Steve and Sandy Jacoby are in their early fifties and have recently moved to Nicaragua to live a more simple life and to find ways to serve the poor and needy. Today they teach English to Nicaraguans, volunteer in a hospital for burned children, and work with more than fifty children in an extremely poor neighborhood (barrio). They are actively involved with the church in Managua and are grateful for how the Lord continues to show them ways to serve and encourage others. Steve and Sandy are documenting their experiences and are eager to help other empty-nesters who might consider a move to the "third world."
For several years prior to our move, the Lord, along with various authors (Francis Chan, Shane Claiborne, and Richard Stearns), had been stirring our hearts to find ways to serve the poor in a more consistent and hands-on manner. At first we felt stuck - not sure how to take the first step, let alone knowing what to do or where to go. Then in 2011, God gave us the nudge we needed. Steve lost his job of 25 years and one month later we were notified that our home sat atop a sinkhole. That kind of news would normally have caused us high anxiety regarding our finances and health insurance; but we could't help but see it as the Lord actively removing obstacles. As we were being led out of our comfort zone, we began researching countries in Latin America. Both of us have widowed moms in Florida and needed to consider travel time and cost in case of an urgent need to return to the US. For that reason, we zeroed in on Central America.
We took a 10-day trip visiting three countries in Central America. We spent time with disciples, wanting to know about opportunities to serve, as well as wanting to understand every possible angle, from security to the costs of housing and groceries. After much consideration and prayer, we chose Nicaragua, which is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The cost of living in Nicaragua is relatively low (except for electricity and gasoline), and it is the safest country in Central America. Safety was a big consideration for us because our goal was to live among the Nicaraguans (not in an expats neighborhood) and move around freely without having to look over our shoulder.
Upon returning from our exploratory visit to Central America, we initiated the process of doing a short sale of our home (not many consider buying a home with the word sinkhole attached to it) and sold our car. We have a very small side business that brings in a small income of $550/mo and part of our "counting the cost" literally and figuratively was knowing we would have to regularly use some of our savings to cover our monthly costs.
Prior to our move, we became trained and certified to teach English to adults. Learning English is one of the best ways a Nicaraguan can boost his or her income potential, so teaching it is a great way to invest in the people. We currently teach three classes and ask our students to make a small investment of between 50 cents to $1.40 per hour to help them be invested in their course of study.
After moving to Nicaragua in mid-August, 2012, it took about six weeks to get situated in a rental house and to buy a used car and other unexpected necessities like a stove and refrigerator (appliances are typically not included with rentals). The church in Managua has been wonderful to us and we've found many opportunities for fellowship, teaching, and encouraging the church.
When we moved to Nicaragua we were eager to serve but were finding few outlets. We were uncertain about where to go and whom to ask. We were not part of any organization and were definitely open to serving in other ministries, but it was virtually impossible to find one that didn't teach the "sinners prayer" along with their serving. After much prayer and patience, the Lord surprised us by opening one door after another, including APROQUEN, a hospital for burned children - an area we never would have envisioned. We volunteer at APROQUEN 3-4 mornings per week, playing games, reading children's fairy tales in Spanish, and try to distract them during their therapy - anything to bring some relief and laughter. Comforting parents (mostly moms) is a huge part as well. Most parents arrive feeling very frightened and guilt-ridden so we try to help draw them out so they can express their thoughts and feelings. It has become a great ministry for Sandy as she spends hours listening to them and giving lots of hugs.
In January, we began visiting a very poor barrio called Naciones Unidas. Sandy has a children's story time hour reading classic fairy tales, while Steve tutors about 15 older kids in math. We also teach English on Saturday mornings to these children. It's been so moving getting to know these children and their parents, and some of the moms have asked Sandy if she would do some Bible studies on being a better wife and mom!
We are confident that many other couples feel as we do and desire to find ways to help the poor. We have much to share with anyone who wants to explore the possibilities - this is far more doable than you might think! Our contact information and more on our work is available on our website sheepnotgoats.org .You will also find a blog with photos and how you can support our work here in Nicaragua.
Your brother and sister in Christ,
Steve and Sandy Jacoby