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Central American Mission (CAM)

Central American Mission (CAM)

The Central American Mission (CAM) is a nondenominational Protestant faith mission based in Dallas, Texas, for the evangelization and proselytization of Central Americans. CAM was founded in 1890 by Cyrus I. Scofield, a businessman and biblical scholar who is best remembered for his authorship of a reference Bible which still bears his name. Scofield, an adherent of dispensationalist theology, believed that the conversion of all humanity was a precondition of Christ's second coming, and he founded the CAM with the belief that the conversion of Central America to Protestantism would hasten the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. The CAM organization, while not a true denomination, continued to adhere to dispensationalist theology.

The first CAM missionaries went to Costa Rica in 1891. Three years later, a missionary couple named Dillon was sent to establish missions in northern Central America; both succumbed to fever outside the Salvadoran port of Acajutla and were buried at sea on the way there. Missions were eventually established in El Salvador and Honduras in 1896. CAM began mission work in Guatemala in 1899, and in Nicaragua in 1900.

Although CAM has always considered its primary purpose to be evangelization, it is involved in many secular projects. Until the 1960s, CAM never attracted many local converts in Central America; however, CAM-run schools and linguistic projects have long given the mission an influence disproportionate to its size. Most CAM projects in Central America are based in Guatemala, where CAM has historically enjoyed the greatest number of native converts, although prior to the 1960s, even there converts numbered less than a few thousand.

CAM first became involved in linguistic work in 1919, when a CAM missionary, Cameron Townsend, developed a grammar and dictionary in the Maya language Cakchiquel in order to translate the New Testament. Townsend eventually left CAM to found the Wycliffe Bible Translators/Summer Institute of Linguistics, a nondenominational organization devoted to translating religious literature into the languages of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Despite Townsend's departure, linguistic work has remained central to CAM's work to the present day.

CAM also established a number of elementary and secondary schools in the early twentieth century, the largest of which, the Jardín de las Rosas, was founded in Guatemala City in 1914. In the early 2000s, CAM runs the Theological Seminary of Central America (formerly the Central American Biblical Institute) in Guatemala City, which is the largest and most influential fundamentalist seminary on the isthmus.

Officially named CAM International, the organization's mission has changed slightly. Where-as Guatemala and Honduras remain important areas of work, CAM International also has programs in Mexico and among Spanish-speaking communities in the United States, Canada, and Albania.

See alsoMissions: Spanish America; Protestantism.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Carpenter, Joel A., and Wilbert R. Shenk. Earthen Vessels: American Evangelicals and Foreign Missions, 1880–1980. Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans, 1990.

Dow, James, and Alan R. Sandstrom, eds. Holy Saints and Fiery Preachers: The Anthropology of Protestantism in Mexico and Central America. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2001.

Garrard-Burnett, Virginia. Protestantism in Guatemala: Living in the New Jerusalem. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998.

Nelson, Wilton M. El protestantismo en Centro América (1982).

Nelson, Wilton M. Historia del protestantismo en Costa Rica (1983).

Steigenga, Timothy J. The Politics of the Spirit: The Political Implications of Pentecostalized Religion in Costa Rica and Guatamala. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2001.

Stoll, David. Fishers of Men or Founders of Empire? The Wycliffe Bible Translators in Latin America (1982).

Winn, Wilkins Bowdre. "A History of the Central American Mission as Seen in the Work of Albert Edward Bishop, 1896–1922" (Ph.D. diss., University of Alabama, 1964).

                                Virginia Garrard-Burnett

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