When Richard and Nancy Christiansen of Ann Arbor, Michigan built a winter condo in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2000, they were introduced to Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center in Carefree by Pastor Bob Hutson. Over the years Richard and Nancy have attended day lectures at the retreat center, and during one Christmas, their entire family were guests at the center for a special family Christmas celebration.
Richard said, “Spirit in the Desert is a special place for renewal and healing for any and all people, and we have been modest supporters of its mission. A year ago we were excited to learn about the Healing of Memories retreats for veterans who are struggling with psychological and spiritual wounds. Because of that program and the many other wonderful retreats, we decided to up our financial support for Spirit in the Desert.”
Asked about their concern for veterans, Nancy said, “Both of our fathers were in World War I, three of Richard’s brothers served in the military, and a cousin of mine gave his life in Anzio, Italy during World War II. We have a special feeling for our veterans and we want to make it possible for veterans to take advantage of the Healing of Memories retreats.”
Nancy and Richard both grew up in Iowa and they attended the same high school. Nancy worked as a dental hygienist until Richard finished dental school and then she concentrated on their growing family of two sons and a daughter and serving as a volunteer for many causes. They now have seven grandchildren.
Richard’s first career was in the Uniformed Services of the U.S. Public Health Service and included the position of Director of Extramural Programs at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. His second career was as Dean and Professor of Orthodontics, School of Dentistry, The University of Michigan, now emeritus. These positions sometimes required travel around the U.S. and other countries that were enriching experiences for both Richard and Nancy.
The Christiansen’s are confident that Spirit in the Desert is positioned to provide a unique service of hosting people of all backgrounds and faiths. They believe it is important that the retreats continue to offer the opportunity to explore perplexing questions with open minds and for participants to discover what they have in common. They said, “We want Spirit in the Desert to keep its broad vision and deep spiritual roots.”