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Scott’s Column: Sandhills Retreat

Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones
September 28 2020

Shortly after I arrived at Kamp Kaleo last week, our denomination’s campground and retreat center in Burwell, Nebraska, David Butz, the director, asked if I wanted to tube the river that afternoon.  Yes, I did.  Floating down the North Loup River over gentle rapids and a few sandbars, I delighted in the late summer warmth and the many birds, including a blue heron that we trailed most of the way back to camp.

This was the beginning of a couple of relaxing days.  The next morning we went kayaking for a long stretch downriver that I hadn’t explored before.  The highlight of that trip was the two, hunting bald eagles.

David has spent a lot of time clearing out old trails and blazing new ones, so I hiked through parts of the grounds I hadn’t before.  The sunflowers were in full bloom.  Beavers had built a number of dams.  I laid on the grass beside one dam for a long while reading Landscapes of the Sacred: Geography and Narrative in American Spirituality by Belden C. Lane, which seemed fitting.

Before I left the last morning, he took me on a tour of the property on the golf cart.  I had only packed shorts, not prepared for the temps to drop into the forties.  So I was wrapped in a comforter the whole time.  I was simply amazed, after a decade in Nebraska, to learn how vast Kaleo is and how underutilized it has always been.  David and I spent a lot of time brainstorming.

He’s taken to calling it “the State Park of Nebraska UCC and DOC.”  And I agree with that description.  We’ve not always had directors in the past who were interested in hosting folks throughout the year, but David is.  I highly encourage you to consider Kaleo as a great, relatively safe place to retreat to in this pandemic time and then afterwards.

I was only there for a few days, but it was a refreshing break from remote schooling and other stressors of the moment.  The river, the skies, the birds, the flowers are some of God’s gifts to us now and always.