Like an oasis in the desert, Canaan in the Desert offers refreshment, though of a different kind. Yes, there’s water, but also quiet, and beauty, and reminders of God’s great love for us. Canaan in the Desert is a prayer garden in northern Phoenix, Arizona, run by the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, an order of Lutheran nuns started in Germany in 1947.
The deserts of the Holy Land and of Arizona are situated on different continents, but at similar latitudes, so the climate and the vegetation are somewhat similar. It’s possible to pretend you’re walking where Jesus walked as you visit the garden. (Click on the smaller photographs to enlarge them.)
The first stop is the Bethlehem grotto, recalling Christ’s birth.
But Bethlehem was soon a dangerous place for the Baby. His foster father, Joseph, received a warning in a dream to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt.
Perhaps they traveled along terrain like this:
We fast-forward to end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. After His last supper with His disciples, He invited them to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray with Him.
But the disciples could not stay awake.
Gethsemane is also known as the garden of olives. Fittingly, an olive tree overhangs the sculpture of the praying Jesus.
While Jesus is praying, Roman soldiers enter the garden. After Judas betrays the Lord with a kiss, the soldiers arrest Jesus and take Him to Pilate.
Pilate orders Him beaten. . .
. . . and the soldiers mock him and crown him with thorns.
Though Pilate tries to convince the Pharisees to let Jesus go, they demand His crucifixion.
But the Good News is, His death is not the end of the story.
At each location in the garden is a bench so you can sit awhile and meditate on the scene before you. Also, scattered around the garden are little boxes filled with devotional materials to help lead you into prayer:
Plaques quoting scripture and sayings of M. Basilea Schlink, one of the founders of the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, dot the garden.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd:
And a little more of the wild desert beauty:
Canaan in the Desert is a lovely place to rest and pray. I enjoyed my time here last week, my second visit; I plan to come regularly.
Now it’s your turn. Have you ever been to Canaan in the Desert or another place that drew you close to God? Share in the comments below.