After the November 2019 Oceana-Mason County Jail Ministries newsletter was sent out, the board was notified by Oceana County Sheriff Craig Mast that Forgotten Man Ministries (FMM) will be in charge of Christian ministries to inmates in the Oceana County Jail, effective Dec. 1, 2019. FMM is based out of Grand Rapids and renders chaplain services to more than 30 county jails in lower Michigan.

The service structure of FMM is to train local chaplains/volunteers to work with inmates through weekly Bible studies and one-on-one visits. This approach is very similar to the ministry programs offered by OMCJM to the Oceana Jail in the last 30 years.

The OMCJM Board and active chaplains met several times in December to evaluate the effect of this change in leadership. Several chaplains and ministry workers have made personal decisions to take the required FMM training and, with FMM approval, continue mentoring the inmates on a weekly or as needed basis. Anyone personally interested in taking the FMM training can do so at a session scheduled for Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. at the Oceana County Jail. The contact person is Sgt. Joel Dickman, 231-873-2121. Organizers believe that qualified local chaplains and ministry workers can help by serving the inmates inside the jail.

With the recent changes at the Oceana County Jail, the OMCJM Board, in an effort to clarify its current two-county mission, resolved to change its ministry’s name to “Oceana/Mason County Inmate & Family Ministries” (OMCIFM) This new name is being submitted to the State of Michigan and IRS for approval. It is the desire that both communities and financial sponsors fully understand and support of the current ministry programs. Chaplains and authorized workers will continue to go into both the Mason and Oceana County jails as requested. In the case of the Oceana County Jail, inside ministry programs are now under the direction and financial responsibilities of FMM. The OMCJM Board will continue to budget support for FMM Christian materials as given to inmates inside the jail. OMCJM representatives believe FMM changes should and will work for the good of all concerned.

When forming the OCJM 30 years ago, county Prosecutor Terry Shaw had a burden for inmate families, while Jail Administrator Todd Chaney wanted participants to work directly with the inmates. He even played the organ for worship services early on. In pursuing ministry to families, the Angel Tree Program was implemented to reach the children and families with the Gospel. Incidentally, this program was extended to the Mason County Jail for the first time for Christmas 2019. As a result, between the two counties, gifts were provided for 93 children and food boxes for 42 families. Thirty of the families live in Oceana County. Also, for the first time this year, organizers hosted a Christmas “Angel Tree” Party in each county Saturday, Dec. 21. More than 100 children and family members attended the two “parties.” Two children accepted Christ that day. Many of the children professed to previous acceptance. Twelve asked for Bibles and 10 requested applications for 2020 summer camp. The approximate cost of the 2019 Oceana County Jail Angel Tree Program was $2,000. Received to date is $1,000, or a shortfall of $1,000. The 2019 Mason County Jail Angel Tree Program has a $400 surplus to carry to 2020.

Another outreach to inmate children and families is a Summer Camp Scholarship program whereby inmates can sign up their children, ages 7-18, to attend a Christian Summer Camp at Grace Adventures at Upper Silver Lake, or a camp of their church’s denomination. This will be the first year the summer camp experience is being offered to children of inmates housed at Mason County Jail. The Roy Price/Larry Mumper Memorial Fund has been designated to handle family outreach donations. Funding is much needed and appreciated for either/both of these family outreach programs and may be sent to OMCIFM at PO Box 807, Hart, MI 49420. Tax deductible receipts are available. For more information, please contact Chaplain Jerry Thorne at jerrythorne@charter.net or 231-425-3693.