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Little did Ron Simonek of Big Bear, California, know when he made his first climb 20 years ago that rock climbing would lead him into a relationship with Jesus Christ and into a ministry of hope for youth and families, writes Carol Thomas Karaszewski in the Christian Examiner.

After his climbing mentor led him to Christ 12 years ago, God gave Simonek a heart for youth—especially hard-to-reach kids. He combined this with his passion for Jesus and climbing, and the Redeemed Extreme Rock Climbing ministry was born.

Redeemed Extreme climbs vary in length and difficulty from mini climbs of 25 feet to more advanced adventures of 90 feet. Groups go out every two weeks to popular Southern California climbing sites such as Apple Valley Crags and Margaretville, Big Bear’s Roadside Rock and Castle Rock, and Barstow’s New Jack City.

Karaszewski writes:

During the all-day climbs Simonek, who grew up and still lives in Big Bear, uses climbing as an analogy for life and the Christian walk.

“The rock is, of course, Jesus,” he said. “We anchor the climber’s ropes to the top of the rock, and I explain how that is like the Holy Spirit who holds and keeps us. Even the weird climbing shoes have a purpose. They’re designed to stick to the rock just like we’re to be shod with the gospel of peace.”

Simonek also uses the outings to explain how the fear and anxiety of climbing parallels life.

“Kids who conquer their fear on the rock learn that death, sickness or family break-ups can also be overcome,” he said. “We just have to praise God through it all and keep trusting him.”

When the kids first see the rocks they are often overwhelmed.

“They’ll say they can’t do it and that fear parallels their lives,” he said. “I tell them that there is hope and a Savior. I tell them that there is evidence of who God is and who Jesus is.”

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