Posted by: calloftheandes | October 6, 2012

For Missionary Karen Wood, Her Music Was Ministry

Kenton and Karen Wood

Florida, Ecuador, California, Acapulco—all popular tourist destinations, but for Karen Wood it was her passion to serve God and bring people the hope of His kingdom that took her there. After decades of ministry in Latin America, Karen died in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Friday, Sept. 14, following a four-year battle with cancer.

A student at the Wheaton College conservatory in Illinois, Karen Veurink studied voice (coloratura) and piano. While a Wheaton co-ed, Karen met Kenton Wood, a Wheaton graduate student. Among the interests they shared was the desire to serve in foreign missions. Karen and Kenton were married in August 1975 and began ministry in Granada Presbyterian Church in Coral Gables, Fla.

Later, the Presbyterian Church’s mission agency, Mission to the World (MTW), dispatched the Woods to Ecuador where they were seconded to HCJB Global.

Karen ministered via music while Kenton worked in evangelism. According to the July 26, 1979, edition of the HCJB Bulletin, Karen directed the Iñaquito Evangelical Church youth choir during a seven-day campaign at the Penal García Moreno federal penitentiary in Quito. “The believers there requested the campaign and prison officials have cooperated in permitting it and are pleased with this spiritual emphasis,” the internal newsletter reported.

The following spring, the Woods made a trip to Pasto, Colombia, during Holy Week as they were involved in “making contact with listeners of HCJB and participating in special meetings in one of the churches,” according to the newsletter.

Among the other missionaries on that trip was José “Chema” Reinoso. “We were always struck by Karen’s sweetness with her husband and children as well as with fellow believers,” Reinoso said from his home in Atlanta, Ga. “Karen was a very humble person and very helpful. She was devoted to God, her husband and her family.”

Kenton added that Karen “never complained about our travels or learning a new culture and language. Wherever she went, she made up her mind to be content.” Her missionary career had meant turning down opportunities to sing professionally (opera and Christian recordings) but she felt that what God wanted of her was to raise a family and to serve in foreign missions.

“Karen and Kenton served for some years at the Iñaquito church, working primarily with church youth,” recalled Reinoso, a former pastor at the church across from Radio Station HCJB.

Reinoso then listed some of the Iñaquito youth who later entered ministry. Among them are Richard Aguilar, a Quito pastor who also teaches at the mission’s Christian Center of Communications; Marcos Romero, manager of World Radio Network station KNOG in Nogales, Ariz.; Marcelo Orbe, a pastor to Hispanics in Milwaukee, Wis.; and Rocío Zapata, a musician who received voice lessons from Karen.

“I was deeply impacted by Kenton and Karen’s ministry, and that is part of the reason why I’m in ministry today,” said Aguilar. “I remember the Bible study we used to have every Friday night in their home. Karen was always so hospitable and generous.”

Following four years in Ecuador, the Woods moved to California and later became MTW’s first church planters to serve in the resort city of Acapulco. A decade later, with a thriving church in Acapulco, the Woods began a new work, this time in Guadalajara.

“After 13 years of service, we have a mother church and several church plants,” recounted Kenton, who had grown up as a child of missionaries in southern Mexico. “Karen has worked alongside me so wonderfully all these 35 years that we have been with MTW. Nothing would have been accomplished without her gifts, persistence and joy.”

Kenton observed in his wife a change of ministry thrust during the four years that she fought cancer, immersing herself more in prayer and in studying her Bible, copiously marked with marginalia.

“The worship that she directed in the church sounded more like heaven and her connection with the women was deeper than ever,” Kenton said. “She knew just what to say to the 100 women she called by name every Wednesday morning, and they looked forward to her encouraging words.”

Karen died in her Guadalajara home after four weeks in the hospital. She is survived by her husband, Kenton, and two children in Guadalajara, Jessica and James; and in the U.S. by a daughter, Jennifer, a son, John, and daughter- in-law, Kristy, and two grandchildren. She is also survived by her mother, Frances, and four brothers.

Karen’s family is starting a memorial fund, the “Karen Wood School of Music and Art,” to train Mexicans to worship God more deeply and creatively. Financial gifts to the fund may be sent to MTW, 1600 N. Brown Rd., Lawrenceville, GA 30043-8141. Checks should be made out to Mission to the World with “Karen Wood Memorial” written in the memo line.

Karen singing her favorite hymn, “Blessed Assurance” (in Spanish)



  1. God Bless Karen Wood. She made such a positive effect on my wife Ruth and I as we started our journey. Gordon Cruickshank

  2. RIP Karen and her family. To think of this “saint” singing and being with The Master helps me understand her trading locations. May her rich ministry continue as part of The Big Plan. Yes, Blessed Assurance Jesus is Mine. God Bless, I will help recruit the next generation of Karens.

    • Thanks for your comment Greg. And on behalf of HCJB Global, deepest condolences to Kenton Wood and the Wood family. -Ralph

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