Today I enjoyed one of the benefits of a long weekend. Today I enjoyed catching up with a friend I haven't seen since July 2011. One of the joys of living overseas is making friends from all around the globe. One of the trials of those friendships is separation, especially within the missionary community where folk regularly go on "home assignment" for shorter or longer periods of time. In today's world, keeping in touch is so much easier for missionaries and other expats than it was when I was growing up in North Queensland during the 1970s.
I remember moving from Melbourne, Victoria, to Townsville, North Queensland (2000 miles). At the time, I think most of my extended family still lived in Victoria (maybe with the exception of one aunt who lived in New Zealand). As I was only 9 at the time, it didn't really seem like such a big thing, although I know it was a huge move, especially in those days. There was no internet (so no e-mail or Skype) and STD (long distance) phone calls were really expensive. Our main form of communication with family and friends in the south was by snail mail. I think it was hardest for Mum, as a stay-at-home Mum. She was a long way from both family and the friends she'd grown up with. It took a long time for her to settle and make new friends.
Then in 1980, Dad was transferred to Brisbane, and so the family made another big move, this time only 1000 miles, but it was challenging none-the-less. Mum & my sister Jenny moved down in January, in time for my sister to start grade 10 in Brisbane. Dad and I went for a visit at Easter, and then in May Dad moved down. Meanwhile I was at boarding school for my senior year. Rather than change schools for 12th grade, I was able to become a boarder at my existing school. Most of my class were boarders (in fact there were only 5 day students out of our class of 22), so there were plenty of people around, but it was still hard. Even then, my primary form of communication with my family was by snail mail. Still no such thing as e-mail for the general population (in fact I never used a computer at high school at all), and definitely no Skype. Phone calls were limited to special occasions.
Once I finished school I moved to Brisbane as well, where once again I had the challenge of making new friends. It has been interesting in the last five years or so to catch up with school mates on Facebook and by e-mail. In Brisbane, I made new friends, and I'm pleased to say that I'm still in contact with many of them. In the last month, one of those friends that I've had since I was 17 made the journey to Phnom Penh to visit me and see where I live and work. Now that's friendship.
Today, it is easier in some ways to maintain contact with friends and family who live a long way away, but it still takes time and effort. Writing e-mails and newsletters takes time. Picking up the headset and logging onto Skype takes time. Facebook definitely takes time. But, friendships are important, and those who have no friends are often lonely and sad. I praise God for all the friends He has given me over the years. It takes time and effort to maintain a friendship, but it's worth it, and I'm thankful for those who are willing to put time and energy into being my friend as well as allowing me to be their friend.
Then there are those special friendships, that when you meet after a long time apart it just seems like yesterday. You pick up where you left off and have special times together. Today was one of those days. It was so good to see my friend and pick up where we left off. Thanks JK.
Friendships aren't easy. Sometimes we hurt each other. Sometimes we are just too busy. Sometimes we want people to carry us, when we need to carry ourselves. Sometimes we need to grow into a friendship. No matter what, friends are important. If you are one of my friends, then I thank God for you. I thank God for what you give to me, and I thank God that you allow me to give back to you. Thanks for being my friends.