The girls and I recently read Cameron Townsend: Good News in Any Language by Janet & Geoff Benge as part of our geography curriculum. While we have easily enjoyed over 30 YWAM books, both in their Christian Hero series as well as their Heroes of History series, I unfortunately have to say we were underwhelmed by this book.
About Cameron Townsend: Good News in Any Language
I read aloud to my kids many books related to religion. We read Catholic saint books and Christian heroes books. Janet & Geoff Benge are our favorite authors, though, because they make each of their books so exciting. They really bring the characters to life. In fact, my girls have started complaining that the Catholic saint books are a bit boring and that they don’t bring the person to life as much as the YWAM books. (I agree.)
However, this is the first book by the Benges that I’ve read that just wasn’t that exciting.
It could be because Townsend lived a relatively comfortable life for a missionary. He traveled by plane and car regularly. There was no political upheaval like Gladys Aylward experienced.
However, having said that, the work that Townsend did was impressive and important. When he had already registered to go to WWII but not called up yet, he landed a job selling Bibles in Guatemala. He argued that the military would never let him out of his service requirement, but miraculously they did. This is just one instant where we could see God at work in Cam’s life.
Townsend set about to learn the native language of the Guatemalan Cakchiquel native people he lived and worked with. When he learned to do that, he set about translating the New Testament into their language. This process took 10 years.
Then, Cam felt the urge to move on and learn other languages and translate the Bible into those languages. However, his superiors told him to stay right where he was because he knew the people so well.
Over the years, Cam started a camp for young missionaries, which would eventually turn into the Summer Institute for Linguistics. Cam went to Mexico and worked there closely with the Mexican president to enrich the lives of the natives and translate the Bible. Those who went to his summer camp came to the field to work as Bible translators, and soon, they were translating the Bible in many languages.
My Thoughts on the Book
I have to say, I am so impressed that he not only learned the Cakchiquel language, but that he translated the Bible into that language. This language was not well known; there were no language classes, and yet he did it. That is definitely a talent. What Townsend did was amazing, but in a book, it just wasn’t that exciting.
Also, the Benges mention that Townsend’s first wife, Elvira, could be a wonderful woman. However, she went through spells where she would be angry and mean, yelling and throwing things. They said she had a mental condition, and Cam decided to love her and be as nice to her as possible despite that. I’d love to know more about this. What was the mental condition? Also, Cam was married to her for more than 20 years. How did he handle her disruptive behavior? How did it affect his missionary work? I wish they would have explored this more fully.
I give Cameron Townsend: Good News in Any Language by Janet & Geoff Benge 3 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.