Article | Missions magazine

A Ministry in Germany: Helping MKs Understand their Role in the Body of Christ

Mar 18, 2024
Helping MKs Understand their Role in the Body of Christ

By Hannah Mackenzie

Growing up, I was blessed to have adults in my life who embodied the presence of Christ. I embraced this blessing, and in high school, I began to take a similar role in the lives of youth. They have an essential role in the body of Christ, and God has consistently led me into spaces that help youth discover their identity in Him and place within the church body. Early on, I saw a vision for my life: through relationship building, I can be an adult who walks alongside youth as they pursue Christ. 

I had planned to work as a math teacher after graduating from college. During my senior year, however, I went on a mission trip to Uruguay. There, I met and served missionaries and their children when our team hosted a vacation Bible school. I began to see the beauty and challenges missionary kids experience. They have a global approach to life and faith, but they also face challenges, such as understanding their identity. I longed to be involved in the missions community to work with MKs. 

As I pursued the Lord and the longing He had placed in my heart, He led me to Black Forest Academy (BFA), an international Christian boarding school in southwestern Germany that serves missionaries by caring for their children. When I arrived in 2018, my role was to serve as a resident assistant in the girls’ dorm. As a member of residence life, I worked with the other staff in my dorm to care for the students. The responsibilities ranged from supervising students, preparing food, doing laundry, chauffeuring students, helping with homework (especially math), and simply being present. I was directly involved in the students’ daily life and served as a role model and parenting figure, all while supporting and encouraging them spiritually. 

Today, I continue serving as a dorm helper, and I work in the classroom as a math teacher. I love working with the students and being involved in BFA’s many components, from the classroom and extracurriculars to dorm life and spiritual discipleship. 

About 10 years after World War II, a missionary family from Canada moved to Kandern, Germany, to work in music and radio ministry. In 1956, the family started home-schooling six children. Soon, a school formed and began developing into what BFA is today. 

BFA enables missionaries to minister well in their countries of service because they know their children are being cared for. The teachers and staff commonly say, “We serve here so they can serve there.” Currently, BFA works with international missionaries from 30 nationalities who represent 60 countries of service. More than 85 percent of BFA’s student population comprises the children of Christian workers who serve in Central Asia, the Middle East, northern Africa, and Europe. 

There are 265 students in 5th through 12th grade. Middle school is solely for day students and the children of local missionaries or BFA staff, whereas the boarding program is open to 9th- to 12th-grade students. 

Students come to BFA for various reasons. Some desire a North American education system, a safe environment, or educational or social opportunities. For others, the school they attended in their country of service does not offer education up to the age of 18. For one family, unforeseen circumstances caused them to relocate to a new country with a different culture and language. They decided it was best to have their children attend BFA for the remainder of their secondary education. Whatever the reason, the families must decide whether BFA is their best option. 

BFA has three main programs: residence life, student learning, and student life. In each one, we work with and care for the students so they can thrive socially, intellectually, and spiritually. 

Residence life
Six dorms are scattered throughout the town of Kandern. BFA has one girls’ dorm, two boys’ dorms, and three integrated dorms. The latter allows siblings of different genders to live in the same building. Each dorm has about 20 students, so the residence life program has roughly 120 students in it.

About five staff members serve in each dorm, and their role is to bridge the gap between the students and their parents, who are parenting from afar. The staff create and maintain a place of safety where the students can grow and be healthy—physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. In this life-on-life ministry, the dorm staff come alongside students in their celebrations and grievances by encouraging and challenging them and connecting with their parents about decisions and accomplishments. Creating these spaces is pivotal for the students’ growth at school, for it is a natural time for them to make their faith their own.

Student learning
Our mission is to provide quality Christian education that enables students to transform their lives for Christ. BFA receives students from various educational backgrounds and prepares them for their postsecondary plans. Some students had been home-schooled or had done online school, and they came to us because they planned to go to university after graduation. Some had formerly attended a national school and learned in their country’s language. BFA works with students who have changed schooling systems: with their different experiences, they all come together to learn. 

For example, math is a subject that is already difficult for some students. The layers of different curriculums and languages may bring them extra challenges. BFA builds off what they know to bridge the gap and get them on the right trajectory for their future. 

Student life

Most students haven’t had extracurriculars before. Many parents and students are grateful for these opportunities to take on leadership roles or participate in team activities. We offer ministry opportunities, musical theater, team sports, and educational clubs. Students can participate in volleyball, cross-country running, basketball, track and field, and soccer. BFA is part of an athletics league, so our students can be Christ’s representatives on the field or court, like many young people in the US. 

Some parents visit during major events, such as our high school drama productions. After one parent watched her daughter’s first play, she commented that she had always known her daughter would make a great actor but she had never had the opportunity to try until now. With many emotions involved, the mother was grateful to see her daughter with friends and adults who had invested in her. 


Serving MKs and their parents at Black Forest Academy is a privilege. Stories like the one above encourage us teachers to continue “serving here so they can serve there.” We pray that BFA students will understand their role in the body of Christ and, with a firm foundation, glorify Him with their lives. 

Hannah MacKenzie is commended from Kenilworth Gospel Chapel in Kenilworth, New Jersey. 

Originally published in Missions magazine, March 2024. For more content, sign up for a free subscription (US) to Missions at