About Us 2018-01-30T17:39:14+00:00
About Us - Spirit In The Desert

We Welcome You

Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center welcomes all people to experience the pure beauty of God’s creation in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. The sunsets are breathtaking and the sunrises are announced by the calls of the Cactus Wren and Gambel’s Quail. The gardens around the facilities on the eight-acre campus are filled with natural plants, trees, and many species of Sonoran Desert cacti.  At an altitude of 2,580 feet the campus is somewhat cooler than the Phoenix metro area, especially in the glorious evening and early morning hours.

When you arrive, you will be warmly welcomed by a people-centered staff who will orient you to your surroundings. All bedrooms have private bathrooms, a patio or balcony, most with spectacular mountain views. Our experienced chefs will serve homemade, healthy meals and our heated swimming pool and Jacuzzi are available for your enjoyment and relaxation. Meeting rooms with WiFi and AV support are provided for a successful meeting or retreat.

This oasis in the desert also features three walking paths with audio-guided meditation including a Labyrinth, Prayer Path, and Islands of Silence. The bookstore contains a variety of inspiring and insightful books, many authored by our retreat leaders.

Retreats at Spirit in the Desert are available for participants of all faiths and traditions to experience reconciliation, renewal, healing, and transformation. Churches of all denominations and related organizations can hold meetings for leaders and members in a get-away environment that encourages positive communication and productivity. We also welcome and assist individuals who would like personal retreat for one or more days.

We look forward to seeing you at this special place where people experience hospitality and renewal of their callings in the world.

Click HERE to take a tour of the campus with Executive Director, Richard Andersen.

About Us - Spirit In The Desert

Make arrangements for your group retreat, organizational meeting, or personal retreat in advance with someone in Guest Services at 480-488-5218, or Email Us

For program information contact Cyndy Warnier, Program and Development Director at 480-488-5218,  ext. 430 or Email Her

Our Staff

richard andersenRichard Andersen was born in Iowa and grew up in Minnesota.  He is a Vietnam veteran and a graduate of the University of Minnesota and Luther Seminary.  He initially helped construct the ARC Retreat Center in Minnesota and he remained in that community for several years.

After his time at ARC, he served as pastor at Watson Immanuel Lutheran churches in southwestern Minnesota.  Later, he was Executive Director of the Foundation of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Mahtomedi, Minnesota, while also serving as interim pastor at St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church in the city of St. Paul.

In 1991, Richard began a successful fifteen-year career at Thrivent Financial, culminating in the position of Senior Financial Consultant.  During those years, Richard attended training classes at the Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara, California to become a Certified Life Coach.  That training prepared him well when he co-founded a Minnesota non-profit called Third Act Ministries which served groups of people as they individually considered ways in which to transform their lives.

Before coming to Spirit in the Desert, Richard Andersen was called by the ELCA to be Director of Congregational Relations and Senior Major Gifts Officer for Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSS).

Richard says, “I am in awe of how God leads us to serve where we are needed. This call to a vocation of service often comes in the sabbatical time, a time apart where our guests find renewal, reconciliation, healing and transformation. I am passionate about the hospitality that Spirit in the Desert provides encouraging our guests to renew their callings.”

denise berberichFor many of Spirit in the Desert’s guests, the Retreat Center’s well-known welcoming hospitality begins on the phone or in person with Denise Berberich, Guest Services Director.

“My job starts with identifying what people need for a successful retreat, whether that is a group of 50 people, or an individual, couple, or family wanting a renewal experience. I gather their information and put together a package with all of the details for guest rooms, meals and snacks, meeting rooms, equipment, and special requests. There are many details, and when the guests arrive, the entire staff mobilizes to provide a transforming retreat experience.”

Denise said, “I grew up on a dairy farm in Minnesota where I learned a strong work ethic and the importance of working together. Denise describes her employment at Spirit in the Desert as a family where everyone pitches in for the common purpose of serving retreat guests. “At the end of the day, I go home feeling that we have made an important difference for our guests. It is ministry for people from many states and countries.”

The family experience extends to guests. When people inquire about bringing a group of people for a retreat, Denise invites them to take a tour of the campus. She said, “During the tour the guests are introduced to the beautiful campus and stunning desert scenery. It is exciting to welcome them to their retreat and when they return a year or so later, it is like a family reunion.”

cathy rogersCathy Rogers, a native Californian with an entrepreneurial drive, knows the responsibility, freedom, and bottom line challenge of running her own business. She brings that needed experience to Spirit in the Desert as Operations and Finance Director.

Twice, Cathy has tried retiring, but she missed the challenge of rewarding work. She says, “I saw an ad in 2014 for part-time help in guest services at Spirit in the Desert. That position quickly evolved into my current job, and it is the right calling for me.”

Cathy’s financial responsibilities include all accounting functions. Operations includes leading and managing human resources, buildings and grounds, housekeeping, food services, sales and guest services – all components of Spirit in the Desert’s twenty-four hour, seven-day-a week services to its guests.

What excites Cathy and gives her job satisfaction is the recent growth of the Retreat Center. She said, “In July 2016, we implemented a sales team, and we have been growing ever since. Our guest services team listens to potential guests, finds out what they need for a successful retreat, and puts together a comprehensive package that meets their needs. Our repeat business is amazing. Many groups schedule one and two years in advance.  We currently have bookings through 2021. Private retreats of one person, a couple, or a family are becoming a big part of our growth.”

Asked what keeps her motivated, Cathy said, “It is so much fun to welcome new groups from all over the world and greet satisfied guests when they come back for another retreat.” She added, “The renewal our guests experience tells me that Spirit in the Desert has a bright future.”

Cyndy WarnierCyndy Warnier came to work for Spirit in the Desert in 2008, as a part-time guest services person and already had the education, skills, and experiences for her current position of Program and Development Director. Cyndy is a retired paramedic and has degrees in music, dental hygiene, Biblical studies, and graphic arts. With her Biblical and musical skills, she creates and leads retreats and worship events. Cyndy is also an excellent photographer. Her high-resolution photos enhance Spirit in the Desert’s retreat brochures, emails, and website.

Cyndy deeply understands that the foundation of Spirit in the Desert’s relationship with its guests is providing genuine welcoming hospitality and service. She grew up in a family-owned resort business in northern Wisconsin and learned that the family’s livelihood was dependent on every one in the family pitching in and treating their resort guests very well. Cyndy brings that early learning “spirit” to Spirit in the Desert.

Asked to describe the core of her responsibilities, Cyndy said, “My job is to help provide life-changing retreats and to create relationships with people who want to invest in the mission of Spirit in the Desert. I regard my work as ministry because our guests have life-changing experiences; they can be important small changes, and sometimes they are 360 degree turn-a-rounds.”

Cyndy’s energy and enthusiasm seems boundless. Asked what motivates her, she said, “I love to come to work because of my co-workers, the vibrant nature of our campus, and serving guests from around the world.”

al warnierAl Warnier, Spirit in the Desert’s Facilities Manager, was asked what is the most important part of his job, and surprisingly, he didn’t initially mention buildings, grounds, or maintenance.

He said, “The core of my job is making sure the guests are taken care of by responding to their needs.” Al’s business card says, “Just let me know how I can assist you.” He added, “Of course maintaining in top condition the facilities and equipment, as well the swimming pool, the desert foliage, and the fountains is also my job.”

Al, like his wife Cyndy, Spirit in the Desert’s Program and Development Director, grew up in a family that owned a resort in northern Wisconsin. Al’s father passed away when Al was in seventh grade and he and his two brothers helped their mother keep the resort in operation to support the family. That was the beginning of learning the technical skills required in his current job: electrical, plumbing, irrigation, and remodeling. He also learned the importance of happy guests who become repeat business.

Prior to his position at Spirit in the Desert, Al was employed by a major nursery and landscape business in Phoenix where he was responsible for one of the retail stores and the landscape division. When he came to Spirit in the Desert he knew how to care for the desert cacti, plants, and trees on the nine-acre campus that are so important to its serenity and sacredness.

Al enjoys getting to know the guests as he goes about his work and loves seeing them smiling and happy when they leave their retreat. He said, “I regard my work as ministry. My brother is a pastor and I believe what I do is also helping people spiritually.”

saguaro blooms


The mission and viability of Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center is guided by its Board of Directors. Eleven talented women and men generously give their time and expertise to support the executive staff and assure the non-profit organization is a sacred place where people experience hospitality and renew their callings in the world.

Click on the “(Story Title)” to read about the Directors

Dennis Dahlen, Chair,  “Spirit in the Desert is Consequential”

David Tiede, Vice Chair,  “Spirit in the Desert is a Holy Place”

Robert Duea“Living the Third Chapter”

Deborah Hutterer,   “This is a Holy Place”

Tammy Devine,   “Fostering Wellness and Healing”

Paul Evenson

John Kautz

Melissa Maxwell-Doherty, “Expanding Our Circle of Inclusion”

Paula Mortensen,   “A Place Where the Spirit Dances”

Bob Ulland,  “Margin for Mission”

Mary Wennes,  “Global Citizen and Activist”