McGill Alexander is a career soldier who served as Brigadier General in the South African Army. During his career, he commanded a parachute brigade and a joint task force. From 1996 to 1997, he was on assignment in Taipei, Taiwan, as South Africa’s military attaché, when taken hostage by Chen Chin-Hsing.
The Alexanders returned to Taiwan in April 2001 for a goodwill tour and launch of the Chinese version of HOSTAGE IN TAIPEI (released by Cosmax Publishing, Taiwan).
He has written many articles on military subjects for journals and magazines and recently completed work on his doctorate in history.
Mac and his wife, Anne, have three daughters, two sons-in-law, and five grandchildren.
McGill is now retired and enjoys writing, military studies, photography, and hiking with friends on remote, rugged and scenic trails of South Africa.
McGill is the author of HOSTAGE IN TAIPEI : A True Story of Forgiveness and Hope.
A Conversation with McGill Alexander
HOSTAGE IN TAIPEI is an amazing true story of courage and faith in the midst of a terrifying situation and reckless gunfire. How did that experience change your life?
Perhaps the most important effect it had on my subsequent life is the realization that God is working in even the most apparently-hopeless situation. The fact that things don’t go the way we would expect them to during a crisis in which we are compelled by circumstances to rely wholly on God does not mean that things are going wrong. On the contrary, with our inability to see and understand the bigger picture of God’s plan, we need to realize that He has a reason for us undergoing even the worst trauma. Though His desire is not for us to suffer, the fact that we are in this broken world means that we cannot avoid being a part of its suffering. But to know that He uses this as a part of His great plan is an incredible comfort. Seeing people’s lives changed as they come to know Jesus as Savior, and knowing that this would probably never have happened if we as a family had not gone through what we did, is deeply humbling and yet infinitely encouraging. It remains difficult to apply the lessons that our Lord teaches us, seeing as we are mere mortals with all the failings of the flesh, but it is life-changing to KNOW from our experience that He is Lord!
What do you hope your readers will take away most from HOSTAGE IN TAIPEI?
A realization, in the case of those who are already saved, of the greatness of God in being able to take the least of us and use us to His glory and for His purposes. In the case of those who have never yet accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, the conviction that he died for the sins of the most vile, but also for those who think themselves not in need of a Savior. Christ turns the hopeless situation, even when one is faced with imminent death, into a triumph of hope and an assurance of eternal life.
How might HOSTAGE IN TAIPEI help readers who fear that terrorism might find its way to their home and family?
Today, terrorism is a stark reality in all our lives. But terrorism is not a new phenomenon. Its roots go back to Cain and Abel. Throughout all history there have been those who have practiced terrorism. Even in modern times, terrorism has been rife. Maybe those in the so-called ‘civilized’ world have until recently been protected from its effects, but it is all part of the horror that original sin has brought upon mankind.Today, as we live through the end times, every home feels threatened by terrorism. In our case, it entered right into our living room and tore at the very fabric of our lives and of our family. When I was tied up, my daughter was being used as a human shield in an hour-long gunfight and it seemed inevitable that everything would end in a bloodbath in which my family would be massacred in front of me, I had no other recourse but to trust God. I had never felt so helpless in all my life, yet I was able to experience peace and reassurance because I could pray to Jesus. Perhaps readers of Hostage in Taipei will find some help in their fears by the reality of faith in Jesus Christ as we experienced it in our situation.
Was this your first experience with writing a book? Did you find it an easy task? What do you enjoy most about the writing process?
I had written two other books prior to Hostage in Taipei, but they were professional books about military matters. I have also had a large number of articles published, but again they have been on military subjects and have largely appeared in professional journals. This was my first attempt at writing a popular book with a Christian theme. I have always enjoyed writing, so I did not find it difficult to tackle the task. However, as I was very subjectively involved in the story it was extremely difficult for me to differentiate between what was important to the core of the story and what was peripheral. I produced a totally unrealistic, massive tome that required substantial editing. For this I am grateful to my editor, Cathy Lawton, who was able to distinguish the wood from the trees. It is possible that the whole writing process (of which I found the research that I had to do the most enjoyable) served as a catharsis for me to help get over the trauma of the experience. It helped place many things in perspective and it ordered the chaotic events in my own mind. Most importantly, it revealed to me the magnitude of what God had done for and through my family.
If you could trade places with one person for a day, who would it be?
I really have no desire to be anyone but myself, not even for a day. I am grateful to God for making me what I am, and for giving me the opportunity to grow in Christ. I’ve failed many times and Jesus has picked me up and set me back on His path each time. I’ve seen enough of people and have been sufficiently disillusioned in my life to know that it really doesn’t matter who you are; every person has shortcomings and none of us can get through life on our own. But with Jesus we can realize our potential in this life and we can enter the next. I would never presume to trade places with our Lord, but He is the one person I would try to emulate in my own weak way, knowing He will lead me and help me.
You’ve had many impressive accomplishments. What is one thing you would still like to learn to do?
My ‘accomplishments’ are minimal and quite meaningless in eternity. What I’ve managed to do, I’ve done by the grace of God. By His grace, I will still be able to be an instrument in His hands while I am able to work. Learn? Life is one long lesson and we should never stop learning. I know that for as long as the Lord spares me I will still learn many things. But to select one thing that I would particularly like to learn to do? That’s difficult. But maybe to learn to communicate properly with people from all walks of life and from all generations.