If it were easy, everyone would do it.
Step away from the comfortable world around them and enter into a life that teeters on the edge of the unknown, holding on to God’s provision with every fiber of their heart. Open up in faith and live each month learning another language, another custom, for the sake of souls.
FCA Nicaragua leader Jeff Izzo knows a thing or two about the unknown.
Five years ago, Jeff and his family moved from Maryland to Managua with no clear direction other than obedience and a heart for the people. He and his wife, Erinn, both teachers, had a relaxed life with their three kids: Julia, Nate and Sammy. Jeff coached cross country and led an FCA Huddle, and summers off allowed the Izzos to take short-term mission trips around the world.
When they took their first trip in 2001, it became a pivotal turning point for their future.
FCA Nicaragua Surf Huddle
“It helped grow my faith,” Jeff said. “I learned to be service oriented and felt closer to God in a foreign atmosphere. In an uncomfortable way, I felt comfortable there.”
As they continued to serve overseas, God began to draw them to the possibility of staying somewhere longer. Their friends had a ministry in Nicaragua, and the Izzo family helped with a summer camp in 2009. The whole family went again around Christmas the next year, and when Jeff saw his children jump in and serve without being asked, something deeper and more long-term began to spark. When Jeff and Erinn took a trip to look at schools and ministries in July 2011, pieces started coming together.
Jeff connected with then-Latin America FCA Regional International Coordinator Jim Roquemore regarding a preliminary tryout training. He joined FCA staff part-time in 2013, while teaching at Nicaragua Christian Academy and getting involved at the Instituto Nicaraguense de Deportes, Nicaragua’s national sports training center.
He started coaching distance runners and got to know other teams as he went to practices once a week with Gatorade and snacks. This evolved into beginning Huddles with track and field, boxing and surfing.
In the surf Huddle, Jeff saw surfers struggle with identity, especially in the tourist spots where there is a large partying presence.
“We want them to know and show them they can have good, clean fun that’s holy,” he said. “The Huddle is a group of surfers to get together centered around Christ.”
With boxing, Jeff saw a coaches ministry need.
“Coaches leave their faith at home,” he shared. “I’m at practices hanging out and reflecting Jesus’ love and sharing the gospel. They’ve never seen that at boxing practice.”
The Izzo Family
Jeff encourages individuals and groups to take a mission trip to Nicaragua and help in any capacity. God works intimately when one is taken out of their element and used for His Kingdom.
Since moving to Nicaragua, the Izzos have stretched in ways they never imagined. It has also been a lot of placing one foot in front of the other in the dark. Even when they thought they were being obedient, God showed them how they were still doing things on their own and not fully surrendering to His provision.
“We’ve learned to trust God a lot,” Jeff said. “Though there has been uncertainty, we feel like God has our backs.”
It’s never completely smooth sailing, but as pastor John Ortberg said, “When in the Bible did God ever give anybody an easy job?”
The Izzos will return to the USA this summer, concluding their service in helping pioneer the day-to-day for FCA in Nicaragua. Their faithfulness has helped set a foundation to build upon in the coming years in Nicaragua and Latin America, as great ministry to coaches and athletes continues to grow through local partnerships.
To learn more about FCA Nicaragua or get involved, visit fcaworld.org.