Staff & Leaders (Page 2)

Staff & Leaders (Page 2)

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 renowned for her work as a writer, spiritual midwife, international retreat leader, and conference speaker. She is the author of numerous bestselling books, including Boundless Compassion, 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 founder of the Boundless Compassion network of programs, retreats,…
Lead Facilitator, Healing of Memories

Sheila Laughton

Sheila Laughton (USAF, Ret.) was a career Intelligence and Force Management officer who served from the Vietnam Era to 2000. She deployed to Saudi Arabia for the first Gulf War. After her military retirement, Sheila founded Welcome Home for veterans of all eras and their families, at the Loyola Spirituality Center in Minnesota. This unique program addressed challenging reintegration issues such as trauma, moral injury, life purpose, from a spiritual perspective. She has worked with men and women who have experienced or witnessed trauma…

Jennifer Braaten

“Spirit in the Desert is welcoming retreaters again. In January 2020, Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center, its Board of Directors, and staff, were still reeling from the sudden and unexpected death of its dynamic Executive Director, Richard Anderson, who had been leading the exciting growth of the Carefree, Arizona retreat center. The Board turned to Jennifer Braaten, Ed.D., of Sedona, Arizona to serve as Interim Executive Director with a portfolio of tasks including leading the search for a new…

Deborah Hutterer

This is a Holy Place The Rev. Deborah Hutterer has been a member of Board of Directors of Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center since 2013. In June 2018, voting members of the Grand Canyon Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America elected Deborah to be their bishop. She will leave left her position as Chief Development Officer for Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest to serve a six-year term as bishop, while continuing as a board member of…
Retreat Leader

Dr. Robin B. Dilley

Dr. Robin B. Dilley is an Arizona Licensed Psychologist, Author, Speaker, and Advanced Veriditas Labyrinth Facilitator.  Arizona Labyrinth Connections is the newest arm of her psychotherapy and spiritual consulting practice and she is excited to share the transformational power of the Labyrinth with you. She offers themed workshops, such as the Wizard of Oz or Lesson’s from the Miller’s Daughter, while specializing in cancer and healing workshops for body, soul and spirit.  Dr. Dilley will also create workshops for your specific…
Lead Facilitator, Healing of Memories
Lori Rubenstein is retreat leader for Healing of Memories at Spirit in the Desert

Lori Rubenstein

After starting her career as a successful family law attorney, Lori Rubenstein, JD, PCC, came to the understanding that the well-being of divorced families was clearly not the task of the legal system. She realized that she was like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole as a divorce attorney. Instead, she chose to follow her own mission – empowering people to heal from their relationship wounds, eventually becoming a certified coach. While seeking that goal, she learned…

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. …

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…

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…

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…
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…
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…