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Ernie Hollands - Hebron Ministries
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By Mike Toth


Matthew 25:36: 'I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'

You've probably heard of the Birdman of Alcatraz, but how about the Fly Tie-er of Millhaven? Okay, that wasn't actually Ernie Hollands' nickname, but when you tie 84,000 fly fishing flies doing your stint in prison, you certainly deserve some kind of slick handle.

One thing you wouldn’t have called Ernie during most of his earlier adult life was "good." Ernie spent 25 years in various prisons for various serious offenses, including bank robbery, ending in a last stint in Millhaven Penitentiary where he began to hand tie flies. A friend suggested Ernie write a man who owned a sporting goods store in Pembroke, Ontario offering his flies for sale. Obviously, the prison system has changed quite a bit since then.

Grant Bailey, manager of the sporting good store owned by his father, had grown up in a Christian family but had only recently actually come to Christ when he picked up Ernie's letter. Prompted by the Spirit of God, he sat down and wrote out his testimony and described to Ernie what he must do to be saved. Grant began to flood Ernie with Christian books, tracts, and teaching tapes, and although Ernie was resistant, Grant persisted. On March the 12, 1975, Ernie gave his life to Christ and was forgiven in a powerful moment of conversion. Ernie’s own description of his salvation experience on 100 Huntley Street is still available on YouTube.

Grant continued to mentor Ernie after he was released from prison, and soon Ernie was being asked to give his testimony all around the country. Though Ernie was asked more and more to speak in churches, he never forgot his roots and would visit prisons and jails anywhere he traveled.

Ernie's preaching ministry lead to the establishment of Hebron Ministries which began to publish his testimony. Books such as "Hooked" and "Prison Chains Broken” have been joined by the testimonies of other prisoners who Christ has set free. The books have been translated into many languages including Teluga (India), Chinese, Spanish, Indonesian, and even Braille. In Russia alone 150,000 translated copies have been distributed in the prison system.

Ernie died in 1996 after a major bout with illness, but Hebron Ministries lives on headquartered in London, and is run by Ernie’s widow Sheila. Sheila continues to write and publish new collections of prisoner"s stories, such as “Drug Deals Delivered,” “Far And Wide," and “There Is A Way Out.” These books are published as funds are available and distributed both to individuals in the prison system and chaplains that minister to them.

Most of us can't physically visit the various institutions housing a considerable portion of our population, but supporting Hebron Ministries is an excellent way to live out Matthew 25. Hebron can be reached via email at shollands@hebron.ca or by phone at (519) 641-4062.