Engaging and energetic leader
The Reverend Lowell Nelson, an engaging and energetic leader, was appointed to Spirit in the Desert’s Board of Directors in August, 2022. He brings a depth of senior leadership experience in business, healthcare, and church organizations. He describes his life as a journey of making vocational changes in response to a deep sense of calling. Supporting Spirit in the Desert as a member of the Board is a good fit and an opportunity for him to assist a very important organization.
He recently served as Senior Pastor of American Lutheran Church in Sun City, Arizona. After four years, it felt like the right time to retire and open a new life chapter. A bout of valley fever and its after effects was a part of the decision. American Lutheran Church has a strong connection with Spirit in the Desert. In 1993, Mac and Maybell Estrem, who were members of the congregation, provided nearly three million dollars to purchase property in central Carefree that became the retreat center. The congregation has continued providing support for Spirit in the Desert.
When speaking about Spirit in the Desert’s location in the High Sonoran Desert, and its outstanding facilities, Lowell believes, “A peaceful physical place is vital for people to gather for a few hours or days to connect with oneself, others, and the Spirit.”
Lowell described growing up in Nebraska, the son of a Lutheran pastor, as a “sweet experience.” After graduating from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, he earned an M.B.A. at the University of Arizona in Tucson and he stayed in Tucson working eight years for IBM. His next position was as financial manager for St. Joseph Hospital in Tucson. He felt the call to youth ministry, resigned his hospital position, and began working with youth for three years. That calling was followed by twelve years as President and CEO of Immanuel Health Systems in Omaha, Nebraska.
Next, he served two Lutheran parishes prior to providing leadership for American Lutheran Church in Sun City. To enhance his work in his various positions, Lowell has also earned an M.S.W. from Arizona State University and TEEM Certificate in Ministry from Luther/Pacific Lutheran Seminaries. Lowell and his wife Debbie have been married for 40 years and have three adult children and one grandchild.
Lowell Nelson believes it is the mission of Spirit in the Desert to serve people, “and by definition, that means welcoming everyone, and providing them with Christian hospitality during their retreat experience.”