Hans Rasmussen, from the Basketball Court to the Lord's Calling

It’s easy to see the pastor when you walk into the Mission Fellowship Church in Salem, Oregon. Hans Rasmussen played basketball at The University of Notre Dame. He stands at 6’ 10” and enjoys greeting people. This young man is a humble person that really doesn’t realize how great of a job he does sending the Lord’s message to people.

Hans (pronounced Hawns) is the son of Larry and Penny Rasmussen. He has two older sisters, Lissa and Kari. Both sisters were outstanding athletes. Kari who is 6’ 3” had an amazing college basketball career at UC Irivine. Lissa went on to become one of the top x-country runners in the state of Idaho. Later she became a crew rower in New Orleans and excelled in that sport.

Hans grew up in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho. His family lived there until he was six years old. At that time he lived in an upper-class neighborhood – his dad was an architect. The economy was always a factor – his parents always found a way to support the family.

They would eventually move to Hillsboro, Oregon – Hans was nine years old. His sister, Kari, became an all-star player for Glencoe High School.

“I remember moving a lot as a young kid, we were never at one place long enough to have friends that I knew well – my dad worked a lot,” Hans said.

Hans wasn’t that big of a sports fan as a young kid, but it was his sister Kari that inspired him to start playing basketball. The basketball coach at Glencoe told her she could get a scholarship to play college basketball if she worked hard at it.

“I idolized my sister – looked up to her. We were at a park near the Sunset Boulevard where my dad was helping her with some basketball drills. I wanted to have a better relationship with her. I think for me, sports are great because of that relationship aspect. Anyway, I started shooting the basketball at this small hoop while she was practicing – I figured if I started playing more it would connect us better,” Hans said.

His dad, Larry, coached a home-grown fifth grade tournament team. Hans was on that team but had struggles because of the high expectations his dad had for him.

“I hated it. It was not fun for me. But now that I think back on everything, I know my dad just wanted the best for me,” Hans said.

Attending many grade schools, Hans remembers Boscow Elementary School – the last one he attended in Hillsboro. He was a tall skinny kid among his peers. He would often get picked on due to his somewhat uncoordinated body. He didn’t seem to fit in with any groups. He wasn’t that athletic so the athletes weren’t too interested in him. He was somewhat of an athlete so the smart kids wouldn’t want to hang around him.

“I didn’t feel like I was one of the cool kids, I didn’t really fit in with any groups. I did manage to have a few friends, but basically jumped around from group to group. I also hadn’t figured out how to stick up for myself at that age,” Hans said.

In the seventh grade at Evergreen Middle School, Hans became friends with Jim who was an amazing athlete. He started playing basketball with Jim regularly and improved drastically. By the time he was in the eighth grade Hans had become a good player.

Hans was a tall kid and with the skills he had acquired the head coach at Glencoe started taking an interest. The coach was excited about his future prospect.

“This is about the time that I started enjoying basketball, I actually felt that I was good enough to play,” Hans said.

Entering high school at Glencoe, the coach moved him up to play JV basketball as a freshman. Hans was contributing enough on the basketball court that he attracted attention from many coaches in the area.

In 1995, his sophomore year, he transferred to Central Catholic High School in Portland, Oregon. Central Catholic had become the state champions the previous year and with Hans added to the roster ... the future could only be brighter. Hans also grew more to reach a height of 6’ 9”.

During high school, Hans played on several AAU elite traveling teams during the summers. He played with a Glencoe tourney team and SEI (Self Enhancement Inner City) from Portland. Hans played with Freddie Jones (became the NBA Slam Dunk Champion). The strongest team he played on was called Triple Threat. This team had players that went on to play in major colleges and in the NBA.

Coming in as an outsider to a Catholic school was very challenging. He was not of that faith and blending in was a little tough. Hans was doing well despite the major adjustments – he was one of the starters on the basketball team and a contributor.

The summer before his senior year he was playing in a Las Vegas tournament with Triple Threat. This team was filled with amazing talent. There were many college scouts at this tournament. Hans played one of his best games in this tournament – 16 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 blocks.

“For some reason I always played better during the spring and summer. There were Division I college recruiters from everywhere. I always felt that my defense was the strong point of my game. Defenders don’t always get the glory, but players that score always get the attention,” Hans said.

With his performance in that game and the coaches recognizing his tall frame and defense abilities – timing couldn’t have been better. He caught the attention of many including John MacLeod, head coach of the University of Notre Dame. Assistant Coach Parker Laketa was wowed even more.

“I started getting calls from many coaches after that game. As this was happening I thought about how I had been inspired more. I was watching colleges like Duke with Bobby Hurley and Christian Laettner. Unfortunately Duke wasn’t one of the colleges after me,” Hans said.

That afternoon, Hans got a call from John MacLeod offering him a $100,000.00 scholarship to play basketball for the Notre Dame Irish. They were inviting him to come for a recruiting trip. Later that summer Hans went on three recruiting trips. In the spring he signed to play basketball at Notre Dame. After talking to his dad they decided it would be best for the education and job opportunities afterward.

Hans was highly recruited that year. All of the PAC 10 (now PAC12) schools, St. Josephs, Santa Clara, Utah, Pepperdine, Annapolis, and many more were interested. He was selected to the Coca-Cola All-American Team and was recognized in the Street and Smith’s Magazine.

He played a lot of basketball all through the summer and in the fall. In 1997 during his senior year something terrible happened, he went down with a stress fracture to his right ankle below the tibia.

“I was really depressed – in tears for a long time. One of my friends came over and we just cried for a long time. Your senior year is the best part – a dream to make it to state,” Hans said.

Luckily Hans had already signed with Notre Dame. His parents encouraged him to put high school aside and focus on college.

Larry and Penny were struggling a bit with jobs because of the economy. Money for them was a little tight at the time, but they still managed. His mom, Penny, had taken on an extra part-time job selling china sets to pay for the private school tuition.

“Mom was great – positive. She always made us believe we could do anything we wanted. I get a lot of my personality from her. I could talk to her about many things – she was encouraging. My dad was kind of quiet, but a hard worker. He was harsh at times and seemed to only want to talk about politics or business. I think because of that it created a strain in our relationship. He came from a broken home and compared to that he did a great job being a dad. Our relationship recently has improved,” Hans said.

Hans acknowledges all the things his parents have done for him, the tournaments they paid for – traveling can be a huge expense. The basketball shorts, shoes, etc. He is very grateful for all of the love they showed him.

It was at Notre Dame that Hans met his wife, Kelly. They were taking the same accounting class and the teacher had paired them up to be partners in a school project. They got to talking and found out they were both from Oregon.

“Kelly was from Salem and I was from Portland. We were sitting together and we started making sarcastic remarks to each other. She was beautiful and smart – we hit it off and became good friends,” Hans said.

Hans had played basketball at Notre Dame for one and a half years thus far. He was a young man that had a problem with authority. He handled a situation in a way that he’d probably do it different if he went back.

He remembers playing his worst game at the nationally-televised Alaskan Shootout (a well-known college tournament). He rolled the basketball over his foot and it flew out of bounds. On defense he was guarding Elton Brand (now in the NBA) – Kelly was watching the game. After the tournament a big meeting was held at the Notre Dame campus. The boosters, the priests, the coaches, and other important administrators were present. The assistant coach stood up in front of everyone and made some remarks about Hans’ terrible performance. He didn’t know why they had recruited him – it might have been a mistake.

“I was really upset after that incident, and I should have handled that differently. It shouldn’t have been about the coaches and what they said, it should’ve been about how I played and how I could improve. I was hurt pretty bad and I didn’t want to play at Notre Dame anymore. I approached the head coach and explained why I was leaving – he was very professional about it,” Hans said.

Hans was really depressed and he began drinking and partying, he felt really low and was empty inside. He even thought about committing suicide several times – one of the worst moments of his life.

“I had just met Kelly too. The change was from private jets, steak dinners, signing autographs, and massive attention to working at a mill for my dad. I was not walking with the Lord at that time,” Hans said.

Colleges found out he left Notre Dame and the recruiting began again. University of Oregon was after him. Head Coach Ernie Kent was working out a deal with Hans, but things didn’t pan out. He ended up signing with the University of Portland. Rob Chavez was excited about a 6’10” center coming to play for him.

Kelly was working on a Y2K project in Salem during that time. One day at work, she passed out – fell on the floor. She was rushed to the hospital and it was discovered that she had a softball-size tumor wrapped around her heart. Kelly was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease.

“This was a tough time in our life and I wanted to be with Kelly, but the coaching staff was not supportive – I told them all to go jump in a lake. I went to be with Kelly and I supported her through all of the chemotherapy treatments,” Hans said.


#35 Hans Rasmussen with his Team in 2001

It was a rough six months for Hans and Kelly but they made it through, Kelly had recovered from all of her treatments. Notre Dame had a different coaching staff and Hans made a connection with Matt Daugherty. He welcomed Hans to come back and play at Notre Dame.

“Kelly and I went back to Notre Dame – I wanted to finish what I started there. My senior year, Head Coach Mike Brey was awesome – we made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. I graduated with a 3.2 GPA and Kelly graduated with high honors. I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to play at Norte Dame,” Hans said.

Hans married Kelly in 2002. They were starting a life together.

A little later another downfall came. Kelly was diagnosed with cervical cancer due to the chemotherapy she had received previously – another battle for her to fight. She underwent chemotherapy once again to treat this cancer and she eventually recovered.

After college, Hans played with the Portland Trailblazers during the summer – a Pro-Am Team to develop for a possible shot at the NBA. He played with players like Damon Stoudamire and Rasheed Wallace. He was also in Pro Camps including working out with 6’ 11” Jermaine O’Neal.

“It made me feel good when I was playing defense on Jermaine O’Neal. The coaches were telling Jermaine that they should have picked me. It was summer and I always played better in the summer,” Hans said with a smile.

Hans experienced what many athletes only dream. He eventually went on to play in Bergen, Norway, in a professional basketball league – he signed a contract. What started out being great ended up being a disappointment. The coach’s language, temper, and expectations were beyond measure. This was not a situation that Hans wanted.

“I had a meeting with the coach and told him that he needed to change the way he treated his players and his negative attitude or I was leaving,” Hans said.

On September 11, 2001 Hans worked out a deal with the team to avoid getting sued for breaking his contract. He would pay for his own flight back home using a credit card. The only problem was that all of the flights had been cancelled because of the New York World Trade Center being attacked by terrorists.

“The coach let me and one other player (with the same idea) stay in his attic until the flights resumed. I lost three nights of sleep and I was very depressed. I had a study Bible that my sister had given me – I started reading it. We started talking about the Lord. It was there that I felt an extreme calling to follow the Lord. If I would have continued with basketball I’m confident I would have been a good off-the-bench player in the NBA. At this point I was done with basketball,” Hans said.

When Hans flew back to the USA, he started working in a construction job in Tacoma. Kelly was working at Legacy Hospital in Portland. Hans had previous schooling at college in the IT (Information Technology) field. Kelly helped get him a job at Legacy. They got married in 2002 and financially they were doing extremely well. Hans had moved up the ladder rapidly – he had become an IT Manager in a short time.

Hans enrolled in a seminary to study the Word of God. He was getting an education to someday become a pastor.

Their wish was to have a family but because of DNA issues and blood issues they would lose 7 babies to miscarriages.

“I think that having kids started being like an idol to us, we wanted that so bad. When we realized that, we decided to adopt a child from Ethiopia.  Before we started the process we found out Kelly was pregnant with the twins, John and Jaden,” Hans said.

After John and Jaden were born, the miscarriages continued to 3 more – a total of 10.

Hans and Kelly were attending Athey Creek Fellowship, a church in Wilsonville, Oregon. It’s there that Hans learned so much. He speaks highly of Brett Meador, the pastor at Athey Creek.

Hans realizes now that God was training him to become a pastor of a church. He was involved in kids’ ministry, nursery, kids’ camps, sound, setup and tear down. You name it and Hans did it passionately.

"We started praying for me to become a pastor somewhere. Shortly after that, Brian Lindon, who is from the Salem/Keizer area, called Athey Creek Fellowship. He said that he couldn’t find a church that taught in the style that Athey Creek did. He was wondering if they could send someone to start a Bible study in Salem,” Hans said.

In March of 2011, Hans came to Keizer, Oregon, and started a Bible study at Brian’s house. Each week more people started showing up. They moved the bible study to a room at the Keizer Civic Center. Mission Fellowship was planted and it began meeting at Keizer Elementary School. Mission Fellowship has grown to 300 people who now meet at Straub Middle School in West Salem – located on a hill overseeing a beautiful view.

Hans and Kelly left their high-paying jobs, friends, and upscale lifestyle all behind to follow the Lord and do his will.

“It was a very tough thing to do. Our salary was four times more. The Lord has done an amazing thing starting this new church,” Hans said.


Jaden, Hans, John, and Kelly holding Kara

Being a pastor has challenges. Society doesn’t like to hear what the Bible has to say. Pastor Hans has offended people because of this. Sometimes it’s difficult to teach the Lord’s Word. Hans messes up at times – he can be too hard or too soft getting the message across. He’s still working at finding a balance.

“Being a pastor is an amazing job, but a hard one at the same time. It’s like being a dad to 150 people – when their hearts break my heart breaks – when they rejoice I rejoice. I sit quiet when people make unwise decisions and I just have to let them. I’ve learned that my job is not to be a pastor but to love people. Not just teaching, administration, counseling, and all the rest, but loving them as if they were my own kids,” Hans said.

It’s a difficult thing, taking on everyone’s stuff – abuses, addictions, sleepless nights. There are a lot of tears in this job. Hans prays for people regularly. All of that stays with him when he’s at home with his family.

Hans has led Mission Fellowship in the Lords work. They have an ongoing project with the DHS (Dept. of Human Services) visitation rooms – remodeling and painting them for the foster kids waiting to be placed in Marion County. Mission is active in Young Life and Wild Life (Jr. High Kids) programs. Internationally, members of the church sponsor 12 kids in Africa through Compassion International. In Burkina Faso, Africa, Mission supplies building materials for church roofs, food, and pastor teachings of the Bible verse by verse.  Hans has close ties with Marcel Yonogo who is the leader building churches and spreading Jesus’ word throughout Africa.

“My goal in life is to first know my Savior as well as I can. At the end of the day I’d like to stand in front of the Lord and say that I have done His will as a pastor, dad, and a husband – sometimes I feel I don’t do a very good job at that. I want to have faith in teaching the Lord’s Word faithfully,” Hans said.

Hans, What kind of things have you done for your community?

I haven’t done much, but I think the Lord has done a lot. I try to empower people to use their gifts that the Lord has given them. If I can do that, I will consider myself a good leader. A good example is the Withams, Shane and Malia. They have taken on a huge task in partnering up with DHS and loving on foster care kids, and our church supports them.

Will your kids play sports?

My kids love playing sports, I think they will always play. It will be up to them if they want to play organized sports. I will support them no matter what, but they have to understand what the important things are in life. The Lord comes first and family comes second. Sports can also be good for ministry.

How do you define success?

I don’t consider success money, a job, house, the number of kids, or any of those kinds of things. A person who can weather the storms of life with joy and good temperance, that’s a person who has been raised successfully or who has been encouraged successfully – that’s what I want for Kelly and my kids, I love them.

Favorite college team?

Duke – I was inspired by some of the players and their program. If they would have offered me something I would have accepted.

Favorite NBA team?

Celtics, I’ve always liked them. I enjoyed watching Larry Bird, Dennis Johnson, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish.

Favorite music band?

I enjoy Red, Josh Garrels, Josh White, and Rend Collective.

Favorite movie?

I like Hoosiers, The Right Stuff, and Black Hawk Down.