Stories of others on the Journey

Billy and Alice Walkemeyer

Will There Be Culture Shock in Heaven? by Billy Walkemeyer

As we wind down our two years here in Manila and prepare to head back to the U.S. I think back to how I have changed during this time. I am no longer confused or find it odd when a waitress or a store clerk tells me “for a while” and walks away. I also don’t think it is strange to walk through a security check point where a guard passes a metal detector wand over me in order to enter the shopping mall. Or the fact that many stores have a guard at the door - many with a firearm.

It seems very natural that I walk almost everywhere I go. I walk to work, to the mall, to the grocery store, to church, to go out to eat, pretty much everywhere. And when I do drive, the chaos of the roads is no big deal. What is wrong with turning right from three lanes over to the left? The sight of ladies using umbrellas to walk around in the sunshine and the sight of men holding a handkerchief, or bag, or a piece of cardboard to keep their head “dry” in a rainstorm now seems perfectly normal. 

All of these things were very strange and just seemed wrong when we first arrived, but now they are a part of everyday life. I don’t give them a second thought.

I realize that the environment in which I live has a tremendous effect on my outlook and behavior. I have come to realize even more than before that our opinions, our thoughts, and our actions are rooted in the context of our environment. I am thankful that I have had this opportunity to live abroad and to have my sense of what I think is “normal” and “right” stretched.

I have been reading a little book titled The 21 Most Amazing Truths about Heaven, and it has gotten me thinking about heaven.  I know it is a real place, and there will be real people there.  I have pondered some questions.  What will it really be like and how will I feel?  Will I "fit right in" or will it be so different that it will feel "strange" like Manila did when I first arrived?

At the same time as I have been reading the heaven book, there has been a series of sermons at church on the topic “Practicing the Presence of God”. The message last Sunday dealt with the topic of “finishing well.” It came at a time when I had ears to hear. Finishing well was the idea that led me to Manila. I was challenged by Finishers to consider overseas service.  Now the theme has come up again as I prepare to return stateside. It has caused me to think about what has been going on for the past two years and how God has shown himself to me in new ways. The experiences have been invaluable to stretch me and to challenge my faith in ways that wouldn’t have been possible in Texas.

I don’t want to fall short of finishing well. I recognize that finishing well shouldn’t be my focus, but it can be a long term goal. I need to focus on being in the presence of the most high God day in and day out. If I wait until heaven to be in His presence, I may have to go through culture shock all over again, and it probably will feel pretty strange.

I am thankful that I have been able to experience God in a new way here in Asia. I have come to see that our experiences may be different, but it is the very same God at work in us.  I know this has been one of the good works which God has prepared in advance for me to do. (Eph 2:10) 

While each of our paths may be different, it is God that has designed the course for us to follow. I hope that you will join with me in practicing the presence of God each day and responding to His call, joining into His good works.

[Billy serves as an Area Finance Coordinator for Wycliffe Bible Translators and Alice serves as an ESL Consultant]