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 nine-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 features three walking paths with audio-guided meditation including a Labyrinth, Prayer Path, and Islands of Silence.

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.

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 Solveig Muus at (480) 365-0430 or Email Her

Spirit in the Desert Staff

After spending the past three decades in manufacturing, and preparing to move in to retirement, Eric Simonson began volunteering at Spirit in the Desert. Having regularly attended the Wednesday contemplative respite service for years, it was an opportunity to be part of a special place and work with people who were focused on creating an environment that allows people to have transformational experiences. The volunteer experience soon became a full time job overseeing food service and then, a few months later, to working as Director of Operations. Then in April 2020, the board of directors called Eric to be the executive director.

“The opportunity to be a part of this organization is a dream come true, “Eric said, “I am excited to expand the offerings and enable more people to experience the renewal and healing Spirit in the Desert provides. I look forward to working with our talented staff to create new partnerships in our ministry while continuing to provide the hospitality and service that our guests have come to expect.”

Eric was born in Minnesota but was raised and has lived in the Phoenix area almost his entire life. He graduated from the University of Arizona and after 6 years working with America West Airlines spent the next 30 years overseeing Sundrella Casual furniture, a manufacturer of outdoor furniture. He and his wife Michelle have twin daughters and two granddaughters. They enjoy traveling and spending time with their grandchildren in California.

Solveig Muus worked for a decade at Augsburg Fortress Publishers (Minneapolis) in marketing services before joining Christian Brands, a.k.a. Autom, a.k.a. CBC Group (Phoenix) where she was Director of Marketing, Director of Product Development, Creative Director and for the last 10 years, Brand Manager of the company’s Catholic wholesale division. Solveig also is principal of Silk Road Asian Sourcing, a consulting firm that advises clients on marketing strategy, catalog design, and product development and sourcing.

“I am thrilled to be part of the team,” Solveig wrote, “and I know I have much to learn. Spirit in the Desert is a marvelous, spirit-led place with a rich tradition; visitors and guests are passionate about this place and this ministry. It is my hope that we can preserve all that is beloved and beautiful about this sacred space while also developing new programs and partnerships that are consistent with the mission of Spirit in the Desert and take us boldly into the future.”

Solveig is a graduate of Saint Olaf College (Northfield, MN) and has an MBA from Metropolitan State University (Saint Paul, MN). She is a member of Grace Lutheran Church (Phoenix) where for 12 years she has served as Grace’s Outreach Director, working with volunteers and ministry partners to serve the Grace community through its Heat Respite Program, Pancake Breakfast and Grace Room for Clothing and Hygiene Supplies. She sings in Valley Chamber Chorale, is an Airbnb host, loves to hike and camp with her dog, Happy.

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.”

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

Joel Bjerkestrand, Involved from the Beginning”

Dennis Dahlen “Spirit in the Desert is Consequential”

Paul Evenson, Chair,  “Charitable Funds are Oxygen”

Bishop Deborah Hutterer,   “This is a Holy Place”

John Kautz, Secretary, Broader and Deeper

Suki Kisling, “Empowering Women”

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

Nola Mellstrom, Networking to Grow Spirit in the Desert

Dave Schoenbeck, Treasurer, Respect

Glenn Schrader, “Energized for Growth and Leadership for Spirit’s Future”

Paula Sturgeon,   “A Place Where the Spirit Dances”

Dave Wilder, The Opportunity to Help Others

Julie Yates, , An International Perspective

Doug Yock, Vice Chair, “Broadening the Reach of this Wonderful Place”


Mary Wennes,  “Global Citizen and Activist”

Robert Duea, Vice Chair,   “Living the Third Chapter”

Bob Ulland, Treasurer, “Margin for Mission”