Archive for the ‘South America’ Category

Uncle Cam – William Cameron Townsend (1896-1982)

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017 by Camilla

Today is the anniversary of the death of William Cameron Townsend (affectionately known as Uncle Cam), founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators.

When Uncle Cam was just 21 he felt called to take the Bible to the peoples of South America, and set off with plenty of Spanish Bibles. But when he got there, he discovered something that shaped the rest of his life’s work: often the people he met didn’t speak Spanish. They asked Cam something that really made him think – why didn’t God speak their language? Was he only the God of English and Spanish speakers?

Cam thought everyone should be able to read God’s word in their own language. So within a few years, he and his wife were living with the Cakchiquel people of Guatemala, studying their complex language, developing a writing system for it and helping them to translate the Bible so they could understand it.

He became ill, and had to return to the US, but that didn’t stop him. In 1934, he ran the first Wycliffe Summer School. Within 10 years, this had become two partner organisations: the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Cam served for over sixty years(!) in Latin America, working in many countries. He knew everyone, including more than 40 heads of state. He received an honorary doctorate, was decorated by five Latin American governments and was declared Benefactor of the Linguistically Isolated Populations of America by the Inter-American Indian Congress.

What people most often commented on, though, was his humility: when the president of Mexico visited an Aztec village, a local man said of Townsend, ‘He treats us just like he does the President. If President Cárdenas comes, he leaves his dinner to talk with him. If one of us comes, he leaves his dinner to talk with us, too.’

Kenneth Pike, a renowned linguist, once said of Uncle Cam that, ‘Not since the third century has there been a man like Cameron Townsend who attempted so much, and saw so many dreams realised in his lifetime.

If you want news about the continuing story of Bible translation, sign up for our free magazine, Words for Life.

Empowered to worship with the music of their hearts

Monday, March 6th, 2017 by Camilla

An EthnoArts team had been invited to spend a week working with musicians from several indigenous churches in Bolivia. The goal: to recover their own music and their own languages for incorporation into their existing repertoire of Christian praise and worship.

It looked like reclaiming local traditions might be an uphill road. The younger generations seem to prefer urban sounds, modern rhythms, and the latest global music styles. They seek new songs from famous Christian artists, learn them and take them to their churches.

However, once people started talking about their musical heritage, traditional dances and folk music begin to fill the room. Everyone knew these cheerful musical genres of the Bolivian rainforest. ‘In the mountains there are other, more Andean rhythms. These are typical of our peoples,’ explains Isaac, one of the Cavineña leaders and pastors who traveled to Riberalta to participate in the workshop. ‘But we never use them in the church…. The people of our community sing them at parties and popular gatherings, but we only sing choruses and hymns.’

In general, the Latin American evangelical tradition is marked by the traditional European songbook, translated into Spanish by the missionaries who brought the word between the ’60s and ’80s. European music traditions usurped local expressions, and for decades ‘the devil stole our culture’, says Antonio, one of the Trinitario participants. He explains: ‘We thought that (our) music was a sin, and we simply put it aside. The people use this music, but it is always associated with wild parties and alcohol.’

During the first few days of the workshop, the group spent some time reflecting on this and other related subjects, before getting down to some songwriting. The group then spent a whole day composing new songs in their own languages, using the same music and instruments as untold generations before them.

Finally, the day came to record. A small but functional recording studio was improvised, and from 9am to 6pm groups came by to record their new songs…. There were 21 recordings in one day! Everyone asked for another workshop. They promised to present the new songs in their churches and to continue composing. They know that in any upcoming activity they will perform better and their creativity will be better honed and attuned to the Holy Spirit.

This blog post is adapted from a story which originally appeared on the Wycliffe Global Alliance website. Read the original story and see more pictures here.

Intrigued by the concept of EthnoArts? Read more here.

Learning and Liberated – Word Alive 2015

Monday, May 11th, 2015 by Nick

Our friends over at Wycliffe Canada have launched their summer edition of their magazine – Word Alive. For this issue the Word Alive team adventured to the Peruvian Andes to see the important work that is being undertaken by ATEK – a Bible translation and engagement agency with which Wycliffe Canada is a partner.

For more than a decade, God has been using a homegrown ministry in South Peru to strengthen rural churches and families. Based in the tourism mecca of Cusco, the small partner organization of Wycliffe Bible Translators has distributed thousands of copies of mother tongue Scripture, established literacy programs throughout the region, and trained hundreds of Quechua [KETCH-wa] pastors and Sunday school teachers.

Through the ministries of ATEK – an acronym that means ‘The association that shines the gospel to the Quechua-speaking world’ – poor and marginalized Quechua people are improving their lives through literacy, and growing in their understanding and application of God’s word

Find out about this amazing work in Word Alive – Learning & Liberated

Issues facing Scripture films

Monday, July 7th, 2014 by Hannah

Taste and see that the Lord is good! Watching a Bible-based film in your own language is a wonderful way to see how good the Lord is.

Watching the JESUS Film

Watching the JESUS Film

Among the most used Bible-based films are the JESUS Film and the Luke Film, which are both based on the Gospel of Luke. If a team’s already done the translation work on Luke, what could be more obvious than recording the translation and dubbing it onto a film? Of course, it’s much easier said than done!

This prayer request, from Guyana in South America, highlights a handful of the problems you might face…

When preparing for the dubbing of the Luke video or other Scripture, many challenges arise. How do you choose the right person to read the words of Jesus, Mary, or Paul? How do you get verses that take 45 seconds to read in the local language down to the 30 seconds used in the English version of the film? How many practice times are necessary for the readers to learn to read with expression and clarity?

The team are in the process of preparing the script and casting people to read the parts for the film. Stand with them in prayer.

One thing that would make the process much easier is if enthusiastic people joined the team – people who are passionate about film and about sharing God’s word: wherever you long to serve God, there is a need for people with these passions and skills so that more people can hear Jesus speak their language. Find out about ways to explore roles with Wycliffe.

I was willing

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014 by Hannah

While in high school, Bev stepped forward at a Billy Graham crusade. Soon after, in a discipleship group at university, she heard about the need for people to go and make disciples. That information changed her life.

“I thought, ‘Who wouldn’t [do that]?’ To me, it was strange that anyone wouldn’t tell God they’d do anything he wanted.

I was more worried there wouldn’t be any work left by the time I finished college,” she explains, “because everybody would be obeying Christ, going wherever he wanted.”

As eager as she was to head out on the mission field, Bev was able to buckle down and complete her four-year education degree. During that time, she learned to take her own advice about telling God she’d do anything he wanted.

“I had to get to a point in my life where I told Christ … if his will was for me to stay home, live in the suburbs and work there, I was willing.”

Bev Dawson in Guyana (photo by Natasha Schmale for Wycliffe Canada)

It wasn’t just the passion of a young Christian. Bev continued in this commitment: after failing a Spanish class, Bev made up her credits at a Wycliffe summer camp and has now spend 40 years serving the Wapishana in Guyana. The Wapishana New Testament was published in 2012. Read more of Bev’s story here.

Maybe Bev’s commitment sounds astonishing, but it does prompt us to ask ourselves: am I saying to God ‘I am willing’?

If you want to explore more about the possibilities of serving God overseas, get in touch. We can talk to you about what you could do with Wycliffe or another agency (more than you think!) and what opportunities there are coming up to explore with others what obeying God looks like in your life. Get in touch.

This quote was first published in Wycliffe Canada’s excellent magazine, Word Alive, and subsequently on Wycliffe Global Alliance. Some formatting was changed.

Hands on in Paraguay

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 by Hannah

Wycliffe partner LETRA Paraguay don’t mind getting stuck in. Among the communities they serve are the Ache: alongside literacy and Bible translation, they encourage other South Americans to serve the community in practical ways. Two groups have recently returned from doing just that:

bible lesson - cerro moroti February is a full and busy month for LETRA Paraguay, a time when groups of volunteers visit  different Ache communities. This year a team of Chileans visited the village of Cerro Morotï for 3 weeks and another group from Uruguay visited Arroyo Bandera for one.

The Chilean team was made up of 10 young people, between 18 and 26, all from the same church. The Uruguayan group included 15 volunteers and 2 paid drivers, aged between 18 and 64, and from 13 different churches.

medicalDespite these differences, the two groups engaged in similar work. The Uruguayan team built a dining room and kitchen for the school in Arroyo Bandera, while in Cerro Morotï the Chilean volunteers extended the church building. Both groups also did lots of work with children, with Bible lessons, games, snacks and songs in abundance, as well as a day of hair washing, cutting and brushing for all the children. There were also daily Bible studies for the women.

The Ache people received these visits enthusiastically. In Cerro Morotï, 5 Ache men worked on the church extension, while in Arroyo Bandera, 7–10 men came to help with the construction of the kitchen/dining room.

LETRA Paraguay was blessed by the work of both groups, and took advantage of this time in the communities to begin Chäbeta (the Ache word for glasses), a new initiative involving the production and distribution of reading glasses to help the Ache people read the translation of the New Testament, as well as other books.

This report was written by Rocio Gomez, and translated by Ruth Gaved, a UK student in the middle of a Spanish and linguistics degree, who is serving with LETRA for part of her year abroad.

Letra team

Ruth (right) with new team member Megan and LETRA directors Cristina and Victor Gómez

If you, like Ruth, want to use your skills to serve Bibleless people – whether they are in language, IT, writing, teaching or anything else –  the Two Week Stint is the event for you to find out how. It’s two weeks in the South of France immersed in finding out how your skills could fit in mission. Find out more about why it’s the event for you.

Find out more about LETRA on their Facebook page (it’s in Spanish).

That’s not fair!

Friday, February 7th, 2014 by Hannah

Last autumn, Kaimana’o Tominkaru Paradan became available for the first time. That’s ‘God’s Holy Word’ in the Wapishana language of Guyana, in South America. The new edition of Wycliffe Canada’s magazine, Word Alive, provides some glimpses into the history of the project and the people who served God working on the project.

In his Last Words, Roy Eyre, Wycliffe Canada’s president, reminds us that – even with the 25 New Testaments launches in the last year – the plane is still far from level:

I researched the top English Bible translations in 2012 and found that no major translation team had fewer than 60 scholars. Seven out of every 10 Bible resources are in English. And, according to Bradford B. Taliaferro’s Encyclopedia of English Language Versions, there are more than 400 different English versions of the complete Bible translated into English. How many resources and versions do you have available on your smart phone right now?

Read the whole magazine on Wycliffe Canada’s website now. Find out more about what you can do to get the Bible to those who are still without it.

Celebrating the past: Kenneth L. Pike

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013 by Hannah

As Wycliffe in the UK move out of our long-term home at the Wycliffe Centre, we’ve been thinking about some of the people who placed the founding stones of our organisation. For years, we’ve been remembering them by the buildings that we’ve named after them.

Pike earns his PhD

When Kenneth Pike graduated from his studies in Theology, his heart’s desire was to be a missionary to China. He had been inspired by a biography on Hudson Taylor and, on Christmas day 1933, send his application. He was turned down. The beginnings of a great career for God!

After this rejection, Pike didn’t give up. In the summer of 1935, he hitchhiked more than 1,400 miles across the east of the US to get to the second Wycliffe summer camp being run by William Cameron Townsend. The five students on the course travelled with Townsend to Mexico, and that autumn, Pike first visited a Mixtec village. It was a people group that he and his wife would come to know very well.

Kenneth and Evelyn lived with the Mixtec people for many years, developing a writing system and helping them to translated the New Testament into their language. When it was completed in 1951, it was the first New Testament ever completed with the help of Wycliffe Bible Translators.*

But perhaps the most remarkable thing about Pike was that, alongside his missionary life, he served as a highly respected academic. He used the research he did among the Mixtec people to complete a PhD in Linguistics, he served as president of SIL, Wycliffe’s linguistic partner, for 36 years. He also worked at the University of Michigan for 30 years, later becoming Professor Emeritus of the University. He received 16 nominations for the Nobel Prize, three for the Templeton Prize, 10 honorary doctorates, published 30 books and 200 scholarly articles.

Kenneth L PikeSo was he a missionary or an academic? ‘I am a mule,’ he said. Part horse, part donkey. Part linguist, part mission worker. His work not only had a significant impact on the academic study of linguistics and language, and established SIL as a significant linguistic and academic organisation, but it also helped the Mixtec people to have the Bible in their own language.

As we look back to our heritage, we also consider that still to do: more than 200 million people don’t have the Bible in a language they understand. In fact, they don’t even have one verse. Help them to have God’s word.

*God has used Wycliffe to help with another 830 since then!

Celebrating the past: L L Legters

Friday, October 18th, 2013 by Hannah

At our offices in Buckinghamshire, we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. Maybe not so much a cloud as a camp – each of the buildings here is named after a pioneer mission worker. As we plan to move to new offices, we want to remember some of the people who are named on our buildings and built our organisation.

L L LegtersIt was early 1921 and William Cameron Townsend, who would later found Wycliffe, had been working with the Cakchiquel people of Guatemala for several years. He was planning a Cakchichel Bible Conference and invited a speaker from the US who he’d been told was a ‘lively’ evangelist:

‘Once Leonard Legters arrived for the conference, Cam decided the word lively was an understatement! L. L., as everyone called Leonard Legters, was a fireball of activity. He preached day and night, using anything he could get his hands on to illustrate his sermons. The only thing he complained about was having to stand still while his words were translated first into Spanish by Cam and then into Cakchiquel from the Spanish.’ (From Cameron Townsend: Good news in every language by Janet and Geoff Benge)

Sixty people, including a tribal leader, chose to follow Jesus that week, but Legters had a glimpse of how fantastic it would be for the people to hear a preacher in their own language. He saw more of the need in Guatemala and returned to the US promising to return the following year and to tell others about what he’d seen.

LL and his wife Edna, with Townsend

In 1933, when visiting the Townsends in California, Legters convinced Cam that there was a need in Mexico too, ‘at least 50 languages!’ On November 11th that year, the two men stood on the border of Mexico and prayed, until God answered by opening the door for them there.

Legters set up and ran the Pioneer Missionary Agency to support the growing work, especially as Townsend began running Wycliffe summer school in the US to teach linguistics for Bible translation work. In 1942, this became Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL International (Wycliffe’s linguistic partner).

But even outside of his involvement with Wycliffe, Legters had worked phenomenally hard for God, serving Native American peoples in the southern USA as well as being a prominent speaker and writer. As we thank God for the work he did through Legters’ life, we continue to look ahead, to the 1,967 people groups still waiting for God’s word in their language. Find out what you can do to help.

Celebrating the past: William Cameron Townsend

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 by Hannah

For the last forty years, Wycliffe has been privileged to have our offices at The Wycliffe Centre in Buckinghamshire. We’re moving next month – only about 10 minutes down the road – and it seemed a good time to celebrate some of the quirks of our long-time home, like the fact that all the buildings are named after missionaries. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be introducing some of the names that have not only designated our rooms but have shaped our organisation.

Townsend watchesKenneth Pike, a renowned linguist of whom we will find out more in a couple of weeks, said of William Cameron Townsend (known affectionately as Uncle Cam) that, “Not since the third century has there been a man like Cameron Townsend who attempted so much, and saw so many dreams realised in his lifetime.

It was when he was just 21 that he felt called to take the Bible to the indigenous peoples of South America, and came up against his career defining discovery: many couldn’t read Spanish. It sounds obvious, but Townsend’s realisation set off sparks. Within a few years, he and his wife were living with the Cakchiquel people of Guatemala, studying their language and beginning to help them to translate the Bible so they could understand it.

He became ill, and had to return to the US, but that didn’t stop him. In 1934, he ran the first Wycliffe Summer School. Within 10 years, this had become the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), one of Wycliffe’s key partners, and Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Townsend greetsHe worked, travelled and knew everyone, including more than 40 heads of state. He received an honorary doctorate, was decorated by five Latin American governments and was declared ‘Benefactor of the Linguistically Isolated Populations of America’ by the Inter-American Indian Congress. What people commented on, though, was his humility: when the president of Mexico visited an Aztec village, a local man said of Townsend, “He treats us just like he does the President. If President Cárdenas comes, he leaves his dinner to talk with him. If one of us comes, he leaves his dinner to talk with us, too.”

As we thank God for his heritage in providing The Wycliffe Centre, we thank him too for providing William Cameron Townsend. When he began his work, he estimated that maybe 1,000 languages needed God’s word. We now know that to be nearly 2,000 without any Scripture at all, and many more with only portions or work in progress. Help to get the Bible to them!

For more about William Cameron Townsend, visit SIL or Wycliffe USA. Photos: Wycliffe USA.