Following a well-worn path to success just wasn’t going cut it for Mackenzie Alexander. After graduating from Messiah College in 2015 with a degree in Film and Media Arts, Alexander hopped on a plane to Germiston, South Africa. “International service was an opportunity for me to follow and see God in a new form outside of my normal context,” says Alexander. With that hopeful spirit and a desire for self-growth and challenging discomfort, Alexander began her partnership with Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) in September of 2015.
Immediately, the challenges and discomfort Alexander had anticipated, and a few she had not, hit her. “My commute to the office is just under two hours,” Alexander said, describing the cramped and confusing public van transportation system. “[I had] no idea what hand signals hailed which kombi [van] or where I had to call [for the driver to stop]. I dreaded going to work.” However, God sent co-workers, members of her host family, and even strangers to show her the ropes of public transportation. “[It was] the continuous hands of my community that helped me, loved me, directed me, and fed me. They always lifted me up.” Once Alexander mastered the transportation system, she began to enjoy the entire experience, including her work, much more.
Through YAGM, Alexander worked with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Southern Africa Development Service Office (ELCSA-DS). She spent her time filming informational videos to showcase the efforts of the ELCSA-DS; training pastors and advocates how to approach social justice issues, such as gender-based violence, HIV and AIDS, and human rights; and hosting training sessions on small business management. Alexander also volunteered with the Epworth Children’s Village, a home for children of physical or sexual abuse. By offering the children homework assistance and personal attention, Alexander sought to serve the children to the best of her ability.
The constant outpouring of service and love pushed Alexander to dig deep into the meaning of vocation and effective communication. “I am very thankful for my education through the Communication Department in preparing me for effective cross-cultural communication,” says Alexander. “Messiah reminded me to extend my faith beyond myself and stretch it across all areas of my life.” Thinking back to her time at Messiah helped Alexander minister to her host family as well, pouring into them and acting as a daughter and sister within the home.
Even though language barriers and cultural differences made life interesting, Mackenzie Alexander pushed herself to intimately serve those around her and enjoy the discomforts. “If I came to South Africa with the mindset that my way of life was best, I would have never fully experienced the beautiful hospitality of God’s diverse creation.” Alexander recently returned to the United States. “As for ‘what’s next,’ who knows!” says Alexander. “I am still figuring that one out, but every day is a gift, so I am enjoying the journey.” - Miriam Thurber ‘19