Olathe resident Ron Ernst next week will intertwine two passions: mountain climbing and the desire to help children in need.
Ernst, 60, is training his body and mind for the arduous climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa that reigns over Tanzania at 19,342 ft. Ernst leaves Friday and returns June 25. He will spend a week climbing the mountain, starting Monday.
“Climbing mountains and hiking is something I’ve been doing all my life, but I thought I needed to … build it toward something that is really worthwhile,” Ernst said.
During his hike, Ron and nine other missionaries from different states will raise money — Ron for two separate missions at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, where he has been a member for nearly 15 years.
One is the church’s Bed Ministry, which provides pillows, bedding and mattress to children who don’t have beds.
The other is the ZOE Helps Ministry, which “empowers African orphans to help pull themselves out of poverty,” Ernst said.
The ministry provides a three-year program in which it teaches children how to support themselves and live healthier lives.
“That kind of fix is going to be long-term and probably life-term lessons that they learn to keep themselves out of poverty, but then ... help other children and people in need,” Ernst said. “Empowering these children to help themselves throughout their lives we feel is a great opportunity.”
Ernst is paying all his own expenses so all money raised will go to the two missions.
“None of the money being raised is helping me, it’s helping the missions,” Ernst said.
His church’s many missions inspired Ernst to use his trip for good.
“They really give great direction in helping people with their mission work, and that was just something that I continually saw and realized,” he said. “It was something that clicked in my mind. I can make something out of a trip rather than just me going by myself. I can do something now while I’m climbing and raising funds.”
Ernst’s love of the mountains goes back to his childhood, when his family regularly took camping trips in the Colorado Rockies. And as an adult, he cemented his love of mountain climbing upon reaching the summit of Longs Peak for the second time.
“You spend all day climbing, and it’s hard, and you get to the top,” Ernst said. “… It just kind of hit me that it was spiritual. You’re standing there where not a lot of other people get to be, and to look around and to be so thankful that you’ve made it … and see the beauty, it is a spiritual awakening. I thank God that I can do stuff like that.”
For more information or to donate:
The Bed Ministry: cor.org/beds
ZOE Helps Ministry: zoehelps.org
Donation checks can be made out to the Church of the Resurrection, the memo line reading, “Ron Ernst climb 2014.”
Church of the Resurrection
13720 Roe Ave, Leawood, KS 66224