Healed to Empower Others
Opportunities are lost when women’s voices aren’t heard. That’s what Joan McClendon ’10, ’12 says, and it’s made her passionate about empowering women to share their voices. She also believes that, through Jesus, healed people can heal people. And it was her own journey of healing that led to the many career opportunities she’s had.
McClendon’s personal testimony involves coming to faith in Christ and overcoming a traumatic childhood. Like the biblical woman with the issue of blood who touches Jesus’ robe and is healed (Luke 8:44), McClendon had an intimate encounter with the Living God that changed her life.
“I had a promise from God: If you allow me to heal you from the inside out, I will open up opportunities for you,” McClendon explains.
Part of that healing came through prayer, counseling and writing about her story. While she was a graduate ministry student at Bethel University nearly a decade ago, McClendon and her friend, Jaimee Bingle, then director of Marketing and Communications at Bethel, had a shared vision to write a book of testimonies about women moving beyond desperation to faith in Jesus.
They published “Life on the Fringe” (2012), which builds on the biblical narrative from Luke 8 and documents nearly 40 testimonies of real women from Michiana. In the first chapter, McClendon shares her own story.
“God had me hidden for a very long period of time … it wasn’t until after the book that I began to see [the purpose]. Through Christ and his redemption, I get to be a light for Christ,” she says.
The book led to a healing conference that drew nearly 250 women from four states and 27 churches in the region. It also drew the attention of Saint Mary’s College, who later hired McClendon as Director of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, where she launched the THRIVE Engaging Women Conference.
At Saint Mary’s, McClendon was also involved in a leadership program where she shared her story with women from around the globe – many from different faith backgrounds.
“I shared about my struggle, about resiliency. I looked up and every woman was crying. Many had been oppressed and/or sexually assaulted.”
She remembers one woman asking, “How do you speak up for yourself in the U.S.?” McClendon responded, “God gives me strength.”
CONTINUING TO EMPOWER WOMEN
McClendon has continued to champion women’s initiatives in her own community, inspiring women to rise up to their full potential. Her current role focuses on helping women share their voices on nonprofit boards.
As operations program director for the Nonprofit Professional Development Department at the University of Notre Dame, McClendon leads the BRITE Project, which seeks to equip women to provide transformational nonprofit board leadership that benefits their communities.
McClendon herself serves on four: Bethel University’s Board of Trustees, YWCA, Cultivate and Downtown South Bend (DTSB).
She is amazed at where God has taken her career since she was a graduate student at Bethel.
“I can’t help but to believe that God has kept his promise … to heal me so that others can be healed, to ultimately live out their purpose.”
On Bethel’s Board of Trustees, McClendon serves on the Committee on Student Development and champions Diversity and Inclusion initiatives.