Board of Directors

Board of Directors


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…

Paula Sturgeon

A place where the Spirit dances. Paula was a young girl when she and her parents drove north from their home in Scottsdale, Arizona to eat at the International Restaurant in Carefree. She remembers the exotic middle eastern food served in what is now the Estrem building of Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center. At the time, she had no way of knowing the restaurant was going to become a major church-sponsored retreat center, and, years later, she would be…
Vice Chair

Doug Yock

Broadening the Reach of This Exceptional Place Doug Yock, M.D., was elected to the Board of Directors of Spirit in the Desertin 2018, bringing his leadership experience from healthcare to the retreatcenter. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Medical School andcompleted internship and residency at Stanford University and fellowship atthe University of California San Francisco. Prior to retirement, Dr. Yockpracticed neuroradiology at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis,where he directed Magnetic Resonance Imaging and led the development of the neuroscience…

David Wilder

An Opportunity to Help Others David Wilder first became acquainted with Spirit in the Desert Retreat Centerwhen he met the late Richard Anderson, who at the time was its ExecutiveDirector. Richard learned David was an insurance broker and asked him tostraighten out the center’s insurance program. David made helpfulrecommendations and Richard knew he would be a valuable member on Spiritin the Desert’s Board of Directors. He was appointed to the Board in late 2019. After listening to Richard describe Spirit…

Nola Mellstrom

Networking to Grow Spirit in the Desert Nola Mellstrom was appointed to the Board of Directors in 2018, bringing her management and people skills from her nursing career to Spirit in the Desert.She grew up in the small town of Roseau, Minnesota near the Canadian border, a town well-known for its youth hockey programs. Nola attended St. Olaf College for two years and completed her nursing degree at Minneapolis General Hospital. Because of her wide range of nursing experience including,…

Suki Kisling

Empowering Women Suki Kisling’s zeal for empowering women continues to find many opportunities. She lived in Las Vegas for 28 years where she opened her ownfinancial planning practice. Some of her clients were widows who were at aloss to manage finances. Some had never written a check or paid a householdbill. Suki was there for them with support and education. She said, “Teachingwomen to become independent became a passion. This passion combined withmy Christian faith became the focus of a…

Julie Yates

An International Perspective Julie Yates has managed commercial real estate properties in the UnitedStates and London. After living and working in London for fifteen years,Julie and her husband Steve moved back to Arizona in 2015 and becamere-acquainted with Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center. She said, “Weloved living in London and experiencing the perspective of aninternational community.” In 1993, the Lutheran Church was given facilities and land in Carefreethat had been the International Restaurant and the Adobe Inn. Julie,because of…

Dennis Dahlen

Spirit in the Desert is Consequential Dennis Dahlen became acquainted with Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center while attending the annual men’s retreats sponsored by his church, Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Phoenix. He discovered that the center is a perfect place for a retreat because of its location in the peaceful and beautiful Sonoran Desert of Carefree, Arizona. Later, Dennis was asked to be a member of the Center’s Board of Directors, and for the past two…

John Kautz

Broader and Deeper The Rev. John D. Kautz was elected to Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center’s Board of Directors in 2013. He lives in Tucson, Arizona and one of his prized possessions and activities is thirty years of season tickets attending the sold out University of Arizona Wildcats’ basketball games. John D also takes time to travel from Tucson to Carefree and participate in Spirit in the Desert board meetings and programs. In 2015, he was asked to head…
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