William Cameron Townsend
When young Cameron 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 beautiful language, the Cakchiquel. Townsend abandoned his attempts to sell Bibles and began living among the Cakchiquels. He learned their complex language, created an alphabet for it, analyzed the grammar and translated the New Testament in the remarkably short span of 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 Bible, 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 the worldwide ministry of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, Wycliffe Bible Translators, Wycliffe Associates, and the technical department of SIL known as JAARS.
No cultural group is considered too small and no language too difficult. Pioneering continues as several thousand workers break new ground in many parts of the world. The highest standards of linguistics and anthropological orientation are upheld. Service is stressed. All field work is done in cooperation with host governments, universities and philanthropic groups. Portions of the Christian Scriptures are translated for people in their mother tongue, the language of their hearts.
In facing the daunting complexities of at least a thousand unwritten languages in the world today, Wycliffe workers trust God for the impossible as He provides the resources needed to reach the forgotten, by-passed minority people of the world.
If you want more information on Cameron Townsend here is a longer biographical sketch. You can also learn about how in 1966 the United States Senate passed a resolution requesting President Johnson to proclaim September 30 as Bible Translation Day.