Remembering Joplin Tornado Victims: Retired Pastor finds new calling after surviving tornado

Published: May. 18, 2021 at 5:16 PM CDT|Updated: May. 22, 2021 at 10:41 AM CDT
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JOPLIN, Mo. (KY3) - Phillip McClendon decided it was time to slow down and play some golf. He retired from being a pastor after 20 years and downsized their Joplin home in May of 2011.

Just one week after moving into their new house the deadliest tornado in Missouri’s history struck. Their home was in that path. The closet was the only thing left standing, which happened to be the closest place when they took cover.

“I asked my wife, well how did you pick that closet,” he says. “And she said well it was the first one.”

It’s in there they held onto each other and prayed.

“And my wife said we’re not going to make it because we could feel the lift under us,” he says.

They walked away without a scratch.

After the storm, Pastor McClendon took strength from the one place he’d always gone, the bible. He looked at the resilience Joseph had after losing his family, his home, and going to prison.

“It means He has a purpose for me and to give myself to people,” McClendon said back in 2011 when crews first spoke to him.

And so he did. The retired pastor left retirement and headed back into preaching. He serves at a church in Neosho.

“God wanted you here or you wouldn’t be here,” said McClendon.

He and his wife live in Joplin, just not in the same spot they did 10 years ago. They wanted to start a new chapter in a different place.

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