Every night for years, Leesa Bellesi would kneel beside her bed and say a prayer for Oprah.
The pastor's wife still prays for the talk show queen. But she won't watch her show anymore.
Not since Oct. 30, 2006.
Leesa was sitting in her living room that day watching Oprah, as usual, when the daytime superstar told her audience that she had come up with her best giveaway ever. Then she gave 300 audience members $1,000 each. She told them to "open your hearts … be really creative" and go out and spend the money helping others in need; then return to her show in a week to report what good deeds they had done.
Leesa's jaw dropped.
Six years before, her husband, Denny, had handed out $100 bills to 100 random people one Sunday service at Coast Hills Community Church in Aliso Viejo and asked them to go out and do good and report back with their stories in 90 days.
He based his living Bible lesson on the Parable of the Talents and called it the Kingdom Assignment. By the time church members reported back, the $10,000 had multiplied into hundreds of thousands and amazing stories abounded. Word spread and churches, individuals and businesses across the nation began doing the Kingdom Assignment.
The Bellesis' ministry made headlines. And Oprah's people apparently read one of them.
In May 2003, Denny and Leesa got an invitation to sit on Oprah's couch. It was for a show called "The Best Money I Ever Spent." A picture of the couple on Oprah's couch under a heading that reads "Paying it Forward" is still on Oprah.com alongside the words "Pastor Denny Bellesi and his wife had an idea."
Bellesi was giddy. Sitting next to Oprah was a dream come true.
Leesa says she later wrote a letter to the show offering to donate money that Oprah could hand out to the audience so they could do the Kingdom Assignment, but her letter was never answered.
Now, in 2006, she was watching Oprah hand out $1,000 bank cards to audience members: "Isn't it an awesome idea?" Oprah asked her audience. "My idea! My idea, my idea, my idea. Fantastic!"