An East Texas pastor drowned on Christmas Day after saving a colleague and his son. The incident occurred in Costa Rica during missionary work.
Pastor Kelly Clarke went swimming in the Pacific Ocean on Christmas Day with his friend, Costa Rican Pastor Manuel Garcia, and Garcia’s son. The young boy got into trouble with rip tides, the Tyler Morning Telegraph reported. Pastor Manuel jumped in to save his drowning son, but became exhausted by fighting the current.
Clarke jumped into the dangerous water and managed to get the Pastor Garcia and his son out of harm’s way but fell victim to the current which pulled him under one last time.
Pastor Garcia’s “son was in the ocean swimming, and the waves were getting high and there was a strong undercurrent, and he started going under,” Hannah Bower, outreach coordinator with New Covenant Church in Tyler, told the local newspaper. Clarke served as youth pastor before moving to Costa Rica in 2016. “So Manuel swam out to try to save the boy, but he started getting tired. Kelly swam out there and saved both of them, but the undercurrent pulled him down.”
She said paramedics attempted to revive Clarke for 30 minutes but eventually pronounced him dead on the beach in front of his family.
Just over 10 days before his death, a video posted on his “Clarke Family Missions – Costa Rica” Facebook page, shows Clarke celebrating a pre-Christmas service with Pastor Garcia in San Fafael, Heredia, Costa Rica.
“Christmas Day we saw our husband/father sacrifice his own life to save our friends life,” Clarke’s wife Tracey posted on Facebook. “Kelly went out doing what he loved to do and what we were called to do….leave the 99 and save the one just as Jesus did. He [paid] the ultimate price but in return received the ultimate gift of eternal life with our heavenly Father. Our hearts are at peace because we know where he is.”
After raising money on GoFundMe.com, the family is returning with their loved one to their home in East Texas. A celebration of his life is planned for Saturday, January 6 at Rose Heights Church, in Tyler, Texas.