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 friends of Bradley Mason, the son of church members, Joe and Portia Mason. As the Masons became more familiar with the prisoners, the prisoners began to relate to the Mason and began to write the Masons with questions of 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. There are several prisoners in the program that are not in Ohio prisons. 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 the congregation.
The Masons make contact at least every four months with their teaching tool which is the “Prison Ministry Lesson.” In a letter, the ministry members are encouraged to live for Jesus and to follow Him even while being incarcerated. Every man or woman who writes a letter gets a personal letter back. Bible Correspondence Lessons are also offered. These lessons help the ministry prisoners to read and study the Bible on a one-to-one basis. 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, there are thirty-one people in twenty-one prisons in Ohio. This number changes weekly with men and women being released, transferred or new prisoners joining the ministry. The Prison Ministry is open to all prisoners, regardless of where the prison is located, to become a part of this program. The most recent tracking indicates that over 40 members have “graduated” i.e., have been released or paroled from the program.
Prison ministry members are encouraged to attend church services at their institutions and to be a part of a Bible and prayer programs offered in their pods and dorms. On occasions, the program has been able to provide new Bibles, requested study books, eyeglasses, notebooks, shoes, food boxes and articles of clothing.
The Prison Ministry Coordinators encourage anyone who wants to support this program to do so by: Praying for each individual listed on the Prison Ministry Prayer List (in church’s bulletin); writing to one of the incarcerated men or women; and by referring family members or friends in prisons to this program. Referrals can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with Prison Ministry placed in the subject field or by leaving a message for the Prison Ministry Coordinators, Joe and Portia Mason at (216) 371-1743.