The summer of 2022 was a re-opening in a multitude of ways. After two summers in various states of restrictions, we were able to be together in all of our spaces and to provide a full spring and summer of camp programs.
After spending most of our time with family members and close friends, we were able to step out and explore some independence and a larger circle of people. And after a long and snowy Manitoba winter, we were free to put away the scarves and embrace the warmth and humidity of the summer.
But all of this re-opening brought some challenges. It was difficult to let go of the fear and anxiety we had lived with, and the expansion into more places and more people brought out some new anxieties as well.
Homesick campers are always a reality at camp, but last year brought us more and older campers for whom being away from home was a struggle. We also saw more campers and staff coming to camp with varying levels of anxiety and mental-health concerns, with some weeks feeling especially heavy and difficult.
This was the reality of summer 2022. And the reality was also that being at camp was really, really good for us. We relearned how to live in community with more than just our families. We made new friends and tried new things. We were able to sing and worship together fully, making so much joyful noise to God. We played and we challenged ourselves and each other to grow and learn and become. We shared our faith and the love of God, and we built community every week. We supported and encouraged each other.
The re-opening was difficult and it was beautiful. Summer 2022 was hard and it was rewarding. As much as we struggled with our mental health, we also experienced healing and built resilience. While coming to camp may not have been as easy as in the past, the time spent at camp made things a little brighter and a little better.
We continue to invite campers and staff to spend time at camp; to unplug from everyday routines; to connect to God, creation and each other; and to grow in body, mind and spirit.
Janet Peters is the associate program director of Mennonite Church Manitoba’s Camps with Meaning program. Walks outdoors, good books, baking and time with family and friends are some of the strategies she uses to maintain her own mental health.