EDMOND — Mike Armstrong thinks back to a year ago and remembers the whirlwind of change all around him.
Armstrong, 39, then a meteorologist for KWTV-9, recalls helping to forecast the tornadoes that ultimately battered several Oklahoma communities in May 2013.
At the same time, his mentor and friend, longtime KWTV-9 meteorologist Gary England, was preparing to retire. And Armstrong was helping with tornado disaster relief efforts with Samaritan’s Purse, an international humanitarian relief agency founded by evangelist Franklin Graham.
But the biggest change of all was to come several months after the storms.
Armstrong departed KWTV-9 not long after England retired in August. Armstrong accepted a position as a ministry leader at Henderson Hills Baptist Church, 1200 E Interstate 35 Frontage Road.
These days, he still looks to the heavens for answers — just in a different way.
Chasing a career
Armstrong has been Henderson Hills’ director of new membership since September. He and his wife, Kristen, and their four children have attended the church for six years. Before that, the family worshipped at Northwest Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.
He said the move from broadcast journalism to ministry wasn’t as huge a leap as some might think.
Faith has guided the Ponca City native’s life even as he dreamed of chasing storms.
“Before all of this happened, people asked me if I was ever going to be a preacher. I just laughed. I just didn’t see it as an option. It just wasn’t on my radar,” he said, laughing at his pun.
Armstrong said he originally planned to be a professional trumpet player, and music was what he studied at the University of Arkansas.
However, out of his “three M’s,” as he calls them — music, meteorology and ministry — meteorology won out. He said his passion dimmed for his trumpet playing just as his avid interest in meteorology increased. Armstrong said he went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in meteorology from the University of Oklahoma.
He was thrilled when England asked if he wanted to became a storm tracker for KWTV-9 in April 1999. Armstrong said he was out working in that capacity when the deadly tornado outbreak of May 3, 1999, occurred. He said England was great to work with and always gave invaluable advice to the storm trackers keeping pace with the tornadoes.
“Gary would always tell us there’s no video worth dying over,” he recalled.
Armstrong said he began working as a broadcast meteorologist for KWTV-9’s weekend morning show in 2001.
He said he liked working with England, whom he grew up watching on TV. Armstrong said he particularly liked that through meteorology, he could help people make good decisions regarding their safety in the midst of storms.
‘God is still providing’
Armstrong said he felt compelled to work with the disaster relief teams with Samaritan’s Purse in the aftermath of the May 2013 tornadoes. The invitation to serve as a volunteer with the humanitarian aid group came after he spoke at a Matthew West disaster relief fundraiser concert at Emmaus Baptist Church.
In early June, Armstrong went with the disaster relief teams, and they ended their encounters with storm survivors, including an El Reno couple whose home had been destroyed, by praying for them, he said.
“I remember standing in the middle of a field and praying with this couple, reminding them that God loved them and had a plan for them,” he said. “That was when I saw the world of meteorology and ministry connect.”
Armstrong said he thought back to this time when he learned he would not be promoted to KWTV-9’s chief meteorologist position, replacing England.
“I thought God was pouring a foundation for what He was going to do,” Armstrong said of his ministry time with Samaritan’s Purse.
Armstrong said he wasn’t bitter about not getting the job, but he was disappointed. Then he thought, “How can I be disappointed when God is still providing?”
When Henderson Hills asked if he would think about accepting a post with the church, he said, “I recognized right away that it was God calling me.”
Armstrong said, looking back, he was grateful that the Lord guided him to ministry.
“I think God uses times of disappointment to move us,” he said.
He said he is grateful for his experience at KWTV-9 and particularly his opportunity to get to work with and befriend England.
“It was a really special time,” he said.
Meanwhile, social media has allowed Armstrong to put his meteorology background and his love for people to good use. He said he created a Facebook page called “Shelter From the Storm,” and he interacts with people all the time by offering words of prayer and Scripture and a timely weather forecast or two.
“I have a unique way to connect with people because of what I’ve done (at KWTV-9). I love that God is going to get the glory,” he said.
“It’s just how God knitted me together. I just care about people.”