by Hugh Steven
Unconventional, innovative and prayerful. Yours to Finish the Task conveys this portrait of William Cameron Townsend, in this fourth and final installment of his memoirs.
Wycliffe Bible Translators, P.O. Box 628200, Orlando FL 32862-8200, 2004, 292 pages, $7.95.
—Reviewed by Colin Murphy, Wycliffe Bible Translators, Dallas Texas.
Unconventional, innovative and prayerful. Yours to Finish the Task conveys this portrait of William Cameron Townsend, in this fourth and final installment of his memoirs. The memoirs provide a window into the history of a modern American evangelical mission. Townsend was instrumental in the founding and development of Wycliffe Bible Translators.
From 1947 to Townsend’s death in 1982 at age eighty-five, Wycliffe expanded from its roots in Mexico into Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, the Philippines and scores of other countries. When the young band of American missionaries was killed in Ecuador in 1955, Wycliffe member Rachel Saint, sister of pilot Nate Saint, took on the task of translating the New Testament into the language of her brother’s murderers.
When Wycliffe began working in Peru, Catholics and Protestants were entrenched rivals. Townsend practiced loving his enemies, however, despite the disapproval of some of his supporters in the United States.
Townsend was not a college graduate. He was a visionary, committed to translating the Bible into every language. He persistently knocked on doors and entered the ones the Lord opened.
The growing pains and tensions within early Wycliffe are recorded in the book. So too are some of the stresses between Wycliffe and other mission agencies. Townsend was forced to respond to a multitude of criticisms from within Wycliffe, from his evangelical constituency and from outsiders. In these pages we see him hurt, tired and frustrated.
Relations with Mission Aviation Fellowship and Wycliffe’s reluctant withdrawal from the IFMA are discussed. It was during this period that JAARS, the flight and radio service, was founded. Townsend supported it in spite of its unpopularity in his circles.
Steven documents the correspondence between Townsend and Dawson Trotman, Billy Graham, Eugene Nida, Lewis Sperry Chafer and many other Christian leaders. Townsend was a master of personal and public relations.
Students of missions are fortunate that Townsend’s faithful secretary, Cal Hibbard, preserved and organized his voluminous correspondence. Hugh Steven has skillfully woven these strands of memories and correspondence into a story which presents this man and his times. “Impossible” was not in the lexicon of “Uncle Cam.” He always maintained, “The vital issue is not strength, but heart.”
Check these titles:
Steven, Hugh. 1984. A Thousand Trails: The Personal Journal of William Cameron Townsend 1917-1919. Langley, B.C.: CREDO Publishing Corp.
_____. 1995. Wycliffe in the Making: The Memoirs of W. Cameron Townsend 1920-1933. Wheaton Ill.: Harold Shaw Publishers.
_____. 1999. Doorway to the World: The Mexico Years: The Memoirs of W. Cameron Townsend 1934-1947. Wheaton Ill.: Harold Shaw Publishers.
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