When Founding Pastor Denny and Leesa Bellesi, after 20 years of ministry, passed the baton over to the new Pastor of Coast Hills Church (January 2005) the churches media director Bub Kuns decided it would be fun to do a video of life with Denny and Leesa from their daughters Brooke and Natalie' perspective. Do you ever really want to know what Pastor's kids think about their parents and their parents all consuming ministries... well here is a respectful peek.
Grant High School – North Hollywood, CA
San Diego State University, graduating from California State University, Northridge, CA in Psychology.
Graduated President of his class from Denver Theological Seminary with his M Div June/1979.
Denny grew up third generation Italian. His Paternal Grandparents, Arnold and Bellesi came to America and soon found Christ at the Azusa Street meetings in Los Angeles, CA. With their new found faith Denny’s Grandparents started an all Italian speaking Pentecostal Church called Christian Assembly in Glendale. With very little money for an immigrant church Denny’s Grandfather lead as the lay pastor of Christian Assembly for over 50 years. That church is still in existence and is now called Eagle Rock Christian Assembly.
These were Denny’s roots, but it did very little for a boy who was raised in the San Fernando Valley where sports consumed his days. Christianity was an embarrassment to him going as far as to turn the clocks back in his house on Sunday Mornings hoping his parents would sleep in and miss church all together.
That all changed when his parents, Rosann and Harold Bellesi, took him to Van Nuys Baptist Churches youth group and he ran into a good friend and sports rival, Rob Scribner. Rob was sharp and Denny respected him very much. Denny started to change his view of Christianity. He thought, “if Rob can be a Christ follower maybe there is something to this”. Within a few months after a youth event Denny gave his heart to Christ and crossed the line of commitment to be a believer. It wasn’t long before Denny’s quiet leadership skills began to show up, becoming a stand out in this well established youth group where over 500 10th –12th graders attended on a Sunday. Denny’s Senior year he was voted in President of this youth group beginning his ministry of leading with humility, humor and grace.
Jim Grindle - Youth Director of Van Nuys Baptist Church
Faith and Jack Halverson – Pre and Post Marriage Mentors
Dr. Vernon Grounds – President Denver Theological Seminary
Pastor Larry DeWitt - Senior Pastor Calvary Community Church
Denny’s Top 5 Strengths
(in order) Ideation, Strategic, Connectedness, Communication, Belief, From Now, Discover Your Stengths/FP Free Press/Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D.
Denny’s Ministry Experience
Youth For Christ—San Diego 1970-73 (Campus Life Director)
Summer Mission—Naples, Italy—CBFMS—Jun-Aug 1973
Van Nuys Baptist Church—1973-76 (High School Campus Ministries Staff/ Youth Director)
Youth For Christ—Denver, CO (Campus Life Volunteer staff while in seminary—1977-79
Youth For Christ—San Diego, CA –1979-80 (Campus Life Staff Training Director)
Calvary Community Church,--Westlake Village, CA—1980-85 (Associate Pastor- Youth/ Young Couples/ Mission-Outreach)
Coast Hills Community Church—Aliso Viejo, CA 1985-2005 (Founding/ Senior Pastor/ led church from launch of 10 people to 7000 congregants)
Lake Avenue Church—Pasadena, CA –2005-07 (INTERIM Weekend Teaching Pastor)
Kingdom Assignment, International—Lake Forest, CA – 2006-Present Founder
Board of Directors, MOPS, International, Denver, CO--2006- Present
Board of Directors, New Life Ministries, Laguna Beach, CA--2006- Present
Orange County Boy Scouts of America—Man of the Year—2003
Senior Class President—Denver Seminary, 1978-79
Kingdom Assignment (Co-Creator), 2000- Present
Pastor’s Roundtable (Creator)—1995-Present
Hole-in-One (9th Hole, North Course--The Lakes Golf Club), July 7, 1995
Maintain a 6 Handicap in golf
34 years of marriage
2 married daughters, 3 beautiful grandchildren
Denny the Pastor
Denny have written and preached over 500 sermons on every subject under the sun.
Leesa’s Schooling Cleveland High School – Reseda, CA
Pierce Jr. College - Woodland Hills, CA
PHT – “Putting Hubby Through” Denver Seminary
KA Board of Director Bio – Short for publication
Leesa was born in Southern California in 1955, same year Disneyland came to be. She celebrated her 50th along with Disneyland… which was a perfect fit. Everything changed, and her story began, when her handsome, athletic brother Britt Saffell was killed by a drunk driver in the spring of 1966. He was a popular and well liked guy and it showed at his funeral at Forest Lawn in North Hollywood when 700 of his closest friends showed up. His passion was Surfing, the reason Leesa’s parents put on his grave stone “A Surfer who stood tall and a friend of us all”, a phase that was penned by his surfing buddies. Something Leesa’s family did not know, until Britt’s death, was that he had become a Christian in the youth group of Van Nuys Baptist Church just weeks before his death. That church, Van Nuys Baptist, surrounded Leesa’s family with love and care during such a difficult time. When Leesa was 13 years old she too committed herself to Christ, walking down the aisle on the 17th verse of “Just as I am”. Leesa was on fire as a Christian and was bold in her faith. Where before she felt awkward and not comfortable in her own skin as a teenager, she became confident and alive in Christ. She knew her purpose and that was to give glory to God for the rest of her life. She soon became a leader in the Jr. High and later the High School group under the direction of Jim Grindle. Known lovingly at Cleveland High School as the “little Jesus freak” she found her new life to be exciting and fulfilling and has never looked back or regretted one moment of finding the way, the truth and the life.
Faith and Jack Halverson- Pre and Post Marriage Mentors
Jim and Ricki Grindle - High School Youth Pastor and Wife, Van Nuys Baptist Church.
Larry and Beccy DeWitt – Pastor and Wife, Calvary Community Church, Westlake Village, CA
Harry and Pat Frum – Elder/Friends – Calvary Community Church
Kay Barker – Women’s Director Coast Hills Community Church
Leesa the Speaker
Leesa has worn many hats in ministry over the last 35 years and has enjoyed every minute of it. Leesa is a seasoned speaker with a humorous style that weaves scripture into every day life experiences. Subjects in her many honed messages of “Daring to Dream” to “Becoming the Ephesians’ 5 Woman” have made her a sought after speaker for one day events or week long conferences and retreats.
Latest Endorsement – November 12th 2008
Having Leesa join us for our annual women’s event, ‘Flourish’ at Door of Hope in Tasmania, Australia was an absolute delight. Leesa’s upbeat, professional and unique way of speaking into the lives of women was simply a joy to experience. Her style is easy listening as she naturally connects straight to the heart of many in her powerful and enriching style.
Not only did Leesa bring all of these qualities and more to our audience, she genuinely made a way into each of our hearts, which was a beautiful thing to sense in such a short space of time. Leesa is committed to the cause God is calling her to and staying true to who He has uniquely crafted her to be, all the while powerfully impacting those she crosses paths with. Leesa & Denny became treasured friends to not only myself, but to my family and my team. This was the first year our local news channel showed up and Leesa handled herself beautifully with just minutes to prepare for an on camera interview that aired on that evenings news cast.
Amanda Towns – Women’s Ministry Director, Door of Hope, Launceston, Tasmania
Dare to Dream – Jeremiah 29:11
Becoming the Ephesians 5 Woman
Creating a Climate for Intimacy
The Kingdom Assignment – Live to Give
Denny and Leesa speak at Marriage Retreats four messages entitled
Through The Years
Still in Love
Leesa in the News
Cover story of the Orange County version of “Today’s Woman” in July/07.
(click here to view)
See below, Leesa in the Entertainment Industry,
Strengths Finder Top 5 in order - Woo, Positivity, Activator, Communication, Belief
Leesa the Author
After her disappointment of almost being on the Oprah Show in April/2000 she wrote a book entitled “Things I Wanted To Say On Oprah”. Leesa worked on writing the manuscript through that summer with her mentor and friend Steve Arterburn of New Life Ministries. At that time she was the editor of something Coast Hills Church was beginning to feature in the weekend services called “My Story”. Leesa would edit twelve pages of a story and take it down to two pages, double spaced, 12 size font which made it exactly 5 minutes for the speaker to tell their story. As writing was becoming a great joy and increased talent for Leesa something big happened in her life November/2000, called the Kingdom Assignment. In January 2001 Leesa felt a calling to write the Kingdom Assignment with her husband Denny. Leesa believes, publishing is a mystery, but when God wants something to happen it happens. After this realization, the Bellesi’s had an Agent in a week and a two book contract with Zondervan in a month. The Oprah book still sits on the shelf unpublished, but was the beginning of something God had in store to use skills of Leesa’s that she had only dreamed about in the past.
The day Leesa and Denny were invited to be on the Oprah Show in May/2003 she read to Denny the words she had written Feb/2001 in a journal.
“Everybody thinks my dream is to be on Oprah. My dream is not to be on Oprah. My dream is to do something in my life that is worthy of being on Oprah and affect other peoples lives. If God can find a way for me to be on and share my faith and have an impact, then yes I want to be on Oprah. I desire to give God glory in all I do and hear those words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”. So all along as I attempt to accomplish these things I want God to have the glory and for me to have a hand in furthering His kingdom”.
Now we had a book that was all about God, faith and the Bible it seemed His perfect timing to see this dream fulfilled.
Note: After Leesa and Denny were on Oprah and and the KA story was told…the book the Kingdom Assignment went from being in 94,000 place on Amazon to 1,500 place in just 24 hours.
The Bellesis now self-publish through “Kingdom Inspired Publishing” and their story has been told by other authors:
Beyond Jabez, by Bruce Wilkinson, Multnomah
Showdown, by Radio Host Larry Elder, St. Martin Press
Passionaries, by Barbara R. Metzler, Templeton Foundation Press
The Externally Focused Church, Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson, Group Publishing
American Profile’s Hometown Heros, Carole Marshall, HarperSanFrancisco/Harper Collins
Girl Wise, Julia DeVillers, Prima
Kingdom Assignment is in other languages:
Portuguese, Korean, Dutch
In the works:
Spanish, Chinese, Indonesian, Nepalese
The Bellesi’s were contributing Authors in “The Complete Book of Marriage”/ Stoop/ Revel
Leesa was a contributing writer for “Girl Wise” Julia DeVillers, Prima
Seeing people in ministry get a reprieve
In September 2002 Denny and Leesa invested in a Mobile Home on the top of a hill in Laguna Beach, CA. The day of it’s purchase it was called KARC (Kingdom Assignment Retreat Center). From that day Denny and Leesa have been using that home as a ministry tool for people who need a rest. It has always been a passion for Leesa to have a home where missionaries and people in ministry can have a time away for free.
Dance is a passion for Leesa, but not how you might imagine. After teaching dance for 20 years Leesa lost that gift and career opportunity when a flaming 250 lb. Cirque du Soliel clown fell off the stage on top of her. Celebrating Leesa’s birthday Denny had purchased front row seats in that it was one of Leesa’s favorite touring acts. Leesa got a bulging disc in her neck when the performer tumbled off the stage and the propane tanks and his full weight fell on her. This became a three-year battle for Leesa where she suffered with terrible physical and emotional pain. Years of physical therapy and chronic pain counseling wore her down to a place she never thought she could go. Leesa has always been a positive person, but life became so hard that the feeling of “not being able to go on” was a daily occurrence. Even though this happened in front of 1500 people Cirque du Soliel and/or AIG, their insurance company took it all the way to a Jury trial. Leesa never knew when the insurance cameras were following her making it impossible to really live life. A friend told Leesa that someone in the Jury needed to hear about Jesus and that is why God was allowing it to go this far and Leesa agreed. When the trial began in February 2007 it was the first time in Orange County history that the attorneys could ask the Jury pool what they believed in, what there faith was and if they too had experienced physical pain. What the Bellesis saw was extraordinary. Seeing Jury pool members melt down in the Jury box. One proclaimed he was a Catholic, another a Buddhist, another a Born Again Christian, several told that they believed in nothing that their was no God. It was fascinating. When the trial was over February 28th 2007 the Bellesis stood victorious from the legal sense and God was glorified. Jesus was lifted high and it was over… praise God. So now when Leesa considers dance and the chance of having the opportunity to share that with others again it feels like a gift to her… 100X’s over.
When Leesa’s brother, Britt, died she became the boy of the family. Watching the fights and football with her Dad became a weekly event. Little did she know she would become an avid football fan. Leesa believes it is the best game ever created and has the best rules. Leesa loves football so much she is on two Fantasy Football leagues. One is with her family and some friends and the other, after a little begging, became the first woman in an all male league. And guess what… she is in first place. Leesa tries to be humble and knows if she trash talks too much she will experience “pride before a fall” so she tries to keep her mouth shut. Jerry Wilkinson who is one of the KA Board Members and is the leagues commissioner and finds Leesa very irritating. Note: Leesa finds it completely demeaning when someone asks if she picks the team by the colors of their uniform. She knows the rules and she knows the players … thank you very much. Team name is: Girls Rule…. GRrrrrrrr!
Leesa’s Dance Experience
In 1983 while celebrating Leesa’s mothers 60th birthday her Mom, Lynn, said something that stirred Leesa to thinking. She said; “here I am 60 years old… I always wanted to be a dancer and I never was”. After a disappointment of not making it for Cheerleading in High School this had also become a secret dream of Leesa’s. On her way home, Leesa drove along the 101 Freeway and she thought; “you know I don’t want to be saying that when I am 60 years old”. Even though Leesa was the ripe old age of 27, not an age that most people get a dance career, a Pastor’s wife and the mother of 2 small children, she offered up a prayer, got Denny’s wisdom and decided to take the embarrassing risk of being laughed at. She had a friend by the name of Bobbie Tauber that owned a dance studio. Bobbie was gracious and very generous and after Leesa shared with her the dream she had of taking dance classes, Bobbie offered her a dance scholarship. This was such a gift being on a Pastor’s salary, making this a “dream giver” possibility. Leesa started with Tap, then Jazz, then the scary Ballet along with all the amazing nine-year-olds in the class. A year later Bobbie asked Leesa to start teaching, which meant she had to choreograph for the spring recital. Only with God’s help she actually learned to count to 8 and figure it out. Leesa started getting outside Choreography jobs. When Denny and Leesa moved to Orange County to start Coast Hills Community Church she thought maybe her fledgling dance career was coming to an end. She decided to pick the best Ballet school in town and begin taking classes. After 6 months, the directors asked her to start teaching. By God’s grace and the help of gracious people Dance did become a career for Leesa. She believes no dream is ever too late.
In three of the homes Leesa and Denny lived in they have made the garage into a dance studio, allowing young and old to come and rehearse for free. Currently they live in Lake Forest and just recently finished a project of turning their garage into a dance studio. If they build it they will come, because the night the project was completed, 7 dancers from Saddleback Church arrived to rehearse in front of the mirrors for Saddleback's 2008 Christmasprogram.
Leesa in the Entertainment Industry
As a teenager Leesa remembers standing to her feet at Hume Lake Christian Camp, after hearing Kenny Poure speak, with the challenge of saying out loud “Here I am Lord send me”. Leesa was convinced she was going straight to Africa, but God said, no and had different plans for Leesa. Surprisingly, God has thwarted Leesa’s efforts to get to Africa, but on a beautiful California day in January of 2006 Leesa said it again, “Here I am Lord send me”, but this time with the little thought; “to minister to the back stage of American Idol”. Shortly after that she saw a beautiful singer by the name of Katharine McPhee on the next weeks episode of American Idol. She felt called to pray for Katharine, which she did. A month later Leesa was with Denny where he was preaching at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, when a cute young couple came up to her after the service. The couple wanted to get together with Denny and Leesa for coffee, they exchanged information, but as Leesa turned away she was asked if she could pray for the young girl standing there. Absolutely, Leesa’s said; and then she was asked… do you watch American Idol? Leesa was embarrassed to admit that she did and said; sort of sheepishly, ummm… yes. She then was told that the young girl was Katharine McPhee. Leesa didn’t recognize her and was pretty much in shock. Here was the girl she had prayed for standing in front of her asking to be prayed for. That was the first of about 30 miracles that took Leesa to the back stage of America Idol, beginning a three-year ministry to date.
Leesa also works seasonally with Media Placement where she hires the Celebrity Escorts for four major Award Shows, Golden Globes, SAG Awards, Oscars and Emmy’s. Leesa has the privilege of hiring sharp and enthusiastic college students to escort the nominees through the Luxury Lounge where they receive their gifting items.
Leesa and the WELL DONE Awards:
In early 2007 Leesa got the idea of celebrating people that are doing extraordinary KA around the world with their lives. So began the first WELL DONE Awards.