Staff & Leaders (Page 3)

Staff & Leaders (Page 3)

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.


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…
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…
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,…
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, Principal of Devine Coaching. 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 until recently was the Wellness Manager for Portico Benefit Services,…
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…
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

Dr. David Tiede

Dr. David Tiede earned the B.A. degree from St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn., in 1962, attended Princeton Theological Seminary in 1962-63 and received the B.D. degree from Luther Seminary in 1966. He earned the Ph.D. degree from Harvard University in 1971. His service as President of Luther Seminary has given him opportunities to sustain his New Testament scholarship, especially in Luke and Acts, and to draw upon these resources in his leadership in theological education. His books, articles, and lectures focus…