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

Epilogue
In Which Townsend Decides
Catholics Are Okay After All and
the Reader Gets a Glimpse of the Future

Don't talk to me about Protestants and Catholics. The truth of the matter
is that if the Lord Jesus Christ came to Peru today as He did to Palestine, He
would select Townsend to be one of his apostles.

—Peruvian congressman

In Peru, Townsend finally realized his vision of an “Air Crusade to the Wild Tribes” when he founded the Jungle Aviation and Radio Service (JAARS) in 1948. The use of airplanes bypassed weeks of hard travel through the jungle and, together with radios, made the daily life of missionaries much safer. To raise the funds necessary to support his air force and now global organization, Townsend twisted the arms of Christian businessmen, shook the tree of every philanthropic organization he could think of, struck deals with airplane companies, became the first missionary organization to get into the movie business, got gigs for converted headhunters on This Is Your Life (the biggest TV show of its time), built an enormously expensive exhibit at the World's Fair (head hunters were involved there as well), and by so doing contravened just a few faith rules, even while he smiled and insisted he was a faith missionary. But these are stories for another day.

Even as Townsend rewrote the rules for how to be a faith missionary, he was throwing out the rulebook for how to be evangelical. His policy of non sectarian service to all placed him in the orbit of folks that most American evangelicals simply could not abide. Primarily this meant Catholics, and Townsend may have been the first evangelical to decide they were not so bad after all. At least they were not always the enemy.

Townsend had seen his policy of nonsectarian service to all work in Mexico.

-308-

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