Karli says a 2017 Fuller Center Global Builders trip to Nicaragua was a soul-shaping experience. She carries the images of the places and people she met as she runs, bikes and walks in this year’s Global Home Challenge.

Karlie Saner feels a permanent bond with the wonderful families of Las Peñitas, Nicaragua.

A soul shaped by service

My hardest goodbye ended with “¡Hasta luego!

See you later.

Those words teared from my soul that steaming Saturday morning in July of 2016. A week and a half in Nicaragua shaped more of a my life than 26 years in the United States ever had.

I remember the intoxicating mixture of salt, wood, rubber, and dirt filtering through my nose as my team comprised of 14 college students navigated down to the little fishing village of Las Peñitas.

Traveling from Chicago, IL, we were on a mission—to build homes with The Fuller Center for Housing, Global Builders—to support a community and cause, to bond with the people of Nicaragua, and by the grace of God (and my prayer) be changed.

It wasn’t hard to be welcomed into the family—I mean, no one can pass up a big bear hug from Danilo (the country leader) or miss one of his wisdom talks. Then there was Alberto, who had a spirit of joy, lighting up every room with his smile and DJ skills of course. Lorena—the queen of cooking all our meals—became our mama bear, making sure we were all well fed and rested. And Santos, one of the most patient, kind-hearted, intelligent people I’ve ever met, supported our team with his engineering skills, life-stories, and Spanish lessons.

The work wasn’t easy. The days were hot. When the sun came out, we were in the trenches as a team (yes, I mean that literally, too). We dug our way through footings, blistered our hands over rebar, and even climbed our way to securing the rooftops.

Through it all, I discovered physical labor fosters a relational soul.

In other words, through this physical act of service where I was building a home for someone else, I found my soul responding in a permeable manner—being nurtured by the Nicaraguan community around me, living into a story of redemption shaped the particular presence of God in His people, being more open, alive—seen.

Each day, Pedro—our homeowner—pulled me aside and would ask, “Karlita ¿Cómo está tu corazón?” Or “Karli, how is your heart?” I’d never been asked that before.

The people of Nicaragua formed relationships with me because they wanted to—they valued me, they saw human flourishing in creating meaningful interactions. To put it simply, the genuinely cared.

As I added concrete to the side of the house, I chuckled hysterically with our mason Benito. He asked me for a nail in Spanish, “un clavo, Karlita.” But, I clapped instead. I clearly had a lot to learn.

A relational soul.

Esperanza—Pedro’s wife—invited me to make tortillas with her one afternoon. Alberto made it very clear mine looked like rocks. It was a sight to see. So I left it to the expert, but it was the joy of time and experience.

A relational soul.

Fuerte” Danilo said to me as I held back tears of weariness. I was tired from feeling like the leader that always had to show up and exhausted from hiding behind my smile. He saw strength in me beyond my physical capabilities. My heart was stronger than I knew. He believed in me.

A relational soul.

Today, I’m running, biking, and walking in the Global Home Challenge with a goal of raising a minimum of $1,500 and logging 500 miles. Through it all, I carry these stories with me; I carry pictures of those I’ve met in my armband as I run. I do so because these people and memories aren’t something of my past, they are my present.

Remember, my physical labor in Nicaragua fostered a relational soul—one that was seen and now sees.

Without the homes needed in that special village, I would not have met the people I did, been moved by conversations I had, challenged mentally by the physical demands, nor been so compelled to go back a second time for another two weeks in 2017 to build again.

You see, my experience with the Fuller Center in Nicaragua isn’t a past action, it’s a very present one. It’s why I am staying active now. It’s how I see them in the same way they’ve seen me.

It’s my way of never saying “¡Hasta luego!” again. Because the truth is, I don’t ever want to see them later.

I want to see them every day. In my prayers. In my actions. By my words.

It’s my soul’s way of saying and reminding my friends, I see you.

¡Te veo! The only “goodbye” I will ever say to my NICA family again.

Click the thumbnails to see larger images from Karli’s gallery:

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  • Outstanding post, Karli! Thank you so much for being open and sharing your inspiring words!


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