Like your soul, the large oak at the corner of the basketball court is in full bloom this spring!

By: Doug Ulaszek

For the past couple of weeks, the SaLT Missionaries have been preparing for our spring retreat season, which started last week! The spring retreat schedule here at Camp is chock-full, making the  days leading up to last week the last opportunity for us to make sure our programs are ready to go.

One of the things I’ve been working on is brushing up on my ESP knowledge. ESP stands for Environmental Stewardship Program. Geared towards sixth graders, Camp’s ESP retreats are aimed at introducing students to the beauty of God’s creation through experience and basic science concepts. Generally, the students’ first contact with the beautiful creation here at Camp is through the ESP Hike; each small group makes a sack lunch and heads out to someplace in the woods for a couple of hours. They play games, learn some new things, and get to soak in the natural beauty we are blessed to have here at Camp Gray.

To get ready for the ESP Hikes I will lead this spring, I decided to go on a dry run by myself on one of Camp’s trails just to make sure I could still tell the difference between some of the plants around Camp. Boy am I glad I did! Shortly into my hike, I realized that Camp has a very different look in the spring. Whereas in the fall I could easily tell the difference between a Red Oak and White Oak, it is a bit more difficult in the spring. The main way I can tell the difference is from the leaf structure – and as you can imagine, there are not many leaves on trees yet! This posed a bit of a problem for me, but I now have time to think of other cool concepts to teach the kids, ones that don’t involve telling the difference between different types of Oaks.

On the way back from my hike, I started to think about this phenomenon. Camp is certainly still the same, but I literally didn’t recognize some parts of Camp that I had grown used to in the fall. I had to look much more closely at many of the plants in order to identify them. I couldn’t help but think about how closely this relates to the Easter season we have just entered in our Church. In many, if not all the Gospels during the Easter season, we will be hearing about different appearances the risen Christ makes to his disciples. Jesus looks the same as he did before the Crucifixion, but something has fundamentally changed in his interactions with the disciples during Easter season. He is no longer teaching in parables, but opening their minds to all that he taught before the Passion.

I think the imagery here is fairly familiar to many of us: just as Christ rises from the dead, so does creation rise up in the spring to take on new life. However, something I don’t think of often is how Easter impacts me. Something changes in Christ on Easter Sunday. But am I any different after Easter Sunday? When Lent began, we entered into the temptation of Christ with prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We may have done really well in these areas, but what do they mean for us now that Lent is over?

Just as the dead of winter has cleared the way for blossoms around Camp Gray, Lent is meant to prepare us to bloom spiritually. Hopefully, some of the good habits we acquired (or bad habits we ditched) during Lent continue during Easter. If that is the case, we are definitely in for a beautiful spring for our souls.