Local youth turns away from technology, heads to Central America to work Mission project

NICARAGUA — While most teenagers are enjoying the relaxing days of summer, one Harlingen teen is spending his days working hard in the sweltering heat of Nicaragua.

Jaryn Hoff, 14, is on a mission trip with Teen Missions International for two months this summer.

Jaryn said he wanted to spend his summer making a difference, and he researched for weeks on how he could serve others abroad.

“I actually found the Teen Missions organization on YouTube,” he said. “They travel all over the world, but when I read that the kids in this Nicaragua area sell the sand from their own backyard just to have money to eat every day, it broke my heart. I wanted to do what I could to go and help them.”

Jaryn spent the majority of his spring fundraising the $4,000 to pay his own way to make this trip happen.

“I lost my job in February due to health issues unexpectedly, but because I fully supported Jaryn going on this trip, we got creative on how to get him there financially,” his mom, Nicole, said.

Jaryn and his mom made many 30-pound batches of “Holy Guacamole,” her late Pa’s recipe, to raise some funds, in addition to petitioning friends and family to be trip sponsors.

“I can’t believe how many people came together and donated to this cause and sponsored me,” Jaryn said. “Even my orthodontist, Dr. Martinez, sent me a check. I can’t thank everyone enough because without them I wouldn’t be able to go.”

After spending two weeks in June at Teen Mission’s “Lord’s Boot Camp” in Florida, where they vigorously physically train and spiritually equip over 600 kids, Jaryn and his team of 20 arrived in Nicaragua on July 2.

Although the conditions are a bit rough, raining nearly every evening on their tent campsite, they have been able to already lay the foundations of a pavilion for activities at a children’s school and start on the concrete walls for a fence to make the school safer.

One leader, Jeshua, a former Teen Missions student, notes on the weekly blog update that they are taking their time on the structures to make them earthquake proof.

The lack of electricity requires them to use hand tools, use flashlights, and bathe and shower with buckets. It also means unplugging from electronics, including being able to speak to his parents by phone.

“I’m thankful that my son can unplug and work this summer to serve others,” said Matthew, Jaryn’s dad. “It’s hard to not talk to him for two months, but I’m so proud that he would choose to put himself through the training and tough conditions to be able to go to minister to other needy children in this world.”

That is exactly what Jaryn and his team are doing. Between the construction projects, they are also spending time evangelizing and playing with the children on the local soccer and baseball fields.

They are performing dramas, teaching with puppets, and passing out toys, coloring books, and some essentials. Many of the tools used and items donated for the children, were collected from Valley families.

Jaryn’s parents say they are grateful their son already knows what he wants to do one day.

“To know your calling at such a young age, I feel is pretty amazing,” Nicole said.

Jaryn said with conviction in January that he wants to be a missionary.

“I believe he is already doing it,” Matthew added.

“Although it can be scary to send our boy off to another country, we will continue to support him in this as that is what scripture calls us to do in Mark 16:15 where it says ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation,’” Nicole said.

Together Jaryn’s parents want to encourage other parents to consider the benefits of having their teens sign up for mission work.

“There is lots of work to do right here on the border,” they said. “Way of the Cross Ministries, right here in Harlingen, is a wonderful local ministry. They are also serving in Mexico and Nicaragua.

“They, too, are doing the Lord’s work.”

There are benefits to becoming involved.

“We can’t tell you all the benefits of unplugging our teens from this ‘selfie world’, having them work hard to appreciate all they have, and most importantly having them make a difference in other’s lives here and abroad,” they said.