On a recent tour we had a group of 4 – Rhoda and her husband Randy, and Rhoda’s parents Maynard and Emily. Rhoda and her family were from Malawi, Africa where her father spent years as a geography teacher. Rhoda had moved to America and recently married Randy. Her parents were now visiting them and were coming to the Grand Canyon…for the very first time. I just love hearing stories about God’s work around the globe, and being about to share the Grand Canyon and God’s creation with fellow brothers and sisters who may live a world away. This was one of those days.
People’s first visit to the canyon is usually a pretty big deal. I just love having “first-timers” on a tour. Their reaction to seeing Grand Canyon for the first time is varied, but always moving. Some can’t contain their glee and excitement, some come to tears, and still others stand there speechless, overwhelmed by the sheer size and majesty of a place like this. But for the group we had that day, it was deeply moving beyond anything I’d seen.
From the other side of the world, Maynard dedicated his life to teaching students in Malawi, Africa about the geography of the world. One of his favorite topics to teach and show pictures of was the Grand Canyon in America. Learning from her father and hearing him share his love of the Grand Canyon all her life, Rhoda also shared his passion. That’s why when she came to the United States and the Phoenix area, one of the first things she did was come see this amazing canyon she grew up hearing so much about…and had visited 6 times already. This, despite the fact that her husband (and Arizona resident) had yet to visit even once!
At our very first stop at a location called Pipe Creek Overlook, I led the group to the rim of Grand Canyon for the “big reveal” and then stepped back in silence as I watched their reaction. Maynard stared into the deep distance, silent and stoic. And then a wide smile came across his face and he looked as young and bright as a child with a brand new outfit on his first day of school. It was almost as though I were witnessing the reunion of long-lost friends, separated by decades of time yet as close as the day they last saw each other. Tears welled up in his eyes. Rarely had I seen such deep-felt joy and radiant beaming of life from a tour guest. Here was a dream he’d had for years and years, now fulfilled in an unforgettable moment.
This tour meant something very special to Maynard, and seeing him experience the Grand Canyon for the first time meant something special to his whole family. From the other side of the world in Africa, he’d never imagined he would one day be able to visit America and stand at the rim of the canyon he loved and taught so much about from 9,836 miles away. We spent the rest of the tour that day seeing more and more, and talking about God’s glory and how big He must be to make something like this. We discussed how the Creator’s love is revealed to us through the beauty and majesty all around, brought to light in both His Word and His world.
It’s times like this that make doing what we do so enjoyable and fulfilling. I often get asked, “Do you ever get tired of seeing this place all the time?” Absolutely not. I think that’s quite impossible. All I have to do is point and say, “Just look at this…” and the question is answered. But oftentimes I also tell people, despite the hundreds of days I’ve spent at the Grand Canyon, my favorite thing about coming here are all the great folks from around the world I get the chance to meet and with whom I get to share the canyon, people who have waited their entire lives to see this place. Those are the people who make it all worthwhile.