Co-leading Global Builders trip to El Salvador “Ciments” couple’s love of service

Co-leading Global Builders trip to El Salvador “Ciments” couple’s love of service

No one has logged more miles as leader of the Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure than Connor Ciment, who was the Adventure’s coordinator from 2016 to 2019. He served the extended stint at the helm of the fundraising and awareness event because he had fallen in love with The Fuller Center’s work of helping families have decent places to live.

In fact, he went on four different Fuller Center Global Builders trips during that time — something that was hardly part of his job description. He already had a deep appreciation for The Fuller Center’s work across the United States that he was able to witness with the Adventure, but two Global Builders trips to Haiti and one each to Nicaragua and Peru further cemented — pun intended — his appreciation for the international component of the ministry.

Connor had put his mechanical engineering degree from the University of Alabama on the shelf for a bit while leading the Adventure, but he now works as consulting engineer designing mechanical systems for commercial buildings.

He resides in Wilmington, N.C., with his wife of just over one year, Beth, whom he met in Bismarck, N.D., while leading the 2018 Bicycle Adventure. A relationship manager for a financial institution, Beth has long shared her husband’s affinity for helping people in need. Last week they had another shared Fuller Center experience as they co-led a Fuller Center Global Builders trip to El Salvador.

“Life took me away from The Fuller Center, but the mission was and will always be close to my heart. I was eager to get back, and I figured leading a trip would be a good way to help out The Fuller Center and just participate in what’s going on internationally. So Beth and I got together to lead a trip, and it’s cool to have some people that we knew join and some people that we didn’t know, which gave more people an opportunity to see that work that’s going on.”

Beth did not have to be coaxed into the trip.

“She was definitely excited,” he says. “She had done some other international trips in the past but not with The Fuller Center, so she was excited to see what was going on. I think after we got back, she’s even more excited about it.”

Beth and Connor Ciment at work on the job site in El Salvador

Being co-leaders of Global Builders trip, however, was a completely different dynamic from how they first met under The Fuller Center umbrella as the 2018 Bicycle Adventure rolled through North Dakota. When it came to keeping the ride moving along smoothly, the buck stopped with Connor. He was happy this dynamic allowed him to pass the buck every now and then.

“She had been on the bike rides where I was the leader and she was a participant,” he said. “But in this case we were co-leading it. It was cool for me to see her take an active role in the leadership and me kind of relax a little bit more than I normally would. She definitely has time-management and organization skills that I can conjure up when needed, but they’re a lot more natural to her. So, it was really good to lead with her.”

They are hardly the first married couple to serve on a Global Builders trip together, nor are they one of the first couples to co-lead one of the trips. But like most of the couples who have preceded them in such a role, they have yet another bonding experience to add to the glue that helps hold marriages together.

“I had a passion for the work that The Fuller Center was doing internationally, and she’d heard about it, but she hadn’t seen it and experienced it,” Connor says. “And now we share the passion for reaching people around the world who are just in a hard spot through no fault of their own, and there’s something we can do about it. We look forward to more trips with The Fuller Center and keeping our ears and eyes open to how we can better serve our global community.”

The team led by Beth and Connor Ciment share a light moment

They may not have realized it when they first began planning this Global Builders trip, but Beth and Connor wound up leading the team during an unprecedented flurry of home building by The Fuller Center in El Salvador. The Fuller Center dedicated its 500th home in the country just this past December, but that total is on pace to more than double this year alone with more than 600 houses either built or currently under construction in 2022.

The activity is the result of support from Fuller Center donors, major gifts from New Story Charity, partners such as The People Helping People Network, an increase in Global Builders teams (also on pace to set records in 2022) and a well-oiled machine of local leadership.

“I was working at The Fuller Center when the New Story partnership started and things started picking up, and I’d heard big numbers coming out of El Salvador — numbers that we hadn’t seen before,” Connor recalls. “Now, being able to witness it, man, it is high-octane down there. And the team down there is fantastic. Lisselot is obviously super well-connected and very resourceful and driven.”

“Lisselot” is Lisselot Troconis, the leader of Gente Ayudando Gente, The Fuller Center for Housing’s local partner that facilitates the construction of Fuller Center homes in several different communities throughout the country. Connor says she has struck the perfect balance between leading multiple large construction projects and being an advocate for and friend of Fuller Center partner families.

“We got to walk through one of the first communities that they did, people were running out to say hey,” Connor says. “She knows them by name and what they’re doing for a living. To see the depth of the relationships that she has with these people was really awesome. When you pair that with the huge numbers, you’d think relationships could get lost in the scale of it. But it was cool to see her relationship and see the scale of growth at the same time.”

Making new friends in El Salvador

The hardest part of most Global Builders trip is saying goodbye to the families and new friends made during the week. Volunteers often speak of how tears unexpected flow at the end of these trips. This trip was no exception.

“We got amazing hospitality everywhere we went,” Connor says. “It was definitely an eye-opener to have hospitality poured on us when we went into the trip thinking that we were going to be pouring ourselves out toward these people — and then you just feel it completely in reverse. They’re awesome people, humble, super hard-working, friendly and really kind to us as foreigners. We were welcomed to the build site and welcomed to the community. They’re really gracious, and it was a really good experience.”

“The people of San Juan de Dios in El Salvador, up the mountain from
Juayua, have little and have a lot all at the same time,” Beth adds. “A week working
alongside them, helping to build their simple houses, taught me much.
While they have little money and material things, the joy and kindness
they have is immeasurable. They are good, good people that I hope to see

The return home also presents its own challenges as volunteers settle back into their normal daily routines. They also often tend to have a little more appreciation for their blessings and fewer concerns about problems that seem a little more trivial than before.

“Coming back from this trip — maybe I’d forgotten from trips past — but there’s a whiplash of culture shock coming back,” Connor says. “The majority of our issues are like us worrying about what are luxuries to others. I came back to a house that has rooms that I don’t even go in often.

“Seeing where these people live now and where they’re going and the amount of joy they have in their life and how people around here, including myself, wrestle to get that same amount of joy with so much more physical comfort already handed to us, it’s just a typical heavy dose of perspective,” he adds. “It’s a reminder to not take things for granted and to seek to pass along the gifts that we’ve been given.”

RELATED LINK: Bicycle Adventure leaders through the years talk about how the experience has shaped their lives

Photo gallery: More from the trip

We'd love to hear your comments!