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Kjell Knutson

1928 – November 2016

Knutsen family would like to share this celebration with the OE mailing list members. We are gathering this weekend in Boise, ID for two events to celebrate Kjell’s life. On Saturday, we will have a family memorial event, followed by a Sunday memorial service with Hillview Methodist Church. Kjell was part of the congregation and served as a visiting minister.


Kjell is survived by his wife, Debbie Cheong, five sons – Lester, Andrew, Bernhard, Reinard, Svend. Kjell is survived by two siblings – Roger, younger brother living in Seattle and and Britt, older sister living in Oslo. There are six grandchildren, and four great grandchildren.


Kjell’s celebrated his 88th birthday last year. We have a photo of him cradling his youngest grandson, Finely Parks Knutsen, born a few months earlier to Svend and Amanda.


Here is my very brief summary of some chapter’s in Kjell life:


Earliest chapters include growing up in Norway and living under German occupation during WW2. When he left Norway after WW2, he left to become an ordained minister and missionary, attending Garret Biblical Institute in Evanston, Illinois. Kjell met and married Margynell Bynum during this time. He was ordained in 1950, and was posted to Malaya as a Methodist missionary. During this time (1950 – 1987), Kjell and family served congregations in Taiping, Kuantan, Raub, Klang, and Seremban. All five sons were born in Malaysia. Our family attended the 1967 summer program in Chicago, interning in the Order while Kjell studied for his PhD. Kjell was part of the team that set up the Religious House in Petaling Jaya in 1968. He was part of teams that taught RS-1 courses, ITI’s, Academies and two early Human Develop Projects. Kjell married Debbie Cheong in 1977. Svend was born in 1982. His last position in Malaysia was Director of St. Nicholas School for the Blind in Penang. In 1988, Kjell began his Idaho chapter, serving a congregation in Emmett, followed by part time position with the Hillview Methodist Church in Boise. Kjell retired in 2009, beginning his golden years. Debbie is a public school teacher in Boise, Svend is married and raising a family with Amanda.


Our family appreciates your emails and prayers. I will be collecting your emails and sharing them in printed and email formats with our family this weekend.








Yes many thanks to Kjell for his pioneering work as he returned to Malaysia under Bishop Yap Kim Hao to begin our work there. We lived in a Methodist International house – Andrew will remember sharing a room with Wayne Marshall and I think Bernhard as well although he and Ray may have shared.  Kjell recruited the first PLC and worked daily to get our visas approved while we waited in LA as the house there was just starting up. We did child care for the House until we were cleared just days before the course was to begin.


Kjell and I created a bit of a stir in conservative Malaysia as we traveled together to teach courses. He was known and beloved everywhere we went. His former church members greeted him lovingly and more than once smoothed the way thru bureaucracies. When we drove a car load of materials to Singapore for the ITI he got us thru customs without having to pay a heavy duty.


Those were great and amazing days. Rest well Kjell.


Zoe (and Ken) Barley




Greetings to the Knutsen family network 🙂 Kjell and Marginelle converted their parsonage in Petalling Jaya, Malaysia into the KL House, where in 1975 I joined Dick and Gail West, Titus and Augusta Jayasakera, and others in a place where we operated as the Order Ecumenical under close watch by the Malaysian government. Our weekly Order Report arrived after a few days delay due to censorship with phrases and paragraphs blacked out. Never a dull moment in Southeast Asia…Kjell was in Klang, pastor of the Methodist Church there, and was our steady House Church celebrant. He and Margie were great hosts for a new arrival to Asia, sharing in-depth historical background, current trends and lots of contacts in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. The International Training Institutes were a staple program of both 6 week and 3 week formats in Penang, Singapore, Bandung among other locations. Eunice and I met at Area Council meetings and on our visa turn-around trips between KL and S’pore. Kjell had a calming presence that calmed our anxieties and a spirit of adventure that pushed us into action. Thanks, Kjell for the grand adventure of your life and a vocational path that showed us all how to weather the storms. Rest in Peace, my friend and Journey on…Our love and admiration for the whole Knutsen clan! Eunice and Sherwood




We just learned today of your father’s death way back in November, and are deeply sorry for your loss.

Joe is about two months older than your Dad, as his birthday is in April.  Both guys born in 1928 and have enjoyed amazingly long lives; Joe will turn 89 this year, and we will have been married for 50 years in June, assuming we will both last that long J.

We have such wonderful memories of your Dad’s ministry in KL as a United Methodist Missionary, then appointed by Bishop Yap Kim Hao to Kuala Lumpur and the staff of the Ecumenical Institute.  (Bishop Yap was Joe’s seminary classmate at Boston University Theological Seminary, as was MLK.)

Your Dad’s appointment to KL and his willingness to invite other EI staff to come to the “KL Religious House” (one of the first international RHs) made it possible for the spirit movement of church renewal to take root in Methodist churches up and down the Malay peninsula as well as in East Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.

I remember Joe and Kjell were stranded in East Malaysia (1969) for several weeks when riots broke out in Malaysia and a curfew kept us in lock down save for a few hours in the morning when your Mom ventured out to the local store (Chop Chuan) to purchase whatever food supplies were available.  Joanne Slicker, then in a private high school in KL, was sent “home” to Petaling Jaya and became my roommate.  I think your brother Lester stayed in place at the American School in Singapore.  As always, Bernhard kept us smiling with his offers of cinnamon toast and you were the quintessential “cool dude bro.”  During that East Malaysian teaching trek Kjell excitedly told Joe one morning that he had his first dream in English the night before!

We joined Kjell as staff colleagues for many International Training Institutes.  The first was in Singapore in 1969, then in Jabalpur in 1970, and finally in Addis Ababa in 1971.  Kjell was a solid man of faith and deeply committed to the Order.  We will all miss him.

Grace, peace and love,

Marilyn and Joe Crocker




We first got to know Kjell and Margie Nell when we were assigned to the KL House, which was their parsonage in Petaling Jaya.  He was very gracious and welcoming.  More importantly, in many ways, was his kind and careful mentoring of us in the ways of Asian people.  What he demonstrated was our introduction to the many cultures that composed Malaysia, and gave us methods of learning that extended to our various assignments in Asia. For those valuable learnings we will always be grateful.  While we were never again in such close contact with him and his family after KL, we managed to keep in touch over the years.  After our relocation to Austin, he came once to visit and look at a job opportunity here.  We had hoped he would have been able to settle near us, but that was not to be.  He was a person of service, and a look at his children can testify to his example.


George and Wanda