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A return to Miracle Valley

The exterior of the Miracle Valley Tabernacle as it looks today, after years of neglect.

A return to Miracle Valley

CREATED Jan 31, 2012

Reporter: Guy Atchley
Web Producer: Martha Serda
Photographer: John Wellbeloved 

HEREFORD, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - If you take Highway 92, south of Sierra Vista, it veers into one of Arizona's most beautiful valleys.  Even though it's called Miracle Valley by Christians who envisioned something great there, but it's also been the scene of tragedy.

It took 30 years to put a plaque, but a few months ago, someone finally did.  It memorializes Cochise County Sheriff's Deputy Jeffrey Brown.  He died in a gunfight between members of a black Christian church and Cochise County deputies.  Members of the Christ Healing Center Church had long complained of being persecuted, and when officers tried to serve traffic warrants on October 23, 1982, the bullets flew.  Three church members died and five deputies were injured. Eventually, after years of litigation and a vow from church members never to return to Miracle Valley, the case was closed.

But the story of the land goes on.   It's a story of lost and found -- or found and lost  -- as decade after decade -- church groups have come and gone -- all of them trying to take the valley back to the bustling center of evangelism it once was.  It was a televangelist who got it all started in the late 1950s.

And those who remember him -- are still in awe of what he claimed to do.  Diane Langevin and her family are hoping to restore Miracle Valley.  She says AA Allen could raise the dead. 

During the 1950s, when the relatively new invention of television was gaining in popularity, some Christian Evangelists saw their popularity and donations soar as well.  This is the story of one of those evangelists, how he came to Arizona, built an empire, how it crumbled, and how -- even today -- all these years later -- people are still trying to resurrect his vision for the promised land -- a land they call Miracle Valley.

The tabernacle is a shell of what it once was.  Stripped by thieves, Torn by storms,  Windows shattered -- just like the dreams of an evangelist  who praised the Lord and courted controversy.

His name was Asa Alonzo Allen, but everybody called him A.A.  During the 1950s and 60s, he was a pioneer in televangelism with a heavy emphasis on healing.  

The Allen Ministries were based in Dallas, until a man named Urbane Leiendecker made an offer the Evangelist could not refuse.  

Urbane Leiendecker made an offer the evangelist could not refuse.

Urbane Leiendecker, "And the Lord spoke to me and said why not give him your ranch."

1,200 acres of beautiful Cochise County grassland.  Urbane Leiendecker says he's never regretted his gift, but his family, well, that is another matter.

Urbane Leiendecker, "Oh my sister.  Should have given that to your sister.  And somebody you never knew."

Within a short time, Miracle Valley had its own Post Office where millions of dollars flowed in to the ministry, which was building fast.

James Swearingen, "I put the electricity in this building in 1961."

And like many who followed Allen, James Sweringen believes he saw wondrous things happen here.

James Sweringen, "People getting out of wheelchairs.  That's why they call it Miracle Valley."

At one point, Rev. Allen event claimed to raise the dead, but backed away from that when believers started sending him bodies of loved ones through the mail.

And then came the newspaper reports that Allen had been arrested for drunk driving.  He fought off what he called the attacks of the ministry until his dying day.

Guy Atchley, "Rev. Allen was 59 when he died of  Acute Alcoholism at the Jack Tar Hotel in San Francisco, but don't try telling that to his followers."

Urbane Leiendecker, "At the time of his death that was all lies.  His sister was backslid."

Raymond Atchinson, "AA Allen was a man of truth, honesty, purity."

Guy Atchley, "And now a half a century later a new family is trying to restore Miracle Valley to its glory days."

Diane Langevin, "Do you see that happening again, where you've got 3,000 people in here? How?  Draw the people here by his spirit."

Gil Langevin, "Somebody came to me and said, 'You remind me of AA Allen.'"

Gil Langevin and his wife Diane, have made it their goal to restore Miracle Valley.  In fact, their 21-year-old Son, Michael, has drawn up the plans.

He showed KGUN 9 the renderings.

Looks good on paper, but even the most faithful know this is an enormous undertaking.

Guy asks James Swearingen, "What's it gonna take?  Swearingen, "A lot of money, it's in sad shape."

Diane Langevin, "God spoke to us that somebody will donate 10 million dollars toward restoring this whole property.  A Blessing for the community."

And so, the fund raising begins.  The Langevin Family being the latest in a list of people who have come here over the decades hoping to revive the property.  Will they succeed?  If they do, even firm believers concede that just might e the greatest miracle of all."

Guy interviewing Raymond Atchinson, "When it's being built back up how does that make you feel? Glory. Praise the Lord."

For more information on Miracle Valley and the Langevin family visit:

http://www.miraclevalleyarizona.com/

or Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/MiracleValleyArizona