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How Wycliffe Bible Translators begun

In 1917, a young man named William Cameron Townsend went to sell Spanish Bibles in Guatemala. But he was shocked when many of the indigenous people couldn’t understand much Spanish. Their language was Kaqchikel, a language without a Bible. One day, a man asked him, “If your God is so powerful, why doesn’t he speak my language?”

Townsend believed everyone should have a Bible in his heart language so that he could understand God’s word, so he began to translate the Bible into Kaqchikel, completing the translation of the New Testament in 1931.

His experience taught him that having the Bible in the heart language was imperative for indigenous peoples to understand its message and form viable indigenous churches. He also realised that illiteracy and social marginalization were major causes of minority peoples’ extreme poverty and powerlessness. For Townsend, saving souls was not enough. A true Christian response included lifting the downtrodden as well.

In 1934, Townsend started a linguistics school, the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), to train people in linguistics and translation. In 1942, Townsend officially founded Wycliffe Bible Translators (Wycliffe).

Wycliffe has continued with the important work of working for life transformation through understanding God’s word. In 2018, the Keliko of South Sudan celebrated the 1000th New Testament completed with SIL engagement.

Where we are now

At the turn of the century, Wycliffe adopted a new challenge — Vision 2025: to see a Bible translation project started in every language still needing one by 2025. As part of this vision, Wycliffe Singapore has committed to engaging churches and individuals in supporting projects which work among unreached people groups in their own languages, so that communities and lives can be transformed through the Word of God.


As of September 2022, 128.8 million people, speaking 1,680 languages, still need Bible translation work to begin. Wycliffe is working faster than ever to reach those languages as soon as possible.

Wycliffe Singapore

In December 1983, Wycliffe Bible Translators (Singapore) was founded. Beginning with a mere handful of members, its membership has grown to over 30 members who have served in Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

Highlights of Wycliffe Singapore from 1983-2021
Wycliffe's Timeline



1st New Testament (Kaqchikel, Guatemala) completed.


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Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT) was founded in the US.


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500th New Testament (Suriname Javanese, Indonesia) completed.



1000th New Testament (Keliko, South Sudan) completed.



William Cameron Townsend goes to Guatemala to sell Spanish Bibles.



1st SIL course was held in Arkansas.


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WBT Singapore was established.


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Wycliffe International renamed Wycliffe Global Alliance.

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