REED CITY — There was a large crowd when the Forgotten Man Ministries gathered at the First Baptist Church on May 10 in Reed City, and a most appreciative one at that.

For many, it was an evening out. For many others, they were thankful especially because they are out. Many in the crowd have served time. Many in the local jail. Some in other jails. Some in prison. Some have been free for years. Some newly so.

And the attitude within the room where they met that night was surely an attitude of gratitude.

Some who were there work in the jail. One is the sheriff. Another the chaplain. Some have never been inside a jail cell.

But for those there, and those who hoped to be but couldn’t be for whatever reason, there is hope. There is the hope of being free and staying free.

One by one they shared. Grace. A meal. Music. Testimonies. There were hugs. Congratulations, inspiration and many tears. There was laughter. One said simply that it felt so good to laugh again, and for some it was a long time coming.

Lance Cornelius is chaplain at the Osceola County Jail. One by one those who cared, shared. Many credited Lance, the sheriff, two ladies, this one over there, or that one next to him, for helping him — or her — to change their lives.

They credited Lance and the sheriff, others on the staff, pastors from throughout the area, strangers that fast became friends, and the messages they brought with them to them.

For some, that day they were released from jail was met with fear. Fear of going back. Fear of temptation. Fear of facing the real world without drugs or without alcohol. Fear of facing family or friends or financial pressures, and yet the same people who came to visit and to talk about life — real life — and share their own stories, and share their own beliefs in their own God had given them something they hadn’t had before.

They gave them faith, some said. Others called it hope. Some called it God. Others said they have them a hand up. Almost all said they wanted to pass it on, this invisible something that had changed their lives.

One had clutched a well-worn, thoroughly read Bible, stained and strained, filled with tears and fears and pages and notes and slips of paper with a verse or a word that meant something this day and may be just the one that saves their tomorrow from disaster.

Many of those who spoke credited strangers for helping them by visiting them in jail and bringing large doses of hope along with them. Some were preachers. Some brought books or Bibles. All offered hope.

Serving on the board of directors of Forgotten Man Ministries is Rev. John E. Fehler, executive director, president David Wood, vice president Ronald Davis, secretary David Egner, treasurer Samuel DeMan. Other board members include Matt Antkoviak, Joel Bengelink, Scott Halquist, Forrest (Nick) Newell, and Jay Kuiper.

Among those taking part in the program in addition to Sheriff Crawford and Chaplain Cornelius were Floyd Ankney who offered the opening prayer; Rev. John E. Fehler, FMM executive director; Pastor John Dawson of First Baptist Church, Reed City, who gave the closing prayer. In addition there were testimonies, and the constant feeling and verbalized attitude of gratitude.

In closing there were hugs and there were tears. And as the long line passed by, shaking hands, grins grew and hope was passed one to another.

Anyone wishing to become involved in the Forgotten Man Ministries may call Cornelius or the sheriff for additional information or contact 616-784-4620. Volunteers are needed in the jail.