Bert as he was known was born in 1922 into a large poor family in Texas USA. His mother had told him that when he was young he would gather his friends around him and preach to them, although not knowing any scripture he would mimic something of what he had seen. As he grew up through his teens and into his twenties he could never remember any preacher coming to him and challenging him clearly with his need of repentance and of Christ. He wasn’t an atheist but he knew nothing about God and had never read the Bible. Though living in a country that had a church on almost every street corner, it would take 27 years before he would be really confronted with the power of the Gospel.
He graduated from School in 1940, a year later Pearl Harbour was bombed bringing America into the war, he immediately joined the US Marines. During his service he was deployed to the Island of Pellielu in the South Pacific. As they came ashore, artillery began to rain down on that beech; overhead bombers were dropping death and destruction. For the next 30 months he would live like this, a foxhole became his home and fish heads a normal meal. Out of 11,000 men that he went in with only 80 of them would walk out, the rest were either killed or wounded.
It was in 1946 that he left the services and started work on the oil rigs. That very same year he married Janice. During the early years of their marriage he was hitting the drink hard. He tried giving up but couldn’t. He loved his girl but this put great strain on their marriage, at times she wouldn’t see him for 2-3 days. When a baby son came along the thought of him growing up like his dad was too much for Bert and Janice. One night as he drove to work, not knowing if there was a God or not, he prayed asking that if God was there that He would not allow his son to grow up like him. Here he was barely 27 years old, almost an alcoholic and his life falling apart.
A six week mission came to Alice, Texas, his wife attended and got back to God. The minister came and spoke to him and he said he would come to the meetings. In January 1949 as the Gospel was preached from Acts 16v31 “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” he was born of the Spirit of God. He walked out of that meeting mightily saved, free and rejoicing in the salvation of God. At work on the oil rigs his workmates could see the change, he was set free from drink and his tongue was made pure.
For two years with his wife they earnestly sought the Baptism in the Holy Ghost. At every meeting and at every opportunity they sought God for His promised gift. Finally one night out in the brush after a meeting as they prayed in the altar hands were laid upon him, he jumped up speaking in tongues, his hands went up, one hand got stuck in the chicken wire, there he hung speaking in tongues. As he looked down he saw that his wife had been filled with the Holy Ghost and was now speaking in tongues. All night long they spoke in tongues as rivers of living water poured forth from their innermost beings.
He read and studied the Word of God constantly. By 1951 he was teaching a small Sunday school class at his church and God began to greatly bless. In January 1953 he felt God calling him to preach, at this stage he owned lots of land and was making plenty of money but God was calling. He told his boss that he was finishing his job on September 1st. On August 1st he started to fast and to seek God. After 16 days of this his boss thought he was sick and was going to die so he sent him home. He went back to his wife’s home town and booked into a Hotel and stayed there 29 days and 30 nights without coming out. God spoke to him and said ‘go preach’ and that ‘he would never want for a place to preach.’ He left the Hotel and with his wife held a revival in Newland Texas where a 150 people came out to the meetings. God saved, blessed and moved. From there doors opened up and they moved out in full time ministry.
In 1954 he preached at a church where 40 people gathered each meeting totally unmoved. Then finally it broke, that night the building was filled with about 400 people and the power of God fell mightily. In 1956 while preaching in Edna Texas God broke through and revival came, by Saturday night there was standing room only. One in ten people in the area came to hear him preach. On the Saturday night he was preaching on ‘Jesus the Conqueror.’ As he stood preaching a pain hit the middle of his chest and ran down both arms, he went numb and collapsed on the platform with what was later registered as a massive heart attack. But as he sought God he was healed and raised up.
It was in November 1956 that God called him to the City of Beaumont, Texas, to build a Church. He cancelled the evangelistic meetings that were planned and went in obedience to God. Other Pentecostal churches and Pastors in the area opposed his coming. He was going through a great struggle financially and had no money to start and run a Church. At this early stage all he had was $25, the house rent was due, the car note was due and he had to feed his family. At four the next morning he got up and went down to the little tin building that God had provided to house the Church. There he fought through in prayer to find the mind of God. If it was God’s will to stay then he would stay, but if not he would reschedule the cancelled meetings. It was then that the Lord spoke these words to him, ‘As I was with Moses, I will be with you. I put you here to restore the message of Pentecost.’
By Easter 1957 they had about 100 people. From the day they began, a spirit of revival was in that Church. People were saved, filled with the Holy Ghost and healed in the services. This continued for four years then the momentum died. He called in a Holy Ghost filled Evangelist, a strange man who dealt with sin, as the church repented a revival broke out that lasted another five years. Every year the month of October was always set apart for prayer and fasting and from the founding of the church a 5am prayer meeting was always held.
In 1967 he made his first visit to Tanzania, Africa. While there he saw the terrible poverty of the people and realized that when God said “hardly can a rich man make it” he wasn’t talking about the Rockefellers, he was talking about him. He saw such poverty amongst the people that he became physically sick. This brought him to go aside and seek the face of God. He began to pray ‘Why would you want me to see what I can do nothing about?’ The Lord spoke to him saying, ‘The poverty you see physically in these people is what I see in My Church spiritually, and I have called you to do something about it.’ This incident birthed within him a burning desire for the ‘Prodigal Church.’
They travelled to Spain, France, Rome, India, Thailand, and Vietnam to preach God’s Word. Back in 1954 God had spoken to him about going to Vietnam but it wasn’t till 1969 that they got there. When they arrived and walked into a Hotel a Vietnamese Colonel rushed to them and said he had been looking for him for seven years. He explained that in 1962 he was burdened for the salvation of his people and while seeking God in prayer and fasting he had a vision and in that vision saw Clendennen. God told him that this man would bring revival to his people.
He preached in the churches first and when they closed their doors to him he moved outside the churches to down-town Saigon where he held meetings at 6am which were packed with people. There was standing room only. Many hundreds were saved, the Holy Ghost fell and 150 were filled at one time. Over the war years (68-75) he was there seven times. On the radio he preached to all Saigon God moved mightily, Pentecost had come to Vietnam.
In 1971 he ministered to crowds of 65,000 in Zaire (Congo). For twenty-one days God’s power fell upon the crowds. In 1980 he was invited to minister in Yugoslavia, Hungry, and Romania. Every church was filled to overflowing and people were standing out in the freezing cold looking in the windows. In 1981 he returned to Bulgaria and Romania to find the Spirit of the Lord still moving and the churches growing. His Church, Victory Temple in Beaumont from its beginning was a mission’s church. Out of six hundred people that faithfully and consistently tithed the Gospel was carried across the world.
The message he preached went forth nationally from his own pulpit by means of television. He was one of the first three on American television preaching Christ. Out of this came many great crusades right across the land. He was preaching at a very critical hour in the history of the American Church. In an hour that was spurning a prosperity gospel and every new innovation, heresy and revelation he was like a lone voice crying in the wilderness.
In October 1991 he went on a fact finding mission to Russia to see how he could help this country which had been bound under 75 years of atheism. He knew that God was sending him to Russia and that he would move there. On the last day of his visit God confirmed the call. He was ministering to a small congregation on the edge of Moscow. As he preached about prayer, the Spirit of God broke those gathered. The entire group fell on there faces and began to pray. As he prayed he felt a hand upon his arm, when he looked up it was an elderly woman prophesying to him, his interpreter Igor translated the message, ‘All that you have ever suffered, all that you have ever learned, all that you have ever done was to prepare you for what I will do with you in this country.’ He later found out that this woman’s husband had been a Pentecostal preacher who was murdered by the KGB. She now spent all her time in the church praying and this was the first time any of them had known her to prophesy.
He resigned the Church which he had founded and Pastored for 35 years and returned to Russia in December for three weeks. On the first Sunday in Moscow he preached in an underground Church to about a thousand people. Among them were the Bishops of the Pentecostal Church of all USSR. They asked him to minister in their churches and train their preachers. He purchased and distributed 30,000 New Testaments and thirty thousand ‘Books of Life.’ The Mayor of Kiev asked that he give a Bible to every student in school. For one hour he was interviewed on one of the most powerful radio stations in Russia which had an audience of approximately nine million people and local papers wrote articles about the crusades. He preached in cities of hundreds of thousands that had no church. In the Caucasus region he preached to 1,700 people, of those 1,600 came forward to get saved. When he left them there was no shepherd to look after these new saints. He then knew what God would have him do.
All this was God’s way to bring him to birth the School of Christ International. Concerning this time he say’s ‘The vision of a three month Bible school was born in my mind and I was carried back to the outbreak of World War II. I had just graduated from High School when the news broke. In a short time I joined the U.S. Marines, and in one week I was in what they called ‘boot camp.’ For twelve weeks I went through the most intense discipline and training I ever dreamed possible. What were they doing? Transforming young men fresh out of school, fresh from the farm and the city, into men of war. And they meant to do it in twelve weeks. This became the pattern for the School of Christ.’
In February 1992 he was back once again in Russia preaching crusades and making arrangements for a building. On September 21st along with his wife he moved to Moscow and prepared for the opening of the first School. On October 1st classes began at the International Pentecostal Bible College of Moscow with 102 students from all over Russia and the Ukraine. The students were brought to the school, and for three months they did not leave unless there was an emergency. For three months they were totally immersed in prayer and the Word of God. The prayer meeting began before day light every morning, and was the last act in the evening. The fact was constantly driven home that you only learn prayer by praying. Without prayer Bible Schools are merely doctrine. Three months later 100 students graduated and were sent forth into cities and villages to plant the Church of Jesus Christ.
These students had become pregnant with the life of God, as they moved out into the communities they birthed this life; men were saved, bodies were healed, demons cast out and multitudes filled with the Holy Ghost. The results were such that just two years later the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church on radio warned of Bro.Clendennen, calling him ‘the most dangerous man in all Russia.’ Literally thousands of new churches were birthed across these lands in the next few short years. Initially he had only thought in terms of the School in Russia and had expected to spend the next several years pouring himself out in this land, but soon this School naturally and quickly spread spontaneously with a life of its own beyond any expectation of the mind of man.
Next it jumped to South America then China until today the School has students in about 150 countries of the world who have planted 10’s of thousands of new churches. Every nation in South America, right across China, in prisons across the world and more recently penetrating the Muslim world this message of Pentecost is being preached. Labourers have been raised up in each continent who are running the School amongst their own people and who are pressing forward with the commission of Christ. A great highlight of each year is the preacher’s convention in Beaumont at Easter, where mission reports are given from around the world.
Over the past fifteen years Brother Clendennen has continued to labour all the more in reaching this world of ours in Forging a Vessel of Recovery and in seeing a Pentecostal Revival come to each nation. It is very normal for him to preach at least several times a day with great fire, substance and energy, often wearing out his interpreters. Over these recent years God has healed his body and raised him up at different times to continue preaching. Always gracious, always uncompromising he has set an example for the preachers and churches of our day. He can truly say ‘Follow me even as I follow Christ.’ Just a few years ago in England at breakfast one morning he said to me the morning he gets up and cant preach, he wants to go home. He is a man of one task.