Lake County Sheriff's office names new chaplain

Pictured left to right: Chaplain Ron Weller, Sheriff Rich Martin and Chaplain Richard Rybka. (Courtesy photo/LCSO)
Pictured left to right: Chaplain Ron Weller, Sheriff Rich Martin and Chaplain Richard Rybka. (Courtesy photo/LCSO)

LAKE COUNTY — Recently, Sheriff Rich Martin announced that he and Forgotten Man Ministries have expanded the ministry programs for inmates in his jail facilities with the addition of a paid, full-time Chaplain.

Ron Weller was chosen for the position and will begin his duties on March 1. Weller is a life-long resident from the LeRoy area and graduated from Pine River High School. His work background includes business, education and assisting his father who is a pastor at a Big Rapids church.

Weller has answered the calling to ministry by taking the position as the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Chaplain.

As the new Chaplain, Weller will be working with inmates and parolees at Lake County’s correctional facilities and also will be working alongside current ministry volunteers at those jails.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office operates two correctional facilities, the Lake County Jail and the Lake County Residential Re-Entry Program (LCRRP).

The LCRRP is operated in partnership with the Michigan Department of Corrections and has been in operation in Lake County since 1991. The jail can house up to 48 parolees and the LCRRP can house up to 300 prisoners. The Lake County Sheriff’s Office and Forgotten Man Ministries has had a long-standing relationship providing ministry to the inmates at both facilities through the work of many dedicated volunteers.

“We really appreciate our volunteers. The work they do is second to none and is making a difference every day,” Martin said.

Chaplain Richard Rybka, who also pastors Living Waters Fellowship in Baldwin, has been a valuable partner as the chaplain this past year.  Rybka held the jail ministry together while Forgotten Man Ministries looked for a full-time chaplain.

Chaplain Weller will benefit from the training and continued mentorship of Rybka, who has been involved in correctional ministry for decades.

“The Chaplain program is 100 percent funded by donations and not tax dollars. Working with our ministry volunteers, our new chaplain can expand the program and even incorporate some new programs,” Martin said.

Martin added that a new program for LCRRP parolees will be coming soon. The program is called “Inside-Out Dad’s (Christian).”

This program helps inmates and parolees better understand the effect of their incarceration on their children and seeks to help them re-enter society as a better father. It also explains the responsibilities of a father in a Biblical context.

Weller will be teaching this program at LCRRP.

“There is a unique opportunity for ministry when people are in jail and in prison,” said Rev. Nathan DeWard, Executive Director of Forgotten Man Ministries. “We have arranged for supplemental outside funding to hire a chaplain because we did not want to overburden Lake County donors to fund this position. We still count on local residents to volunteer and support however they can.”

Through a combination of private, corporate, and foundation support, the jail and the RRP will benefit from the presence of a full-time chaplain, the first of its kind in these facilities.

“Most people who are incarcerated are there because of very poor life decisions. Whether we like it or not, the majority of them are going to be back in society very soon. As far as I’m concerned, the inmates getting a bit of help from the Man upstairs can only help them,” Martin added.