caudillo Justo Rufino Barrios declared freedom of religion in Guatemala in 1873. This move, coupled with other anticlerical legislation, was designed to cripple the Catholic Church, the one institution that could compete most directly with the state for its citizens’ allegiance.

The focus of historians and the public, however, has often been on the discontinuities produced by the fundamentalist-modernist controversies rather than the continuities within the broader evangelical movement, which stretch from the American Revolution to the present. And chief among these continuities has been the absolute centrality of evangelism, missions, and a devotional response to God. In studying missions we study the heart of the evangelical impulse. With the centrality of evangelism and missions to evangelicalism, it is not surprising that the newly awakened Townsend felt called to missions.

After singing a few hymns—a frightful cacophony, he later remembered—he stood up to speak. “I peered into the semi-darkness alive with shapes and forms,” he wrote late that night, “and where the light from the candle fell, eyes that beamed back at me. ” Although he optimistically recorded in his journal that “[t]he Lord gave me a use of Spanish that was more than I had hoped for,” he discovered later that the Indians, whose own Spanish was marginal, understood almost nothing of what he said. Yet a few returned every time he spoke and listened attentively.

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