HEREFORD — A non-denominational missionary in England for the last 6½ years, Rebekah (Allen) Jones flew back to Southeast Arizona for one reason only: To save the historic, religious site that her great-grandfather — evangelist and faith healer A.A. Allen — founded in Miracle Valley 65 years ago from demolition Cochise County was planning for this summer.
“This means everything to our family,” she said, shortly before turning in a stack of signed petitions to the county in her drive to preserve Allen’s legacy fronting State Route 92 in Hereford. “I mean, absolutely everything. My father grew up in the first years of his life in Miracle Valley, sitting at the side of the stage watching miracles being performed in front of his eyes. I grew up hearing about these incredible experiences.”
For three consecutive weeks, (Allen) Jones has spoken before the county’s Board of Supervisors, imploring the county to pull back its plans to accept bids to demolish and sell the 39-acre property where the former bible college and blue-domed cathedral with a wall mural depicting a religious scene has been since 1958.
“This property is sacred,” she told them. “You have a responsibility to preserve this historic property.”
Scores of others also gave impassioned speeches in their allowable five minutes at the board’s Call to the Public to keep the site — deeded to the state of Arizona last March for failure of past owners to pay more than $600,000 in property taxes and then turned over to Cochise County — from the arc of a wrecking ball, which they see as a spiritual site with historical significance that (Allen) Jones plans to rebuild into an “oasis center.”
Like Hereford native Frances Alvarez, whose parents were the first couple A.A. Allen married on stage in the newly-built sanctuary that once drew thousands to his church services, where miracles of healing were witnessed. She told the board Tuesday there is a “yearning to see the place grow and prosper.”
“People still come from all over to see Miracle Valley … a couple just called planning to come from Alabama …for hope, encouragement and inspiration,” she said. “There’s been a strong interest (in Miracle Valley) all through the years. We need this. I believe God saves the best for last. We need hope and we need miracles.”
For now, (Allen) Jones and her supporters can breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Following a workshop session May 9, the board put a hold on demolition plans for the bible college and other structures on the site, where Allen built his ministry into a multimillion dollar business and established the first televised and radio-broadcasted Christian services. It will hold another work session for a future determination.
The county has already sunk more than $50,000 on an asbestos remediation cleanup for two buildings in anticipation of their demolition and subsequent auction of the property.
(Allen) Jones also told the Herald/Review her team behind her drive to save Miracle Valley — which includes her family — has made a formal offer to the board to purchase the property.
“We intend to purchase it, and we made it known to them,” she said. “We are offering a solution to look after the property. That means we will take on the responsibility and the liability for maintaining and safeguarding my great-grandfather’s legacy, including the domed cathedral built by architect H.R. Jernigan, whose many homes he built in a Tucson neighborhood are listed on the national register.”
(Allen) Jones has been tireless in her drive to save Miracle Valley, along with elaborate plans for the site, which during the late 1950s had thousands of worshippers camping in tents along the property fronting SR 92 for summer and winter bible camps.
She has created a website imploring the public to help save the property she says was “key for the civil rights movement and the Christian ‘Healing Revival’ of the 1950-60s.” (Allen) Jones calls for the signing of a petition to notify officials not to destroy the property’s historic structures and that the digitally-signed copy will be sent to decision-making public officials.
Additionally, the website seeks volunteers to help save Miracle Valley with the Allen family members, who have “a passion to see the historic Miracle Valley property used by God.” The group’s vision is to create the property as an “Oasis Center” that would become, among other things, a retreat and conference center, “while being a blessing to the local community.”
It envisions building a 2,000-seat auditorium, a building for 50-200 people, dorms, a swimming pool, RV and trailer hookups, coffee shop and restaurant and a domed prayer tower. The family wants to create a center that can serve churches, groups, businesses, families and individuals.
“We deeply love this community, and my family has very deep roots in Miracle Valley,” (Allen) Jones said. “My grandparents built all these structures on this property except the cathedral dome, which at one time was multi-colored. We know all the nuts and bolts of this property and everything on it. My dad is a church contractor, and he will help reconstruct the sanctuary.
“We have dreamed of this for 20 years. Now we have an opportunity.”
(Allen) Jones is aware of the tragic episode the community still associates with the property, regarding a deadly gun battle that left two dead when Christ Miracle Healing Center and church members that operated on a subdivided property on the north side of SR 92 across from the bible college opened fire on the Cochise County Sheriff’s deputies in 1982.
“This community has gone through a lot of pain because of that,” she said. “But this is not a murder site. We live in day and age where we want to erase history. If we demolish all this, it still won’t heal the pain.
“But our dream to create the Miracle Valley Oasis Center isn’t just our inheritance. It’s the inheritance of Cochise County and Arizona residents, as well as the inheritance of Christians across America. We’ll create jobs and opportunities for everyone to benefit from while creating a positive purpose for the property that will provide a positive impact on the community.”
Hereford resident Ron Moen, who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting against the proposed demolition, is part of a growing volunteer group behind the drive to save Miracle Valley.
“Rebekah has a real business plan of what she wants to do,” he said. “She doesn’t want to make this into what it was in the past, but what it will be in the future. She’s coming at this not from being A.A. Allen’s great-granddaughter, but from the point of view of turning it into an oasis for God’s work.”