Tag Archives: Ebenezer and Ninety-Eight Friends




I Corinthians 13:1 tells us what we are without love.  One is a resounding gong.   Surely those sweet grandbabies of mine aren’t gongs.  Following is a story from Ebenezer and Ninety-Eight Friends

Am I a Gong?

            Chopsticks!  I hate hearing those kids play chopsticks on the piano!  Over and over they play it because they don’t know any other music.  It’s not a bad tune.  When you play both parts, it even has a little harmony to it.  It’s just that they play it again and again as if everyone were enjoying a fine performance. 

            This is what I think of when I read in I Corinthians 13.  If we don’t have love, we’re playing chopsticks over and over again—and thinking everyone is enjoying it.  We’re like a “resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”  

We have a set of presently unused percussion instruments at our church.  After the service, children bang on them until told to stop. 

            Do we go about our measured, repetitious lives like a sounding gong—making a lot of noise and motions, but with not much lasting results?  We may even irritate a few onlookers along the way.

            The Bible says we’re nothing if we don’t have the gift of love—even if we have mountain-moving faith.  If we give our possessions and even our bodies to be burned and we don’t practice love, we gain nothing. 

            Love is kind.  Am I kind to those who are not kind back?  Even sinners know how to be nice to people who are nice to them.  (Luke 6:32)

            Love doesn’t boast.  I can’t imagine a loving boaster.  It’s an oxymoron.  Rude and loving don’t go together, either.  Can you picture loving the guy you’re cutting off in traffic? 

            “You owe me.  I have my rights.”  Try to love a person while saying those words to him.  It’s harder than rubbing your head and patting your tummy.

            A loving person wants the other guy to succeed.  I like being that other guy.  But if we really want to succeed, we’ll be the cheerleader for so many around us who need more than a piercing sound. 

            Uh-oh.  Paul says in verse 4, love is patient.  I guess I’d better go back and apologize to those young chopstick players and gong resounders and clanging cymbalists.  I don’t want to be a gong.   


Don’t be a gong.  Go out and buy  a copy of Ebenezer and Ninety-Eight Friends.  But I’ll be your friend even if you don’t.



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Ebby and I have two friends.  One young, one, hmmm (it’s all relative).  One is from California, one from Colorado, a male and a female.  Waudell Maple, Brother Mapes, is a 76-year-old hospice chaplain who was my youth director many years ago.  Ashlee is a ten-year-old student.  Brother Mapes said to use Ashlee’s picture.  “She’s much prettier than this ole man.” 

Brother Mapes takes Ebby, AKA Ebenezer and Ninety-Eight Friends, to hospice patients and their families while they wait for the inevitable.  He also passes him out at Starbucks (St. Arbucks) for an ice breaker to open up a discussion about Jesus.  He takes him everywhere he goes.  “But he has to ride in the back seat.” 

Ashlee reads “Mud Pies,” from Ebby when she’s sad, “and that makes me laugh.”  Ashlee laughs more than most as she waits patiently for a family to call her own.  You can see she has that twinkle in her eye.  It seems to say, “I know God has something up His sleeve.” 

Brother Mapes has taken some nasty falls.  It sounds like he’s pretty bunged up, but I’ve checked and his sense of humor is intact.   From his latest e-mail:  “Did you tell me the name of a nursing home you have reserved a room in? I may be looking for one.  Don’t need Depends yet, just a wheelchair.  Sheesh!” 

Please pray for Ashlee and Brother Mapes.  Pray they keep laughing and making everyone around them laugh. 



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This morning when I checked my blog, the automatic scripture was Hebrews 13:3, Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners.  I immediately thought of our dear Thelma, who lived and breathed prison ministry.  Following is the story about her that appeared in Ebenezer and Ninety-Eight Friends.  May we follow in Thelma’s steps, as Janice Little, Frank Hicks, Joe Avila and many others have done. 





“Pray for Thelma.  She’s back in prison.” 

            Why would this nice lady be in prison?  I began to study the ups and downs of Thelma’s life.

            Her mother had a stroke when Thelma was seven.  This left her having to do most of the household chores.  Not an easy childhood. 

            At age eight, she heard a Chinese preacher, Mun Hope, at camp.  He had the children fill in their names in John 3:16:  For God so loved ….She immediately inserted Thelma and accepted that love. 

            She lived on Pine Ridge Native American Reservation in South Dakota where her father taught school and was a government agent.   I’m sure she got lonely.    

            After high school, Thelma had the opportunity to go to Emmaus Bible School in Chicago. 

            During this time, she went to Lake Geneva Youth Camp as a counselor.  There, she met Gil Hernandez.   She did possess a little mischievous streak:  Icing a cake for the other counselors with Ex-Lax.  Surely this didn’t qualify as questionable character.  Apparently Gil didn’t think so.  He married her.  Maybe this was because he didn’t eat any of the cake. 

            Gil and Thelma took on their first formal ministry in Colorado Springs, where they became house parents to teen-aged boys at a Christian home for children.   Though this was exciting for Thelma, I’m sure it was a challenging assignment.  Along with this, they had already begun to raise their own family. 

            They then were ready to go to Mexico.  She again rose to the challenge.  She soon adjusted to the new culture.  They taught children and planted churches in Mexico for 21 years. 

            Finally, God led them to Fresno, where Thelma met the Rolen family—a lovely family.  Well, then there was Janice.  Here, I think, is where the path turned for Thelma.  Yes, I’m sure of it.  Janice, the Rolen’s daughter, is the one who led her on this path to prison. 

            Janice Little introduced Thelma Hernandez to Austin Morgan and Prison Fellowship.  Thelma at first wondered aloud, “why me?  I don’t know anything about prisoners.”  Her thinking soon changed.  Prison ministry became her most passionate and fruitful calling.  For 14 years, Thelma went into prisons all over the San Joaquin Valley.  Her consistent service and her huge smile showed the prisoners she loved them.  Her open Bible showed them Who loved them more.  

            All the way my Savior leads me.   God led Thelma from an Indian reservation to teaching prisoners in the center of California. 

            Cheers each winding path I tread.  Her path wound by way of Chicago, Colorado, Mexico and Central California.  Wherever she went, she had a glow about her.   

            Gives me grace for every trial.  Thelma did have real trials:

  • Having to care for a family when she should be playing with dolls.
  • Going to a country with a different culture while raising four children.
  • Cancer.

I knew Thelma only during her prison years and her cancer years.  She seldom spoke of the cancer, only of the people behind bars whom she’d grown to love.  During share time, we saw the tears:  “Please pray that there won’t be a lock-down this week at Avenal.”  “Please pray the women at Chowchilla will be receptive.” 

            Feeds me with the living bread.  Her children remember waking up and going to the kitchen.  Their mom was sipping coffee, reading her Bible and then writing letters.  This was a habit for Thelma, not a sometimes occurrence. 

            Jesus led me all the way.  On July 4, 2007, Thelma received her independence.  On July 9, in a packed auditorium, we honored Thelma and the God she took to the prisoners.  


…I was in prison and you came to visit me.  Matthew 25:36C


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While I wait for some pictures for my next post, we’ll all thank God our pool is not so dirty as this one.  This pool once belonged to Herod, the Roman governor, in Caesarea.  It reminds me of the verse: 

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.  (Isaiah 62:6)

We remedy this not with chlorine bleach or algaecide or a good sweeper, but with another verse in Isaiah (1:18)

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.   

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  (I John 1:9)

You can read another pool story in Ebenezer and Ninety-Eight Friends.

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Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  Luke 12:6-7

I have lots of hair; David has little.  God knows how many each of us has.  And he’s not just a God of hair trivia.  He actually cares what happens to us.  So, you and I shouldn’t be upset about the present times.  God has not changed since He told us we were worth more than many sparrows.  The number of David’s hairs has greatly diminished, but God’s promises have not. 

Get Ebenezer and Ninety-Eight Friends for your mom for a belated Mother’s Day present.  It doesn’t talk about sparrows, but it does have a couple stories about chickens. 




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Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin?”  Proverbs 20:9

All have sinned….(Romans 3:23).  That certainly includes me.

The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a)  Uh-oh. 

But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 6:23b).  Whew!  How do I get that gift?

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  (Romans  10:9). 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  (John 3:16)

I now can say I am clean and without sin, but only because of God’s free gift. 

(Note:  My being without sin is positional through Christ’s work of grace, but I still have to confess sins to be in fellowship with God.  I John 1:9)

So simple, yet volumes have been written to explain it.  Here is one tiny volume, not to explain God and His Ultimate Gift, but to proclaim this Gift and its byproducts. 

Ebenezer and Ninety-Eight Friends, Musings on Life, Scripture and the Hymns.   



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I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  (Jeremiah 29:11)

David and I have some uncertainty about our future, but God knew the plans all along and will keep us in his loving arms.  I appreciate Him for that and for so much more. 

If you want to read Ebenezer and Ninety-Eight Friends, it’s still available, not sold out yet.  Hurry, while supplies last!  (Isn’t that what the TV ads say?) 



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