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Mickey on a Mission

Updated: Jan 24

Caleb McCullough of Judah Christian School

This past summer, senior Caleb McCullough, known to some as Mickey, went on a mission trip to Belfast in Northern Ireland. He went with 14 others from his youth group at Meadowbrook Community Church. According to youth pastor and trip leader Aaron VanderMolen, the mission was to serve the youth of Belfast, a city that has experienced “a lot of violence and turmoil. You can still see and feel the remnants of it. Many young people in Belfast have little to no faith.” 

The trip took eight days, starting on June 22, 2023. It was a seven-hour flight to get to Belfast and an eight-hour flight to get home. The first day they were in Northern Ireland, the group took time to recuperate from their travels. On the second day, they went to see one of God’s wonders: the Giant’s Causeway, a group of volcanic rocks all in the shape of hexagons. Caleb also saw the Peace Walls, which divide Belfast’s Protestant unionist neighborhoods from its Catholic Irish republican ones. Temporary peace walls had been built in the 1920s and 1930s. Permanent ones began to be constructed in 1969, following riots and worsening violence among the people.

On the third day, a Sunday, Caleb and his group led children’s services at a Belfast church. During the two services, people in the group took turns sitting in the main service and helping lead the children during their Sunday school. Throughout the rest of the week, Caleb got to participate in Belfast church life, spending his time doing community cleanup in the neighborhood and serving in the local schools.

Caleb McCullough in Northern Ireland with Meadowbrook Community Church

While Caleb was serving in the schools, he got to teach RE, or religious education, to students ranging in age from four to eleven. He taught about Jesus being the way, the truth, and the life. He and others in the group spoke at an all-school assembly about the thief coming to steal, kill, and destroy and how Jesus is able to counter all of that. Caleb said, “Over there it is cool seeing people want to talk to you about that and asking about it. The students thought it was super cool to have someone visit them from America.” Caleb and his group got the chance to work with two different schools, each with close to 200 students the group got to interact with. 

Aaron VanderMolen told us how helpful Caleb was during the trip. He said, “Caleb had many ministry opportunities and made an effort to get to know so many of the teenagers we met. Caleb was one of the few students who was willing to share his testimony at a church gathering to encourage the teenagers to live for Jesus. Though we were only there a week, I am grateful that Caleb was with us, making an impact on those teenagers. During their youth group night, Caleb prayed with many of the teenagers there and encouraged them.” Against Belfast’s history of violence, Caleb and the group worked a mission: to show people Jesus and the kingdom of God.

Caleb said that the trip helped broaden his faith. It showed him just how receptive people can be to hearing new ideas. Everyone the group talked to was willing to hear what they had to say. No one was rude or dismissive when talking to them. 

Caleb McCullough of Judah Christian School

Caleb also explained how discussing religion is a big part of daily life in Northern Ireland. He said, “Religion is shunned here in America. But in the schools and neighborhoods of Northern Ireland, religion is a very large part of the culture, affecting even those who are not religious.” Caleb got the chance to see how much need there is in every community for Jesus. He said, “I saw how on fire the churches there are for Jesus. They have a genuine desire to spread the word.”

Throughout the trip, Caleb also got the chance to grow closer to the people he went with. They bonded, joking around with each other on bus rides. “I knew them through youth group,” Caleb said, “but I don’t think we became really good friends until this trip.” Caleb grew in his friendship with them by serving together. He also talks with people he met in Belfast: “I still talk with people over in Northern Ireland regularly.”

This was Caleb’s first mission trip, and he had a blast. He wants to go on more missions and would love it if he got the chance to go back to the same area. “I would definitely do it again,” he said. “It was a good experience getting to share my faith and encourage others.” In fact, Caleb encourages everyone to go on a mission trip if they get the chance. You go to serve, he said: “Even though it might cost you some money, you’re serving others. You’re sacrificing to help others know who Jesus is and know about his word.”

—Nathaniel Herche, class of ’25


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