A New Vision for Missions: William Cameron Townsend, the Wycliffe Bible Translators, and the Culture of Early Evangelical Faith Missions, 1896-1945

By William Lawrence Svelmoe | Go to book overview

6
In Which Townsend Makes Everyone
Nervous with Another Wild Idea and
R. D. Smith Has a Nightmare
1929–1932

We must be much in prayer that “Cameron” be delivered from anything that
may be visionary.

—Karl Hummel

In this chapter, which outlines the events leading to Cameron Townsend's departure from the CAM, perhaps it is fitting to pause first to reflect a bit on the man himself. Barely twenty- one when he sailed for Guatemala, Townsend was thirty- six when he left that country. Just what sort of man had he become? Why was the CAM simultaneously disappointed and relieved when he chose to depart?

Ask anyone who knew Cameron Townsend to describe him, and one of the first qualities they will mention is his vision. Townsend was a visionary, a dreamer, and a bit of a schemer. To read the letters stored under the heading “Idea Man” in the Townsend archive computer is to journey through an obviously fertile mind. Townsend was like a baseball player who swung at every pitch, convinced he could hit every one out of the ballpark. He struck out a lot, but when he got hold of one, and if the wind was blowing in the right direction, he hit it a long way. Most of his schemes were probably forgotten between the time it took for his letter to reach headquarters, Karl Hummel to think up a way to politely discourage the idea, and the letter to make its return sea voyage to Guatemala. Many were good ideas, if far ahead of their time. Some of these he worked on, but they died for lack of an organization to push them through, perhaps to reemerge in different form decades later. A few he clung to doggedly as part of his life vision, tenaciously pursuing them to ultimate success. In this last

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