Near Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert, this Christian theme park was the concept of the then local pastor Reverend Eddie Garver who visualized creating the faith-based attraction as a light and symbol for world peace. In 1950, the US government helped Garver to realize his dream and granted the ‘Desert Pastor’ 5 acres of south-facing land on a desolate mount, overlooking the valley.
The first biblical statue appeared on the site in 1951 in a wash of media attention. The previous year, Frank Antone Martin, a sculptor and poet from Inglewood California, had been refused permission to erect his 10-foot, 5-ton plaster and steel reinforced Christ statue on the edge of the Grand Canyon.
Reverend Garver offered the ‘unwanted Christ’ a home on his desolate hillside, and despite several other offers, Martin chose the Yucca Valley site and bought the statue to Garver on the back of a truck. The giant Jesus travelled from Los Angeles via the Desert Highway and was inaugurated on Easter Sunday.
Over the next 10 years before his death in 1961 at age 74, Martin created more than 35 statues from plaster, steel and concrete, including a 3-story, 125-ton bas-relief of The Last Supper. A window was installed behind the JC’s head, and a platform built providing an excellent opportunity for visitors to pose for a photo with the saviour.
Since 1971 the park has fallen into disrepair, and today is downright freaky.
The effects of the 1992 earthquake in nearby Landers, which knocked off hands, feet and heads exposing steely skeletons, must be creepy to even to the most pious visitor. Limited funding and wanton neglect have also taken their toll, most noticeably in the ‘Blessing of the Children’ scenes where small children are missing limbs and faces.
Fans of the park aren’t just praying for salvation. They have started the Desert Christ Foundation to restore the dusty disciples. They have faith that their efforts will lead to the parks salvation.