It was 1917. Cameron Townsend, a young 20-something from California, was trekking through the Central American jungles with a message of hope, in the form of a pack of Spanish Bibles on his back.
He carried with him the good news of Jesus, inspired by the command to "go," and driven forward by the desire to give the Word.
But soon he encountered a barrier to giving the Word contained in his Spanish Bibles: many of the people he met in Guatemala didn't understand the language of the books he brought.
For them, Cakchiquel was their language, one of 25 in their country. This was their default for speaking, dreaming, and thinking. These were the words filled with the most meaning.
Seeing this, Francisco Diaz, Cam’s local guide, challenged him: "If your God is so great, why doesn't He speak my language?”
Eyes widened to the language gap, Cam came alongside the Cakchiquel people—creating an alphabet, launching a school, and translating the words of Scripture into the language that could reach their hearts.
To communicate God’s message, Cam helped to bridge the gap—taking the Word of God, and placing it in the words of the Cakchiquel.
This story of roots starts with willingness and with a realization. Bible translation is about practically and accurately communicating this: the message that the good news is not just for us—but for you, too.
A year ago, with our hands cradling mugs of hot tea, my family and I read the story of Cam and the Cakchiquel together, our own eyes widening and our own hearts growing as we recognized the gap—the need of those without the Word in their own heart language.
Today, 75 years after Cam founded Wycliffe, there's still a barrier standing between 160 million people and a complete understanding of God’s Word for themselves.
We watch, encouraged, as we see God bridging the language gap—doing the work of bringing His Word to the millions who don’t have it yet.
The coolest part, though? Is that we get to jump in and do this with Him—that this is what He calls us to—that we get to participate in the work He is already moving forward.
Cam jumped in for and with the Cakchiquel people as he lived, breathed, worked alongside them. Together they bridged the gap standing between the good news and their hearts.
Today, our God is closing the gap between 160 million people and the Word.
And, because of the invitation to join Him—we get to be gap-bridgers, too.
Want to hear the rest of the story? Learn more about Cam & the roots of the Bible translation movement here.