It all began in Guatemala.
In 1917, a young American named William Cameron Townsend arrived in the Central American country to distribute Spanish Bibles among the Cakchiquel people. But he quickly discovered that most of them did not speak or understand Spanish. Nor did they have a written form of their own language.
Townsend abandoned his attempts to sell Spanish 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 10 years.
Over time, Townsend came to the conclusion that every man, woman and child should have access to God's Word in their language.
He had no idea there are more than 7,300 languages in use around the globe.
But that knowledge wouldn’t have deterred Cameron Townsend. With other like-minded colleagues, he founded "Camp Wycliffe" in 1934 as a linguistics training school. He borrowed the name Wycliffe from the pre-Reformation hero, John Wycliffe, who first translated the Bible into English.
By 1942, Camp Wycliffe had expanded to form two organizations, Wycliffe Bible Translators and the Summer Institute of Linguistics (now SIL International). The subsequent need for support services later led to the founding of JAARS, Wycliffe's partner for technical services.
Today, SIL and Wycliffe partner with national Bible translation organizations and church denominations worldwide to translate God’s Word, promote literacy and encourage the use of translated Scriptures.
While tremendous progress has been made since our founding nearly 80 years ago, it's estimated that 167 million people, speaking around 2,000 languages, still need Scripture in the languages that serve them best.
Your partnership in this vital ministry helps transform lives—for eternity.