Culture Shock at the Canyon

No visit to the Grand Canyon, the 277-mile long, one-mile deep, 1900 square mile wonder of the world is said to be complete without a view from Mather Point. Mather Point offers an expansive, jaw-dropping, no-words-can-really-describe-the-view vista of the South Rim.

But honestly, for our family, Mather Point offered a culture shock experience that we hardly expected!

Having returned to the States from our South Africa home at other times, we’ve been stupefied by grocery store visits, orderly traffic patterns, restaurant selection over-load, and so much choice, choice, choice with so many options, options, option nearly everywhere we landed. We didn’t expect to encounter culture shock in a canyon.

Our family had planned a short, family holiday in Arizona before the start of our four-month home assignment. Micah begins his university career in January. Making more memories with our eldest son before he embarks on an amazing, new trajectory in his life was important to us.

We chose a Grand Canyon experience because we read that the low tourist season began in November.

Well, that naive expectation proved to be false.


After we had settled ourselves at the Grand Canyon Village RV park, our family of five took a shuttle to the Grand Canyon Village. As we descended from the bus, we couldn’t believe how many tourists from all over the world were milling about the area. If November was considered the low season, we couldn’t imagine what high season at the park would look like!

Instead of following the crowd to Mather Point, we decided to follow the paved rim trail to the right and seek out other vista points. As we walked, we encountered more people. We had envisioned a contemplative, quiet, reflective experience at the Grand Canyon when we planned our holiday for our family. This wasn’t going to happen – and certainly not near the Grand Canyon Village space.

Surveying the canyon walls, the weaving and winding Colorado River far, far, far below and the flora and fauna left me speechless. I absolutely had no words for what I was seeing for the first time in my life. Like others, I took photos. But more times than not, all I could do was stare in wonder at the magnificent handiwork of my God.

We walked almost two miles before we decided to catch the shuttle back to that not-to-be-missed view from Mather Point. Again, the amount of people in this area gave us pause. Yet, we pressed on with the rest of the touristy throng to see what Mather Point would offer.

When we reached Mather Point, though, it was then that culture shock jolted our senses. As we surveyed the scene, we really didn’t see many people stopping to gaze in admiration at the spectacular view before them. Instead, achieving that perfect pose for Instagram and Facebook seemed to be the priority for this media-influenced multitude. Chinese tourists pulled out their Mickey and Minnie Mouse plush toys and set them on different rocks – to show that the Disney inspirations were there – taking one photo after another. Young tourists put their hands to their chins, turned their heads to the side, looked to the heavens, stuck their hips out and posed for their photo shoots – rushing to see if the ‘perfect pose’ had materialized. Couples kissed in front of their cameras blocking most of the canyon. There were even people testing the force of nature as they leaned over the canyon edge in a I’m-pretending-I’m-about-to-go-over-the-edge position. What shocked us was that people were more focused on themselves than upon the humbling and amazing sight that loomed large, large, large right behind and below them. Once the photo or two was snapped, it appeared to be a ‘been-there-done-that’ moment and the Grand Canyon visitors were off to another vista point.

Many years ago, I stood near another mountain’s edge in Switzerland. High atop Mt. Pilatus I discovered a placard which read:

Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf!

New International Version, Psalm 66:5

Such words are appropriate for Mather Point at the Grand Canyon – as well as all the other points that are perched high above the south canyon floor;  Yaki Point, Yavapai Point, Grandview Point, Lipan Point, and Navajo Point.

As I have pondered my shock at the canyon, I believe it rises from my memories of home. Standing along the canyon’s edge, I felt this God-given opportunity was a privilege. Those I think of and remember in South Africa and Zimbabwe will probably never ever ever have such a holiday. And right now, they are dealing with food insecurity, electricity outages, water shortages, drought, crime, and determining ways to keep caring for and supporting their families in the midst of all these significant challenges. They are working with every ounce of their being just for survival. This time in southern Africa is incredibly difficult.

And here I stood.

High atop the Grand Canyon – a wonder of the world – an awesome work of the Lord in man’s behalf. For thousands and thousands of years, the Grand Canyon has stood majestically and magnificently for mankind to behold.

It was difficult to see people failing to grasp this wondrous gift. Many, not all, but too many to count, were enraptured with themselves than anything else the Grand Canyon had to offer them at Mather Point.

It was a shocking, but educational moment for me.

How will I continue to live these next four months as opportunity upon opportunity is presented to me while we visit family, friends, ministry partners and supporting churches? The last thing I want to do is be so enamored with myself that I fail to appreciate the gifts of my family, friends, and others who sit before me and with me.

I want to set my phone and camera down to be aware of and enraptured with the blessings the Lord has asked me to come and see!

I want to set my phone and camera down to honor all that my Lord has done and is doing!

I want to set my phone and camera down to praise my God and his awesome works that are all around me.

Our family has been in the United States for one week. The Lord sent shocking lightning bolts through my heart. I believe he is asking me to pay attention to his invitation to come and see all that is around me and revel in these gifts of people and places for the next four months!

We’ll see how I do!

I don’t want to miss what is ahead by being too full of and enraptured with me!

6 thoughts on “Culture Shock at the Canyon

  1. Thank you for sharing those wonderful pictures I have never seen the Grand Canyon, up close and personal, but I’ll bet I would be breath taken and speechless. I imagine you will continuous to be shocked at the modern culture of the US today. I am shocked and I live here every day. I cry out for a change of heart, for our young people and weep for the plight of the African people. Our little prayer group on Tuesdays, prays for the church and praises the changes that are happening as they grow in brother hood in Zimbabwe.I hope you have a good family time in the Southwest and that you get to relax even as you spend much time in sharing with us here at home.

    1. The Grand Canyon was breathtaking, Shirley! We hope to see you in a couple of weeks when we make our way to your part of the country! ❤ Love, heather

  2. Such a mission field…right here in America. Enjoy your time back, and hug your mom and dad for me!💞

    1. Hi Nancy,

      I was with my parents today! I’ll see them on Sunday and pass along your greetings! It’s such a gift to be with them! All my love, heather

  3. Thank you for sharing your perspective, Heather! We really are a self absorbed country (I am including myself) and we need to be reminded of this. Places like this make me feel small and remind me of the creator God.
    It was so good to see you in church today! I’m so grateful for your ministry in South Africa and to our church. You are a blessing in my life!❤️

    1. It was a gift and a joy for me to see you and John, Karen. You guys are in my prayers and I’m grateful to be able to see you in person!!! ❤ May the Lord meet your family exactly in the spot you need Him to! With love, heather

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