A Chameleon for Christ

By Rachel Greco

In some ways, Cal Hibbard was a chameleon—blending in to serve behind the scenes, but emerging from them to speak to crowds.

Cal Hibbard with Bob Creson, former president of Wycliffe Bible Translators

This loyal, devoted man was born in 1924. After he and Cornelia married, they traveled to the steamy, monkey-riddled jungles of Peru. He served at the JAARS center in Yarinacocha for 23 years, where a unique partnership developed. “Without a doubt, the greatest call of God on my life was when he put me to work as Cameron Townsend’s administrative assistant just four weeks after we joined Wycliffe,” Hibbard said. “It was none of my doing, but God brought circumstances together, with the result of my serving with Townsend over a period of 32 years.”

During this time, a co-worker in Peru remembers how caring Cal was for Cameron’s wellbeing and how Cal sacrificed his own interests and time to help smooth the way for Cameron’s endeavors. “At any time of the day or night, you might find Cal carrying tea, delivering invitations to local authorities, racing a letter to the Pucallpa airport, asking for a bit of quiet when Uncle Cam was resting, meeting a guest at the hangar, marshalling the ‘troops’ to organize a reception for dignitaries, entertaining visitors with poignant stories which informed about the work, taking dictation, praying for issues, holding an umbrella… You name it, Cal was doing it quietly, smoothly, and with a smile.” According to this co-worker, “A more skilled executive assistant has never existed.”

No matter what Cal did—organizing papers or hosting presidents from various countries—he did it with ease and grace. Another of his co-workers said, “Cal always felt more comfortable in the background, encouraging others, though he was adept at the microphones too.”

Cal Hibbard remained Cameron’s secretary until Cameron died in 1982. Then Cal and his wife felt God calling them to organize and preserve Cameron’s papers, which turned out to be a 16-year job. Because of his loyalty to Cameron and his principles, Cal felt it was important to create an archive which people could consult to learn about Cameron’s work. Cal investigated archives of other well-known people in Christian ministry, including a trip to Wheaton. He didn’t like what he saw and decided to devise his own system.

He and Cornelia gathered letters and pictures. They put everything in chronological order, and the William Cameron Townsend Archive was born. It had the blessing of the administration but no finances, so Cal had to find his own. In the midst of this, Cornelia suffered from breast cancer and died.

Cal carried on the archive task with the help of many volunteers. Every document and picture received a number and later was put on a computer, enabling the material to be used and resourced without diving into the original documents.

During his years at JAARS, Cal also promoted opening up the work of JAARS and the museums on the campus to the public via highway signs and brochures.

Because of his persistence and dedication, JAARS now has an amazing archive of organizational history. It shows how God has led us in Bible translation and transformed people through use of his Word in people’s languages.

Cal Hibbard served God faithfully until his death this year—always faithful, no matter what skin he wore, to the goal of in helping make Scripture available to the Bibleless people around the world. Join us in celebrating this devoted man’s life and continuing the journey he and Cameron set out on. For, as Cal said, “You never lose by being generous. God will see to that.”

Want to create a legacy like Cal’s? Learn more here about how you can serve, pray, and more to support Bible translation in the most remote places on earth.