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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.



421 South 36th Street, Omaha Nebraska, 68131
(Located at the corner of 36th and Harney Streets)






First Central Congregational Church