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.
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.