Staff & Leaders

Staff & Leaders

Meet the Spirit in the Desert staff and board of directors. We are here to serve you. Please contact any one of us if you have a question or concern.

Retreat Leader

Joyce Rupp

Joyce Rupp, OSM, is world renown for her work as a writer, spiritual midwife, international retreat leader, and conference speaker. She is the author of numerous bestselling books, including Praying Our Goodbyes, The Door, and Fragments of Your Ancient Name. Her book on aging, Fly While You Still Have Wings, is among her publications earning an award in spirituality from the Catholic Press Association. Joyce is a member of the Servite (Servants of Mary) community and the co-director of the Institute of Compassionate Presence (ICP). She lives…
Founder of Healing of Memories

Fr. Michael Lapsley SSM

Father Michael Lapsley is an Anglican missionary priest who was active in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. In 1990, after being ejected from South Africa, he suffered the loss of his hands and the sight in one eye from a letter-bomb that was sent to him in Zimbabwe by a supporter of the pro-apartheid government in South Africa. After a long recovery from the bombing, Father Lapsley decided to dedicate his life to helping victims of emotional, psychological, and…
Devotional Writer

Steve Holm

Each year, Steve Holm enthusiastically plays more than 100 rounds of golf and writes more than 400 inspiring daily devotionals. Steve is a retired Lutheran pastor and lives in Tempe, Arizona. He is the author of Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center’s popular DAILY MEDITATIONS which are available 365 days a year by email and at He is also the author of the popular Advent and Lenten meditationbooklets published by Spirit in the Desert since 2008. Golf is one…

Dave Schoenbeck

Respect. Mr. Schoenbeck was elected as a member of Spirit in the Desert’s Board of Directors in 2018. He brings to the organization his experience as a senior corporate executive and business coach. His personal values of respect for customers and co-workers were integral to his success as an executive with major national companies; those values harmonize with Spirit in the Desert’s mission of welcoming hospitality for all retreat guests. Dave was one of the co-founders and the Senior Vice-President…

Joel Bjerkestrand

Involved from the Beginning Pastor Joel Bjerkestrand was appointed a member of Spirit in the Desert’s Board of Directors in April 2019, bringing thirty years of involved ecumenical experience with Phoenix area faith communities and civic organizations. He is a dynamic speaker, mediator, educator, and counselor, having served three Lutheran congregations in the Phoenix metro area, one as associate pastor and two as senior pastor. Since 2011 he has been on staff as visitation pastor at La Casa de Cristo…

Melissa Maxwell-Doherty

Expanding our circle of inclusion. Sometimes the Reverend Melissa Maxwell-Doherty, of Thousand Oaks, California attends the Spirit in the Desert Board of Director meetings via video conference.  However, she prefers attending the meetings on campus because, “I have a fondness for the desert, for the Center’s comfortable facilities, and the opportunity to have a retreat experience during a working board meeting.” Melissa, who was appointed to Spirit in the Desert’s Board of Directors in 2016, is Vice President for Mission…

Paul Evenson

Charitable funds are oxygen. “Spirit in the Desert is one of the most exciting and dynamic ministries of the church.” That is the informed assessment of Paul Evenson who has spent years supporting Lutheran congregations, camps, colleges and institutions. When Paul was asked to serve a second term on Spirit in the Desert’s Board of Directors he enthusiastically said, “Yes.” He did so because he knows that the retreat center provides spiritual hospitality for guests of all people of faith. …
Spiritual Companion, Retreat Leader

Sue Palmer

Sue is a Spiritual Companion/Director, trained and certified through John Carroll University’s Ignatian Spirituality Institute, where she also received training in leading Silent Retreats. She has an MS in Mental Health & Wellness with an emphasis in Grief & Bereavement and has a heart for those experiencing the many griefs and losses that a life well-lived brings. Sue has experience as a Stephen Minister, a hospital Spiritual Care Aid, a divorce support group leader, and a hospice volunteer. Her passions…
Retreat Leader – Wellness
Tammy Devine is leader of the Leading Well Learning Retreat at Spirit in the Desert

Tammy Devine

Fostering wellness and healing is a passion and call for Tammy Devine. From nursing, to parish nursing, to health and wellness ministry, she has helped foster health, healing, and wholeness in the lives of God’s people. Tammy has a Masters in Leadership from Luther Theological Seminary, and she is a Lutheran Deacon.  She has served as the director of wellness for a long-term care facility, and currently she is the Wellness Manager for Portico Benefits Services, a ministry of the…
Retreat Leader

Margaret Fell

Margaret Fell has worked with Fr. Michael Lapsley and the Institute for Healing of Memories since 2007. She was one of the founding members of a working group of the Minnesota’s Warrior to Citizen Campaign which has offered the Healing of Memories workshops for veterans since 2009.  She served as Chair of the Institute for Healing of Memories-North America from 2011- 2014 and has been a Healing of Memories workshop facilitator since 2011. Margaret is an Episcopal priest.  She holds a…
Retreat Leader

Diane Jacobson

Dr. Diane Jacobson is professor emerita of Old Testament at Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, MN where she taught from 1982-2010.  She also served as director of the Book of Faith Initiative for the ELCA from 2008-2015. She is a rostered deacon of the ELCA. Jacobson has been a frequent speaker throughout the Church, including the 2011 and 2013 Churchwide Assemblies, the LWF 50th Anniversary Assembly in Hong Kong, and numerous synodical assemblies, rostered leaders gatherings, and churchwide consultations. Dr. Jacobson…
Lead Facilitator, Healing of Memories
Linda Rich is a Healing of Memories Retreat Leader

Linda Rich

Linda L. Rich, DCSW, LSW, CSAC has been an Institute for Healing of Memories facilitator since 2010 and chairs the board of IHOM-NA. As a social worker she has worked in a wide range of addiction treatment, mental health and medical programs. She served in military hospitals with the American Red Cross in Vietnam and in the U.S. She believes deeply in each person’s capacity to heal and to help others heal the wounds of the past. Linda is a…