Prison Ministry

     In 2008, the Church of Christ at Forest Hill, began a correspondence Prison Ministry Program with anyone who needed help in the prison system. It began with six people, all the friends of Joe and Portia Mason’s son Bradley Mason, who is incarcerated at the Mansfield prison. As the Masons got to know the prisoners and the prisoners got to the Masons, they began to write the Masons with questions or spiritual concerns.

     As the program continued to grow, Forest Hill family members began to give the Masons the names of their friends or relatives to be included in prison ministry work; and still others who formerly had a family member or someone in prison. There are several prisoners in the program that are not in Ohio prisons, but are out-of-state. The largest growth of the program has come from those in the prison system who have shared the ministry with their incarcerated friends. The Masons coordinate sending out cards of encouragement on holidays such as Christmas and Easter.  Every prisoner in the program gets a card on their birthday signed by members of our congregation at Forest Hill. 

    The Masons make contact at least every four months with their teaching tool which is the “Prison Ministry Lesson.” In a letter, the Masons attempt to encourage the ministry members to live for Jesus and to follow Him even while being incarcerated. Think of a sermon in writing, that is what the “Prison Ministry Letter” is. Every man or woman who writes a letter, gets a personal letter back written by Joe and Portia Mason. The Masons also offer Bible Correspondence Lessons that help the ministry prisoners to read and study the Bible on a one-to-one basis. When the Masons send or receive mail from the prisoners, the mail comes to the church’s address on Mayfield Road. Also, a list of prisoners who remain incarcerated as well as those who have been released who wish to stay on our prayer and contact list, is published twice a month in the church bulletin. 

   Presently, in 2017, there are thirty-one people in twenty-one different prisons in Ohio, and that number changes weekly with men and women being released, others being transferred to other prison locations, and names being added. There are also several people out-of-state. Any prisoner who would like to be a part of the program is not refused, regardless to the state in which the prison is located. Recently, the Masons tracked the growth, and the numbers looked like this: in 2008, the Masons started with six names; in 2009, they added three; in 2010 they added eight; in 2011 they added thirteen; and in 2012 they added fifteen. As you can see, the growth exploded over the past few years.  Also, many in our program have “graduated”  which is the Masons’ word for being released or paroled. To date, in 2017, forty members have “graduated” and many of these members continue to be in contact with our church. There are fifteen released members listed on our prayer list that publishes bi-weekly in our bulletin.

     We encourage our ministry members to attend the church services at their institutions and to be a part of Bible and prayer programs in there pods and dorms. On some occasions, we have provided new Bibles, delivered requested study books, eyeglasses, notebooks, shoes, food boxes, and clothing articles. This is not done regularly to avoid turning the ministry into a “needs store” for the prisoners. Instead, the Masons want to supply spiritual needs and answers, Bible verses,  and Christian counseling. Portia and Joe have also been invited to speak at services in several of the prisons in Ohio. They have also taught several classes on Christian subjects in the prisons.

      Would you like to be a part of the Prison Ministry at Forest Hill? The Masons recommend the following: 1- pray for each individual name listed on the “Prison Ministry Prayer List” which is printed in the church bulletin. 2- Write to one of our men or women. They all need Christian friends and several of our prison ministry people need a special “pen pal” to be their friend! 3- Feel free to refer family members or friends in prisons who could benefit from this program to the Masons. The Masons are always growing their list of names and would love to add them to their ministry. Joe and Portia can be reached by calling the church office (216-371-1743) to leave a message. 

 

Portia and Joe Mason, Prison Ministry Coordinators