The Poconos, an upland region of the Allegheny Plateau, was named by the Munsee Indians, a subtribe of the Lenape Indians. Its original name was “Pokawahne,” which means "Creek Between Two Hills," referring to the Delaware River. The land is an optimum habitat for Hemlock trees who thrive in moist soil, shaded areas, and steep gorges and ravines. Cornell University scientists call the Eastern Hemlock the "foundation specie" of the Poconos forest. It grows along with mixed hardwoods like maple and black birch and is considered the cornerstone of the hardwood forests. Because of this, the Hemlock tree is the PA state tree. The dominant Hemlock exerts a major influence on all other living things that share its environment, including plants, animals, birds, and fish. One can smell the fresh, clean air when they are in a forest dominated by this tree. The unique soil and water conditions make a home for native rhododendron, spicebush, viburnum varies, ferns, Mayflower, and the evergreen groundcover called Partridgeberry. Those who study ecosystems in the USA note the many benefits of the Hemlock tree:
1. Giver of aesthetic beauty
2. Contributor to good air quality (Hemlocks filter pollutants by capturing and storing large amounts of
CO2 and releasing O2 into the environment.)
3. Provider of food and habitats for birds and animals
4. Improver of water quality (Shallow roots filter runoff and keep water clean by preventing sedimentation and filtering pollutants. Decomposition of acidic needles changes the makeup of soil and water.)
5. Provider of shade for the streams and aquatic life (Shade keeps the water cooler and more
oxygenated and keeps snow from melting until later in the spring, maintaining cooler temperatures.)
6. Source of shade for native plants
Sadly, our Pennsylvania native tree is under attack from a small, aphid-like insect brought into our country from Asia. The Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (HWA) was discovered in the United States in 1951. By 2002 the HWA had infested Hemlock trees from Georgia to New Hampshire. In 2002 the Hemlocks in the Poconos were showing signs of decline from the HWA infestation. The insects suck the sugar from the veins of the trees so that they are unable to produce new growth. The foliage becomes pale and grey in appearance and eventually dies. Researchers have found that the decline of the Hemlocks cause decomposition of the forest floor. In addition, water temperatures are increasing, allowing algae to grow in the streams. This negatively affects the trout that need clear, cool, unpolluted water to survive.
Last week, as my husband and I walked through the Pocono Mountain area called Dingmans Ferry, God began to show me an analogy between the Church and the Hemlock tree. Just as the Hemlock is the foundation specie of the Pocono forest, the Church should remain the foundation or cornerstone of our nation. That is how the Church was positioned when The United States was established. The roots of the Church are planted in the love of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:17) and must remain here. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that our foundation comes from the Spirit of the Lord that rises from the stump of Jesse. "The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord...In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to Him, and His resting place will be glorious.” (Isaiah 11:2, 10)
Like the HWA attacks the Hemlock to keep it from growing, we have an enemy who is attacking the Church to keep Her from growing. The Psalmist asks a question: "When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Psalm 11:3) It is true that those with a liberal agenda scheme to destroy the moral foundation of our nation. However, our God is aware of what is happening. He loves justice. He longs "to be gracious to us and to be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress...He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure." (Isaiah 33:2, 6) The future of our world is dependent on us (The Church) being salt and light. Our prayers make a difference! As children of God, we should be transforming the environment around us so that we exert a major influence on those who live around us. We are the Foundation for our nation!
Joan E. Mathias