Wanda Knox, biography of a missionary

The parents of a baby girl born on March 21, 1931, could never have dreamed that day of the influence their daughter would have on Christian missions and in the lives of countless people. Wanda Knox was truly a woman who lived her life for Jesus every day. Accepting Christ at the age of eight, Wanda already felt a call to tell others of Jesus. She was involved in many ministries as a teenager, taking advantage of every opportunity to serve Christ. It was in Oklahoma City that Wanda became a member of the Church of the Nazarene, and there that she experienced a call to missions while attending what is now Southern Nazarene University.

Wanda's call into missions did not come through a booming voice from the heavens or even during a church service. Rather, it came through the leading of God that started a relationship between her and Sidney Knox who was also attending what is now Southern Nazarene University. Sidney Knox soon swept Wanda off her feet. His definite missions call resonated with the enduring passion she had for so long to be a missionary.

Sidney and Wanda were married on May 27, 1951. Shortly thereafter, they moved to Texas to pastor a church. In 1953, at a Nazarene missions convention, they experienced a fresh leading from God. They felt His leading to go as missionaries to Papua New Guinea. Becoming convinced that this was truly God's will, in 1955, they left the United States with their two-year-old son Geron to pioneer Nazarene work in Papua New Guinea.

Photo of
Wanda and Sidney Knox

Wanda and Sidney Knox ready to leave for Papua New Guinea in 1955

They plunged into ministry work there, cultivating relationships and setting up strategic preaching points. While working to learn the pidgin English language, Wanda and Sidney used an interpreter to communicate. They began a school for children with dormitories and both taught. On Sundays, they would travel to three preaching posts. Sidney would preach while Wanda was involved in music. A medical ministry began as a dispensary operated from the back door of their house. They traveled into the bush to share the gospel with various tribal groups. In September of 1957, their family grew with the addition of a daughter, Janie.

Four months after Janie was born, Sidney became very ill. His illness forced the Knoxes to return to the States. The diagnosis: An advanced case of cancer. Within a year Sidney was gone.

At that point, Wanda experienced the darkest valley of her life and spiritual walk. But God provided for her and this period of time became a foundation for God's unfolding plan for her.

While in the U.S., Wanda continued to feel a burden for the people of Papua New Guinea. So, she went before the Nazarene missions board asking to be sent back as a missionary. The board was initially reluctant, but God revealed to them that this was His will. So, in October of 1960, Wanda Knox returned to New Guinea with her children Geron and Janie.

Wanda's main work was teaching at the mission primary school. She flourished as a teacher. She always sought to better herself in order to be more effective in her ministry. She went through certification and training courses for education. For almost ten years, she taught at the primary school and was deeply involved in many aspects of the children's lives, including sports, music, plays, and parties. She loved children and always gave much of herself to them. She was also very involved in hospital visitation at the mission hospital and found great joy in serving the patients.

In 1970, Wanda felt that God was leading her to leave the primary school and begin teaching full-time at the Bible college. She thoroughly enjoyed teaching theology, Bible, and music and dedicated much of her time to educating the ministers' wives. She touched her students' lives in many ways and shared with them her passion for reaching the lost, a passion that wound up being mirrored in their ministries.

photo of NMI leader
Wanda Knox

Five years passed and Wanda again sensed that God was calling her somewhere else. Though she was uncertain of the path ahead, she made preparations to leave the Bible college. It wasn't long before Dr. Jerald Johnson contacted her to say that she had been named executive director of Nazarene Missions International, the denomination's promotional and fundraising organization. After much prayer, she accepted. So, leaving twenty years of missionary service behind, Wanda Knox moved to Kansas City to begin her new work.

As executive director of what is now NMI, Wanda stayed busy with meetings and traveling from place to place. Her accomplishments included introducing a new Mission Achievement Award system, having the World Evangelism Fund reach 100% payment, improving missions education, and redesigning the Alabaster offering box, something which immediately increased Alabaster giving.

Wanda was especially devoted to educating children about missions. She wrote several books for them. She also involved prayer and fasting in her mission efforts because she believed that to be foundational for God's will to be achieved.

In 1980, the Lord once again spoke clearly to Wanda and she resigned as the NMI executive director. She returned to New Guinea for a twenty-fifth-anniversary celebration of the Nazarene mission work there. Then, she went on to Israel where she pastored a church while the missionaries there went on home assignment. Wanda loved her time in Israel, soaking in the culture and being in the land in which Jesus once walked. After a year in Israel, she returned to Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, OK to continue her education so that she could be a "supply" missionary for Global Missions. During this time she served as college pastor for Bethany (OK) First Church of the Nazarene.

Two years later, in 1983, Wanda was asked to teach at Caribbean Nazarene Theological College on the island of Trinidad. There, along with introducing students to C.S. Lewis and Shakespeare, she presented scripture in a deep and refreshing way. She became very involved with her students' lives. During her time in Trinidad, she was able to travel to Barbados to participate in a missionary convention where she spoke and offered training sessions.

During her Christmas break, Wanda had planned to visit her family and friends. Those plans were disrupted by the discovery of a large mass on her abdomen. She returned to the U.S. where the doctors discovered she had an ovarian tumor. She had immediate surgery.

The news after her surgery was not good. The doctors had found a malignant, cancerous tumor and they were unable to get it all. She began chemotherapy and went through times of great sickness. Through it all though, Wanda Knox had a joyful and trusting heart. When her chemotherapy was completed, the doctors again did surgery and found no trace of the cancer. She would have to be monitored closely, but Wanda felt as though her life was returning back to normal again. She made plans to attend seminary and traveled to the 1985 Nazarene General Assembly in Anaheim, California. Unfortunately, just a few months later, a routine CAT scan showed that the cancer had returned.

Wanda again went into surgery. This time the doctors did a colostomy in an attempt to get rid of the cancer. The doctors reported that this was the last thing they could do. It would not be enough. To family and friends, Wanda sent a form letter telling them of her diagnosis. She spent the last months of her life with her very close friends and with Janie and Geron who by then were both married and parents themselves. Wanda had peace about her approaching death and was prepared to meet her heavenly Father. On January 3, 1986, Wanda Knox died. Her funeral service was a joyful one which she had actually planned before her death. It was a service focused on victory in Jesus.

Wanda Knox left behind quite a legacy. She touched hundreds of thousands of lives. She had a way of making every person feel like they were special. She always opened her door and her heart to anyone who needed her. Because she always made her home a safe retreat and cared deeply for the lives of the children and teens on the mission field, she became "Aunt" Wanda to many Mks (Missionary Kids). Her students loved her and treasured what she shared with them. She loved her family and was a wonderful mother even though, at times, she had to be far away from Geron and Janie. She was devoted to her friends and shared herself deeply with them. But more than anything, Wanda loved God and had a passion for serving Him.

There are few people who truly spend their lives in complete devotion to God. Wanda was one of those few. She gave every moment of her life to sharing Jesus with every person she met.

written by Kimberly Jayne, Southern Nazarene University student, to fulfill requirements for the Nazarene Missions course


Eby, Carol. Wanda. Kansas City, M0: Nazarene Publishing House, 1991
Ham, Lisa. Mountain Full of Mischief. Kansas City, M0: Beacon Hill Press, 1989.
Johnson, Jerald. "Welcome, Wanda Knox," World Mission,, back cover, August 1975.
Potter, Rebekah. "God Helped it Grow: 50 Years in Papua New Guinea," Holiness Today

"Wanda Knox is an inspiration on many levels. Wanda was tenacious and she was an overcomer. When I read stories like hers, I am reminded of God's sustaining grace and how He truly can give us what we need at each moment." -- Laurie Rumetsch, Nazarene Bible College student

We stand on their shoulders

Click hereIn the last two centuries, Christianity has become truly global. It has been easy. God has used some ordinary people in very extraordinary ways. [ more ]
-- Howard Culbertson,

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