Friday, August 3, 2012


We had only been in Argentina for a full day when the bus dropped us off at a prison for women. The whole experience still seemed a bit surreal to me and maybe that was just jet-lag, but I really had not wrapped my mind around the fact that we were really in South America. A long long way from anything I knew. And being there with my three teenagers but without my husband and six year old was as far out of my comfort zone as I had ever been. (You probably heard me say that a few times here or maybe over here.)

So when the bus rolled through the series of gates, fences and security devices, I jolted awake. Oh. And by the time the guards, bearing arms, escorted us into the building, I was hyper-alert.

I shot some arrow prayers -- do you ever need those? "Ok, Lord, we are here to serve you. Work through this group and please, God, keep all these young people safe."

The prisoners began to file into the assembly hall. I saw faces and with that first visual, God did a wonderful thing for me -- He transformed these prisoners into women. Women who were scared, alone and in need of the Savior.

Within a few minutes, my new friend and co-director of the ministry came to me and in her limited English asked if I could minister to a woman who was battling depression on this day. I stood and spoke with "Wanda" for a long time. She was older, her children grown with their own homes and children to care for. Desperate for money she made a bad decision and landed in this Argentine prison a long way from her home in North America. She missed her children. She missed her grandchildren. She was lonely to hear her own language. She needed a friend that day. I was honored to hug her, pray for her and hold her hand as tears streamed down her face.

As I looked around the hall, I marveled at the young people giving of themselves to comfort, encourage and minister to these women. As I sat with my new friend during the worship time, I was eager for them to hear the message of the day -- oh, I was eager for them to hear MY Mason speak, share from his heart and encourage them that all the "giants" in their lives could be defeated by God!

My heart puffed up a bit with pride. I was super proud of the entire team -- look how they were giving!! When the guards -- yes, still with big guns -- motioned that our time together was over, another dear lady -- a woman serving time -- came to me with tears in her eyes. She hugged me, told me what a gift the group had been (Did you see my chest puff up with even more pride?) and then you know what she did. She took a bracelet from her arm and put it on mine. This woman who had so very little took a bracelet from her arm and placed it on mine.

"I want you to have this," she said. "I want you to have this and look at it and know God loves you and your family."

She wanted to minister to me.

She did minister to me. And I was humbled. Completely.

We were not the only ones giving. As a matter of fact, we found ourselves on the receiving end during our time in Argentina much more than we were on the giving end! When complete strangers walked up to help lift Benjamin in and out of the car each day -- we were given a huge gift! When the ladies in the rural church in Colon took the time to cook for us and then serve us all our meals during our time of service there, we were given a huge gift. When these same ladies took time from cooking and serving us to help Benjamin eat during every single meal, we received a huge gift. And on and on.....

Do you know what happens when giving is so unfettered by expectations and demands? We want to give more. We want to give so much more -- from the grateful overflow of our hearts, we just want to keep giving!

And so when Claire came in with her little host sister wearing Claire's favorite headband, I had to smile.

"I had to give it to her, Mom, she loves it."

And why we left Colon, Argentina with one less Mississippi State sweatshirt wishing we had 20 more to give!

And why we can not go shopping without seeing things we want to send south of the equator!

But most importantly, it is why we continue to pray for the friends we made, for the lives that touched us so, for God to hold them safe, help them to grow and reunite us all one day!

Giving. Deep sigh. What a blessing!