Our Staff

If you have questions or need additional information, please feel free to call us or send us an e-mail.

Travis Southern

Senior Pastor

I have been Senior Pastor of Richland Baptist Church since September of 2017. While I am a native Oklahoman, I am thrilled to call the Tri-Cities home. I attended the University of Oklahoma, where I was active in the Baptist Collegiate Ministries and the Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band. After graduating with degrees in Chemistry and Business, I worked for several years in industry before being called into the ministry. While attending the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, I served as pastor of Newton Springs Baptist Church in Fordsville, KY, and later served nine years as pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Purcell, OK. I am also currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Applied Theology (Preaching) at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

I have been happily married to my wife, Mandy, since 2000, and we have three children. I truly love people, and am committed to preaching life-changing messages founded solidly upon the Word of God. I enjoy baseball, fishing, good books, music, being outdoors, and good coffee. I would like to extend my personal invitation to you to join us as we grow and glorify God together!

Scott Wells

Minister of Music

I grew up in Shamrock, Texas; a prospering metropolis of about 3,000 people!  I am thankful to have grown up in a small town, and I still like the small town atmosphere in places we visit.  After beginning with a major in architecture at Texas Tech University, following the Lord’s leading in a call to ministry, I changed majors to Music Education and finished my degree in that.  After serving in three churches in Texas as Minister of Music and Youth, we moved to Richland Baptist in 1990, and became the Minister of Music and Youth here.  After about 8 years of church growth, we needed to add another worship service, and I became the Minister of Music; we added other staff to work with youth.  I am responsible for planning and facilitating the worship services, leading the Worship Choir, the Senior Adult Choir, and the handbell choir, teaching classes at our church, as well as participating in our associational activities, focusing right now on Camp Touchet, our associational camp.

Renae has been my wife since 1981, and my friend for a lot longer than that!  We grew up together in the same small town.  We have three grown children and five grandchildren, all of which we are very thankful for.  When I’m not in church, Renae and I enjoy camping in our great Northwest, and spending time with our kids and grandkids.  I enjoy backpacking in some of our wilderness areas and fishing whenever I have the chance.

To contact me, my email is scott@richlandbaptistchurch.org .

Ron Shelby

Youth Minister

I am a Tri-Citian born and raised and have loved growing up and raising our family here!  My degree is in Electrical Engineering from Washington State University, and worked in that field for six years before God called us into the ministry, when I became Youth Minister here at Richland Baptist in 1999.  I am responsible for Middle School and High School student ministry including Life Groups, mid-week small groups & discipleship, leadership development, mission trips, service projects, fellowship and fun.  I also get to help lead out in outreach in our community through local schools, evangelistic outreach ministries like “Tour Your Final Destination,” organize a local gathering of youth pastors, and be the resident tech support person.

God blessed me greatly with my beautiful bride, Jill, in 1992, who is also a longtime Tri-Citian.  And added to that, we are very thankful for the blessings of five children, one son-in-law, and two grandchildren (Woohoo!).  When not serving in ministry we love spending time together with our family!  Jill teases me that I am her Chip Gaines from HGTVs Fixer Upper because she comes up with the project ideas around our house (and often in ministry) and I enjoy trying to make them happen (with the help of others). I especially like Demo Day! And she is my Joanna Gaines with all the creative, beautiful and fun ideas!  This also means that our kids do not want to do home improvement projects in their own homes.

To contact me, my email is Ron@RichlandBaptistChurch.org .


Robert “BJ” Olson

Pastoral Care Counselor

I grew up in the Portland Metro area (mostly in Beaverton, Oregon).  I met and married (1992) my Loverly wife Amy in Portland and had our first child there.  Amy and I have 5 beautiful children.  We moved to the Tri-cities via the circuitous route of Abilene, Texas (it’s complicated, but at least I can say I came from Texas).

I responded to a call to counseling ministry by completing my Bachelor and Master Degrees in Psychology at Central Washington University.  After graduation I continued my studies privately under the supervision of my pastor in the areas of Bible, Expository Preaching, Church History, and Systematic Theology.  I am ordained as a Southern Baptist Minister.

In my spare time I am Executive Director at Emmaus Counseling Center (Hyperlink here) and Teach psychology, sociology, and math at Gather 4 Him Christian College (Hyperlink here).  In my spare spare time (who has that right) I enjoy reading, building projects, and technology.

I have served part-time at Richland Baptist Church since 2012 as the Pastoral Care Counselor.  My responsibilities include counseling, conflict management, team building, preaching, teaching, and disciple training.

Social Media

FB: https://www.facebook.com/olson.bj

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-bj-olson-14b8019a

Email: bj@richlandbaptistchurch.org

Karen Samuelson

Office Manager

Having grown up in Richland, there is still nowhere else I’d rather live.  I love the Columbia river, the desert and even the tumbleweeds!

I began college on a course to become a surgeon.  That changed due to a brain injury when I was hit by a drunk driver.  God spared my life and had another road for me.  I attended CBC and EWU, where I received my degree in psychology with extensive studies in communications.

After working in management and raising our daughter, I began working in the RBC office in 2010; becoming office manager in 2016.  I am responsible for published communications, graphic design, scheduling, purchasing, contact with the public and church members, supervising the office assistant and volunteers and supporting the most wonderful pastoral staff imaginable.

My college sweetheart and handsome husband, Scott, and I were married in 1981.  We have a beautiful daughter who is a physician.  A passion of ours has been rescuing special needs dogs.  My favorite thing is to be outdoors in God’s amazing creation and especially with a 4-legged friend with a wagging tail.

I can be reached at karen@richlandbaptistchurch.org .

Jill Shelby

Director, Jesus Loves Me Preschool

Although I was born in Eastern Oregon, the Tri Cities is my home.  I went all the way through school in Kennewick and continued my education at Columbia Basin College.  I have my Washington State Early Childhood Education Certificate.  I have been the director for the Jesus Loves Me Weekday Preschool since 2008.  Before that time, I worked off and on at the preschool as time allowed with my growing family as well as many other ministries at Richland Baptist Church including nursery, children and student ministries but preschool is my favorite!  Preschoolers are full of life, words and endless curiosity.  I count it a blessing to be surrounded by them and their parents on a regular basis and to be able to be a little part of their first exposure to Christ.

My husband Ron and I have 5 children, a fantastic son in law and are beginning to acquire grandchildren which is super fun!     Ron and I seem to always be working on some type of home improvement project from building a small piece of furniture to remodeling our home.  I enjoy reading, walking down by the river and spending time with my family.

I can be reached at JLM@richlandbaptistchurch.org.


Amy Vaagen

Children’s Worship Leader

I grew up in the Northwest, moving often, most recently relocating from Bend Oregon.  I am a graduate of Eastern Washington University, Go Eags!  I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Liberal Arts and minoring in Special Education.  I also worked previously in real estate management and have a number of national certifications in that field as well.  After relocating to the Tri-Cities in 2014, we quickly became involved in many different opportunities in ministry at Richland Baptist Church starting with Awana in 2015.   My first VBS with RBC was that summer and by the fall, my husband and I were co-teaching a Sunday School class for the 6th and 7thgrade boys and girls.  I also began to volunteer with our MoPS group.  In 2016 I took over running our MoPS group and continued with the other activities as well.  In 2017, I was blessed to take a position as the Children’s Worship Leader, leading worship services for our 4 year old through 3rdgrade students.  My most treasured ministry is to my amazing husband and four wonderful children.

To contact me, my email is:  childworship@richlandbaptistchurch.org.

Larry Lerma


Larry grew up in California and has lived in our area for 22 years.  He has worked at RBC as custodian for 17 years.  He and Leanne have been married for 20 years.  Larry has 4 grown children and 4 grandchildren.  When he is not at church, he enjoys bicycling and fishing.

Dina Gebretatios

Office Assistant

I am originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where I was born. I moved to the US at the very young age of 11 months old, and I lived the first five years of my life in New Orleans, Louisiana. In September of 2005, I moved to Richland, Washington because of Hurricane Katrina, and I have lived in Richland ever since then. I graduated high school in the year 2016. I am now at Columbia Basin College where I am getting my AA degree and pursuing my dream as a physical therapist. I like to help out in the church where ever I can; I have been helping out with VBS, Awana and Judgement House for the last seven years and I just got involved with Preschool Choir this year.

There are six of us in my family. I am the second oldest of four. I have an older sister and two younger brothers. I enjoy spending time with my friends , going to the park when I can, and just some quiet time at home reading.