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CU students, alumna spend summer on long-term mission trip to Nicaragua

July 26, 2011
For Immediate Release

 Campbellsville University students spent their summer on a long-term mission trip to Nicaragua, serving in an orphanage. From left are: Amaris Vest, a sophomore from Muskegon, Mich.; Jordan Cornett, a senior from Lexington, Ky.; and Kristi Ensminger, a 2010 graduate of CU from Kingston Springs, Tenn.
 Campbellsville University students spent their summer on a long-term mission trip to Nicaragua, serving in an orphanage. From left are: Amaris Vest, a sophomore from Muskegon, Mich.; Jordan Cornett, a senior from Lexington, Ky.; and Kristi Ensminger, a 2010 graduate of CU from Kingston Springs, Tenn.

By Richard RoBards, assistant to the sports information director

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Sometimes you don’t know what blessings you have until you see the blessings that other people don’t. For two CU student/athletes and a 2010 graduate, that was certainly the case during a six-week mission trip to Nicaragua.

Jordan Cornett, senior-to-be from Lexington, Ky.; Amaris Vest, sophomore-to-be from Muskegon, Mich.; and Kristi Ensminger, a 2010 graduate from Kingston Springs, Tenn.; have been participating in a faith-based mission through New Life Nicaragua.

Cornett’s dad is a college minister at Lexington’s Immanuel Baptist Church. He spent last December in the Capital City and got to know the missionaries there. The rest, well, is history.

The three have paid their own air fare and lodging while on the trip. Vest departed for Atlanta from Grand Rapids, Mich. and Cornett and Ensminger to Atlanta from Cincinnati. When the three hooked up in the southern air hub they traveled the rest of the way together.

“Dad worked it out so Kristi and I could come,” said Cornett through Facebook messaging. “Then I dragged Amaris along with us.”

Cornett and Vest played softball together in the spring and Ensminger ended her Lady Tiger basketball career two seasons ago. It wasn’t Cornett’s and Ensminger’s first mission rodeo. The two of them traveled to Haiti after the earthquake before Hurricane Tomas practically leveled the island and performed their mission magic there. Vest, who has spent short periods of time in Mexico on missions, was taking part in her first long-term trip.

Ensminger, who got her undergraduate degree in psychology, is attending Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where she hopes to complete requirements for a Master of Arts in theological studies.

“This past semester I had a class on missions called ‘Missiology’,” said Ensminger. “I have definitely been able to apply some of those principles here. My eyes have been opened to a whole different side of missions than the experience I had in Haiti.”

With that background, and armed with Cornett’s public relations and Vest’s Spanish and business administration workloads, the trio set up housekeeping in a guest house down the street from the Nicaraguan Christian Academy’s summer camp and an orphanage. Monday through Friday they help teach English. The 14 orphans are too young to attend school, so there’s a lot of one-on-one attention.

Ensminger, who was known as The Beast during her playing days, is nothing more than a ball of putty in the hands of those kids, according to Cornett and Vest.

The language barrier has mostly been bridged with the exception of a few occasions when differences in translation have led to some comic relief. Cornett and Vest forgot that the Nicaragua uses the metric system and when they went to get their hair clipped about an inch, the ensuing trim turned into nearly a handful of inches.

“Our hair is very short now,” admits Cornett. “Amaris’ is actually cute, but I have a slight mullet. My mom has already scheduled a hair appointment for me right when I get off the plane.”

Ensminger wasn’t shielded from the scourge of broken English. A cook by the name of Francis, was trying to tell her that she needed to exercise. It came out that she was fat.”

“It was hilarious,” said Cornett.

In addition to the academic work at the Academy, the women have also assisted missionary teams from various U.S. churches in remodeling and rebuilding homes and performing other construction projects. One such place, according to Vest, is Cristo Rey, a very poor barrio.

“We play with the children when we’re not helping build homes — kicking soccer balls and playing other games.”
Ensminger says that the biggest difference between Haiti and Nicaragua (the Nos. 1 and 2 poorest countries, respectively, in the western hemisphere) are the conditions.

“Our bodies and minds have had more time to refuel in a relaxing living environment than in the intensity of Haiti,” said Ensminger. “It has been a great time for the three of us to get to know the Word (of God) and build community with each other.”

All three are open to the possibility of serving missions in the future, so any experiences in long-term stays are beneficial.

“But ultimately,” said Cornett, “we are just here to serve in whatever way we can … knowing that whatever we can do in the short amount of time we’re here allows the full-time missionaries to more effectively share Christ and continue to do the work they are doing.”

Managua is a city of about 1.8 million people. But the three have kept pretty close to home. There’s a McDonald’s about 40 minutes away and it might as well be three days ride on a donkey’s back since motorized transportation is scarce.

“Amaris and I have grown fond of a local dish called “plantain chips,” said Cornett, “and Kristi’s favorite is any kind of meat apparently.

“We haven’t eaten anything too crazy, but Kristi did cook a spider in our noodles the other day and didn’t mind telling us until we had all eaten.”

They had an opportunity to eat a local delicacy (a certain body part of a once-proud bull), but decided against it after discussing it.

In their spare time the trio has been reading the Bible a lot, in-between card games and other readings.
It all has led to some intense discussions, according Cornett.

“We also wanted to memorize Romans 6 (Dead to sin, alive in Christ), so we made Amaris play the guitar and we wrote a little song to help us do it,” said Cornett. “Actually, it isn’t bad either!”

The child’s play has them all wondering if they haven’t regressed to the age of the orphans they sometimes keep.
“Every night has been like a middle school slumber party,” offered Cornett.

The overall experience has been so good that the travelers are not looking forward to when they will have to leave their new friends.

“We have become very close to them … especially the cooks, and will be very sad to leave them.”

Notwithstanding the spiders and lizards that inhabit the guest house, the CU missionaries are conflicted about their return to normal life. Cornett says she wants to visit the first Taco Bell she sees and order a large Dr. Pepper. Ensminger wants some hot wings and Vest some of her momma’s home cooking.

So, look out, U.S.A, the missionary team will return to the states on Sunday, July 31.

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