Many of the things that are strong and healthy about BelPres are a result of Dick Leon’s leadership here. During his 15 years as senior pastor he moved us from being a neighborhood church to a regional church, leading multiple building campaigns for the current Sanctuary and Community Center/gym which allowed us to expand our reach. He not only built BelPres wide, however, but he also built it deep.
Dick recognized that this is a gifted, generous, faithful congregation that wants to follow Jesus and make a difference in the world. He was quick to identify people’s gifts and deploy them into leadership that would strengthen their faith and their connection to Jesus. When I arrived I was impressed with how deep the bench was with lay leadership and with people who did not just attend church, but were devoted followers of Jesus.
More than anything else, however, Dick was a spiritual father. When he first came to BelPres he was in his early 50s, and he did what good fathers do. He encouraged, challenged, blessed, empowered, and tapped the potential of so many. I cannot count the number of people who have said Dick was the spiritual father who was crucial in the growth of their faith. I’m one of those people.
Through conversations, breakfasts, and coffees, Dick was a mentor, counselor, advisor, and father figure to me, and always so encouraging. He always gave great advice, and then a pep talk that ended with —
“You can do it, you’re doing great.”
Just the sound of his voice made me feel empowered, encouraged, and eager to face the next challenge. He never made me feel like I had to fill his shoes, but always sought to help me be my best self. And not just as a pastor, but as a Christian, husband, father, and friend. Because he was those things—and so much more—losing him is very painful. One woman said to me, “I feel like an orphan,” and in many ways I feel the same. While I celebrate the hope we have in the resurrection, and the knowledge that we will meet again, I am still left with a void in my life and deeply mourn his loss.
“Class act, One in a Million, A Man of Character, Integrity, Honor. They don’t make them like that anymore.”
These are just a few phrases that describe Dick Leon. It would require a very long book to detail all the ways Dick changed so many lives for the better. We can’t list them all here, but we want to dedicate this Messenger to Dick and all the ways he made BelPres, and our lives—better. The Bible says to give honor where honor is due, and if ever honor is due to anyone, it is to Dick Leon. His was a model life in many ways; a life extraordinarily well led, and as one way to give honor and say thank you, we dedicate this Messenger to him.