.:the ministry archives:.

There’s both pros and cons to a long distance friendship. Pro – we probably talk more on messenger more than we would catch up if we were “IRL friends”. Con – we only get to see each other once a year. Twice, in a good year. Not at all, in a pandemic year. Pro – when we do catch up, we pack a whole year of memories into one weekend. Con – I need to sleep for a week when I get home from camp. Dear self, you are not young and silly any more and 2am bedtimes are not wise for an almost forty year old. But also, every 2am bedtime is 200% worth it. Pro – it pushes us creatively to find ways to stay connected when we can’t be together in person.

Way back in 2011 – a DECADE ago, goodness – we booked in for the last weekend in November. Our host mentioned it was there would be a Christmas themed dinner, and should our group wish to exchange gifts, that would be the time to do it. Gifts? say us, gifts could be fun. We set a limit of $5 per person. That first year, they were quite simple gifts, and from memory, everyone simply gave a small purchased item. The next year rolled around, and it had been so fun we decided to do the gifty thing again. Again, ostensibly the $5 limit. Time taken, however, was a free-for-all, and over the years has lead to some amazing gifts showing up in the swag bags we take each year (themselves a gift in 2014 from none other than the Minister herself). In saying that, there remains no requirement to actually handmake the parcel, which can actually be quite handy, both as a giver and a receiver. At least one person each year will be running out of time, or inspiration, or both, and our bags come complete with some little snacksies. It’s a win win, easy for them, yum for us. Camp gifties are now an integral part of our weekend, to the point I even made and sent camp covid care packages last year when we couldn’t get away together.

In 2018, for the very first time since we started camp, Car couldn’t make it. Life exploded fairly spectacularly for her, and we missed her, but we came up with a plan to make her feel included and not too bummed she couldn’t be with us. Enter: Where In The World is Carrose San Diego. At one of our in-between catch ups, I had taken a photo that was deliciously memeable. We had a blast taking “Car” out to breakfast, and to the beach, and to an art gallery opening.

Silly? Sure. Fun? Absolutely. Life is too short to take oneself too seriously, but also, making our dear friend feel included and part of the proceedings was much more important that what a gallery full of people I would never see again thought of me. We snapped photos all weekend long, dropping them in the group chat for that immersive, camp-by-proxy experience. Beforehand, I had sent her a “camp in a box” with all the essentials one would need to survive camp at home. Afterwards, I also compiled all our photos into a hardcover album for her to keep.

The fun continued in 2019, where I received from Car, a fabulous handcrafted memory book, with highlights and photos from each and every camp, including a blank page for me to fill in 2018, and space to add 2019/2020/2021.

Isn’t it beautiful? It’s such a wonderful keepsake of the years we’ve had on retreat. I think because our face to face time is so limited, in a way it’s good in that we take So Many Photos. Both of us being photography enthusiasts probably helps too, but I definitely have more photos with our camp group than I do with my local friends.

Missing people is, I think, a universal theme over the last 18 months. I am hoping by camp 2022 things might be slowly getting back to normal (ever the optimist. I said that about 2021 as well!). In the meantime though, the years of messaging and connecting remotely are serving us in great stead. We continue to chat online. We come up with joint projects and challenges. We set up zoom dates. We watch tv shows apart-but-together. Eventually, we will be able to hug and go for a walk and stay up far too late laughing far too hard. Until then, we get creative. Nice try, covid, throwing challenges in our way, but we have been in training for this longer than you have, so #challengeaccepted

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