Commandment vs Commission



There’s a passage in the New Testament that has become a kind of battle cry for Christians everywhere. In fact, the Christian college I attended had this verse literally written in stone on the bell tower in the center of campus. It’s commonly called The Great Commission.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. – Matthew 28:19-20

This is what motivates most missionaries to get out of bed every day. We all love checklists and clear things to accomplish, this verse serves us well to such ends. This directive, though at the heart of what we’re called to do, is only part of the Gospel.

The Bible is a pretty big book, and it actually gives us a lot of advice and a lot of things to do. How can we decide what directives are more important than others? We can’t, that’s the point. There’s another verse, commonly called The Great Commandment, that describes another piece to this biblical puzzle.

Love your neighbor as yourself – Matthew 22:39

And of course, we can’t forget about the passage that talks about the least of these and how we’re supposed to give them water when they are thirsty, food when they are hungry, and visit them when they are in prison.

So many missionaries and churches get tunnel vision; all they can see is the great commission, completely ignoring the great commandment. The truth is, one without the other is like a gun with no bullets. Without both the great commandment and the great commission, it’s only a piece of what Jesus commanded.

Terry Dalrymple leads a network of over 500 mission organizations scattered throughout the world. He puts it like this, “Our responsibility is not to choose which of Jesus’ commands is most important, but to commit to obey everything Jesus commanded.”

Without practicing the great commandment, we’ll never truly fulfill the great commission. Evaluate your past results and future goals. If they are not equally commandment and commission minded, you’re presenting a half-Gospel.

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– Dustin Patrick |  1MISSION in Mexico, Nicaragua, & El Salvador

Find him on Twitter or Facebook.

Transitioning Well


I’ve never heard of anyone who really enjoys transition. I have, however, met plenty of people who will reflect on times of transition as times of significant growth. What is it about transition that is so difficult? How can we make the most of transition? Does living overseas feel like a life of constant transition for everyone else too?

Up front, I’ll tell you I don’t have the answer to those questions. What I do have are some suggestions that might help you make the most of a transition period. I lived overseas for a few years and it seemed like the transition never stopped.

Here are some things that have helped weather the transition storm over the years.

Keep the big picture in mind

One time, I was complaining about being busy or stressed to my friend and he asked me a really good question. “How do you think the CEO of Walmart can operate 11,000 stores in 27 different countries with over 2.2 million employees?” I really didn’t care about the answer that much but it helped me realize that I alone create my threshold for stress and busyness. There are less busy people who are accomplishing more than you. For some reason, this helps me in times of stress and transition. It reminds me that I created my glass ceiling and I can destroy it. 

Need some inspiration in this area? Do some research on what a person goes through to join the special forces of the military. There’s a show on the Discovery Channel called “Surviving the Cut” that is especially eye-opening.

Don’t forget who is in control

This isn’t a super spiritual paragraph about how since God’s in control you have nothing to worry about. Read the story of Adam and Eve or the parable of the ten talents. It’s hard to miss how much God has entrusts us with. God may be in ultimate control, but that doesn’t mean that were off the hook for our decisions and the associated consequences. You own your future. If something isn’t right; you don’t have enough money, you don’t spend enough time with your kids, your relationship with your spouse isn’t fun anymore, you aren’t leading enough small groups, your church isn’t growing… You are the only one that can do anything about it. During a transition it’s especially tempting to think the trajectory you are on is out of your control; it’s not. It never is. If something isn’t right, change it. You have no other options. Read the Principle of the Path if you need some inspiration in this area.

Invest in your future

You can’t predict the future. Trying to will most likely frustrate you. Instead, invest in things that will definitely help you regardless of your future. Spend less money than you make. Ensure the relationships around you are as healthy as possible. Exercise regularly and eat real food. Sleep well. Live in community. These things are not going to solve the problem right in front of you, but they will ensure that you are incredibly well equipped to solve it.

A mechanic can’t possibly know everything that is going to go wrong with a car, but he has the right tools to fix anything that comes his way. The more tools he has, the more complex problems he can fix. What tools are you investing in that will help you get through transition?

Read The Power of Full Engagement for a kick of motivation about investing in these kinds of tools.

How about you? How do you transition well? Does it feel like living overseas is living a life of constant transition? 

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– Dustin Patrick |  1MISSION in Mexico, Nicaragua, & El Salvador

Find him on Twitter or Facebook.


Are you playing to win, or playing not to lose?


I’ve often heard people explain their motivation for Christian missions work as: to keep other people from going to hell. This kind of motivation has always rubbed me the wrong way, but I could never articulate why… until now.

When we are so loud about what we’re against, what we are for gets lost in the noise.

Instead of being so against abortion, perhaps we should be investing in better parenting, adoption, and foster care. Instead of being so anti-divorce, maybe it would be more effective to invest in restoring and protecting marriages. Instead of being so bent on keeping people out of hell, we should be investing in bringing people into the Kingdom of Heaven. What is more important to you: Keeping people out of hell or bringing them into the Kingdom of God?

The distinction is quite fine, but make no mistake, it’s important.

Jesus was passionate about the profound impact the Kingdom has on people’s life. He wasn’t just talking about something that was to come, someday, after death, eventually. He was talking about abundant life right now. Not necessarily abundant financially, relationally, or even spiritually. He was talking about abundance in Him, which we can’t define with our words, but with our lives and actions. When we focus on keeping people out of hell we trade the heart-level abundance Jesus was all about for a form of fire insurance.

Being in the Kingdom of God means marriages improve, kids are raised right, churches are healthy, and communities are transformed. Simply staying out of hell really doesn’t mean anything to us right now and we can’t help but notice how little guilt and fear has motivated people to live for God. When we live our lives in such a way that it shows the Kingdom of God is at hand, the earth becomes a lot more heavenly (hey that sounds familiar).

Bottom line: the purpose of being a Christian is not to keep people out of hell and it would behoove all of us Christians to stop acting/talking like it.

Are you playing to win or are you playing not to lose? So often in this life we are playing not to lose at the cost of a true relationship with God. Another way to say it: Instead of focusing on what you are not, focus on what you are. You can’t base anything lasting on what you are not or what you are against.

So, what are you for? Nothing else really matters. Leave a comment explaining what you are for. What excites you about the Kingdom? What are the most beautiful promises of God? People are missing abundant life in God because we aren’t talking about it or living it out. So let’s start now: what is the Kingdom of Heaven like to you?

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– Dustin Patrick |  1MISSION in Mexico, Nicaragua, & El Salvador

Find him on Twitter or Facebook.

You’re in Good Company

Sometimes it really feels like we're on this journey alone.
Sometimes it really feels like we’re on this journey alone.

If you are a missionary overseas, what you do (if you’re doing it right) is not easy. It’s hard work and despite how others picture it, it’s not always rewarding.

We’ve all heard stories of missionaries who have worked for years and have done little more than survive. This can be discouraging and for me personally it has come incredibly close to ending my missions “career” multiple times. I used to think that if I wasn’t producing fruit like I saw others producing, this must not be where God wants me. In my defense, the Bible does kind of say that.

If you’ve felt this kind of deep seated disappointment and have become cynical towards the God who sent you into what seems like a losing battle, this post is for you.

Think through the prophets of the Old Testament. What kind of fruit did they produce? Day after day they were preaching the destruction of the kingdoms in which they lived. Who today would consider these prophets successful? They were outcasted, they had no ‘relevance’ and they surely struggled with their purpose and mission in this world. They were turned away, beaten, made fun of, left to die, and ignored all in a days work. Think of Job. This guy did everything right and God basically handed him over to be thundered by Satan… and for what? To prove a point? How could Job not be a little frustrated? God’s answer is equally as frustrating as the whole ordeal but I guess it’s one of those things we simply can’t understand.

And we can never forget about John the baptist. He lived out in the middle of nowhere, ate weird food, and made his own clothes. His life wasn’t easy or envied. He spent the end of his difficult career in prison. After a few years in prison, he questioned whether or not Jesus was even the God he had told all those people he was. He was gruesomely murdered because some bratty girl performed what must have been a pretty entertaining dance for the right person at the right time.

If you’re frustrated by your lack of results, lack of faith, or lack of leadership potential hear this; you are in good company. Some of the biggest heroes throughout the Bible questioned their purpose, their effectiveness, and their very allegiance. Think of Moses, Peter, and even Jesus who wondered why God had forsaken him at the end of his life. The message of the modern day church is loud and clear: good leaders never falter and good Christians never question their faith. The Bible tells a different story. What would a church today do if King David applied for a job as an associate pastor? Infidelity, murder, public indecency… he wouldn’t even get an interview.

This is where I write an inspirational plea to make you excited about the journey you embarked on with optimism and bright eyes so many years (or months) ago. Unfortunately, I have nothing for you in this regard. All I can say is that you are in good company and I hope you can take comfort in that.

How do you cope with discouragement and obstacles on the mission field?


– Dustin Patrick |  1MISSION in Mexico, Nicaragua, & El Salvador

Find him on Twitter or Facebook.

Disclaimer: The flip side to this post is that there is a time for bearing fruit. Please don’t use the fact that you face discouragement and obstacles on the mission field as an indicator of success (i.e. “Satan must really not want us here, we’ve yet to accomplish anything!”). It could very well mean this is not where God wants you. Please seek council if you are having a hard time telling the difference. If this is something you are struggling with and there is no one you can talk to openly and honestly to, please reach out to me personally using the links above. I’m happy to be a sounding board to those in this very tough, and all to common, situation.

The Face of Poverty


We’ve all seen pictures of poor kids sifting through garbage dumps for scraps of food. These pictures are typically used to raise money for various charities or causes. As much as I hate it when charities use these pictures to promote their causes, I hate it even more that millions of children around the world actually live like this.

Poverty is dark. Our world holds some incredibly dark realities within the desperate lives of its inhabitants (even the so-called good ones). There is no skirting around this issue.

I am the communications director at a charity that works in some of the poorest places in Latin America. Something I struggle with almost every day is communicating this darkness in ways that compel others to get involved.

It would be easy to find a child that hasn’t bathed in a while, put some flies on his face, and tell stories of the depravity of poverty to gain supporters. Before I had lived in another country, I found this tactic of communication normal, maybe even clever. I mean, I’m not fabricating the circumstances these people find themselves in, I’m simply documenting their struggle. Some could argue I’m giving a voice to the voiceless. After all, if no one knows their story, how would they ever get help?

The problem arose when I moved to a third world country. The people I used to take pictures of became more than “impact stories” for my newsletter. They became my friends. I shared in their victories, I in shared their struggles, and I shared their community. Now, when I see a picture of a poor kid in a garbage dump, I picture the parents. Letting your children go hungry is an indignity that no parent should suffer. How can we display their shame for the world to see? The only thing worse than failing as a parent is knowing that the whole world knows it.

Part of the philosophy behind our mission is that we acknowledge everyone we work with as active participants, not passive recipients, of change and development. Our philosophy of communication lines up with how we operate in the field. We don’t use pictures of poor people looking poor because they are so much more than just poor. They are people made in God’s image. That means that they are stewards of resources, not victims of circumstance. We refuse to view, or depict, them as anything less.

The point in this post is not to give you a behind the scenes look at our communication policies. It’s to encourage you to create your own. Come up with some communication rules that are worth following. It will force you to intentionally communicate in the best interest of those you truly work for. As a bonus, your supporters will see you as much more consistent and trustworthy.

Do you have any communication rules that ensure the dignity of those you work with?

Any communication policies you recommend?



– Dustin Patrick,  1MISSION in Mexico, Nicaragua, & El Salvador

Find him on Twitter


What do they need?

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It’s a simple question. It typically comes from a genuine place in our hearts. We enter a community, or we visit one, and one of the first things we see is the overwhelming need. Whether it’s the splintered relationships of a gossipy suburb in America or it’s the vast physical poverty of the Mathare Valley in Kenya; needs can be blinding.

The problem is when we are so blinded by what’s wrong that we can’t see what’s right.

When I lived in Mexico, it was obvious that people needed housing. We met one family in particular, who I’ll never forget, who lived in a boat turned on it’s side. It wasn’t a nice yacht-like boat either, it was a simple wood boat; basically a small step up from a canoe. It was so obvious that we should start building houses. We knocked on doors and asked local pastors to find out who needed a house the most. For months, we brought groups down from the USA to spend their weekend building houses for people who desperately needed them.

We wondered why we weren’t getting more participation from locals. Why did we rarely meet the dad/husband of the family? Why wasn’t the local government jumping on board and where were all the local churches?

One time, at the last minute, an American group cancelled. They simply wouldn’t travel to Mexico because of the reported danger. We had already bought the materials to build the home. The problem was, who was going to build it? My wife and I were great missionaries, but terrible construction workers. We visited the families that were “next in line” for a house and asked for their help. We asked them to spend a few days helping one of their neighbors build his house.

One guy became the informal leader of this crew of strangers-turned-friends. Once the house was built, he stood up and thanked everyone for helping. He acknowledged that the community had a lot of needs, but as long as there are people willing to help each other like this, everything will be fine.

After that experience, we started telling everyone on the “waiting list” for a house when/where the house builds were. All of a sudden, we had hundreds of dads/husbands involved. Local churches got involved and the local government even started supporting us. The community no longer saw us as an agency that built houses for poor people. We were a volunteer organization mobilizing community members to help each other. Eventually, people started helping out that weren’t even trying to get a new home for themselves; they just wanted to help others.

Fast forward a few years and there are hundreds of families that know each other. Their kids walk to school together. They share meals together in the evening. They attend church together. It’s like we accidentally built an incredibly connected and effective neighborhood watch program.

The point is this: if you only focus on a problem, you’ll rarely find a lasting solution. We were so blinded by the physical poverty, we completely missed the fact that people wanted to help each other.

When you enter a community asking the question, “What do they need?” you are missing what they have to offer. And what they have to offer (and encouraging them to offer it) will be a game-changer.

Ask yourself: Have I been so blinded by what’s wrong that I’ve missed what’s right? Take an inventory of the assets in your community, you might be surprised how much quicker solutions come when you’re actually looking for them.


– Dustin Patrick,  1MISSION in Mexico & Central America

Blog: GoodMud | Twitter: @DustinPatrick

Stop Convincing, Start Compelling


Most missionaries (and international workers) are limited by resources. You know that if you generated more income, engaged more supporters, or hosted more volunteers, you could help more people. After all, there are enough resources in the world to end hunger, cure diseases, and put an end to poverty as we know it. So why do we still have global poverty? Before this post turns into a real downer, watch this video and know that progress is being made.

Back to our point: whether you’ve ever accepted it or not, you are limited by your ability to get others involved in your mission. There are valid exceptions, such as God intervening, but you can’t really plan for exceptions. So the question becomes, how can you effectively become a voice for the voiceless?

Focus on why, not how

There’s a concept in marketing called the Golden Circle. It explains that at our core, people care about why, more than what or how. This is contradictory to how we usually communicate. Typically, we explain what we do or how we do it much better than why. One common technique for counselors dealing with shaky marriages is to help the couple articulate why they got married in the first place. Once the “why” is figured out, the what and how take a back seat (they become no less essential, just less foundational).

When communicating with your supporters, friends, and family, make sure you give ample space for why you do what you do. In Donald Miller’s famous book, Blue Like Jazz, he explains that he didn’t really like jazz until he watched someone else enjoying it. Seeing someone else’s joy awakened an unknown urge within him to share that same joy. There’s a TED talk about the Golden Circle that I highly recommend.

Connect people to people, not programs

There’s a famous study where people were brought into a room for a survey. They were each paid $5 in one-dollar bills for participating. Before they left, each person was given an opportunity to donate their new found wealth. The first group’s presentation was based on overwhelming facts and statistics like how many people lived in dire poverty and how many children die every day. The second group was presented with an opportunity to help a little girl, Rokia, who had a name, a picture, and a story. Which group was more generous? When there is an “identifiable victim” generosity increases significantly.

It’s vital to emotionally connect people to people if you want to get their engagement. I’ve heard CEO’s, publicists, and missionaries make this mistake over and over again. We talk about our Bible studies, our faith gardens, or our sports outreach programs. Here’s a little secret; people don’t care about your programs. People care about people, so make sure you are talking about real people.

For a quick side note, this is what makes child sponsorship programs so brilliant from a marketing perspective. It’s an incredibly scalable and profitable program with clear and identifiable victims. (These relief-oriented, paternalistic sponsorship programs are problematic for various reasons, but that’s for another post.)

It’s as much a part of your ministry as praying or baptizing

Most missionaries think that corresponding with their supporters and spending time on social media is a necessary evil. This view is tragic and detrimental. The bottom line I’m trying to get across with this point is: being a voice for someone without one is straight up Biblical. Advocating for the poor might be the most important thing you do today. The reality is, with our advantaged position in the world, our highest and best use could be sharing stories and compelling people to get involved.

My brother works in a corporate office in Phoenix. He’ll probably never have the opportunity to interact with a single mother of 8 living in extreme poverty in a remote village of Nicaragua. He wants to help, he’s capable of helping, but how can he? If I don’t share the stories with my brother, I’m stealing his opportunity to fulfill his Biblical mandate as a giver and I’m preventing countless opportunities for growth all across the globe. Share opportunities on behalf of those you are trying to serve.

What kind of stories do you find easiest to tell?

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Dustin Patrick,  1MISSION in Mexico & Central America

Blog: GoodMud | Twitter: @DustinPatrick

The Joy of Giving


In 1 Chronicles 29, David prays a prayer over the new temple in Jerusalem. In verse 14 he says, “Who am I, and who are my people that we should be able to give like this?”

He was mystified that the creator of everything would deem him and his people worthy of giving anything. He goes on to say, “I have seen with joy how willingly your people have given to you.”

There is no question that giving evokes a deep sense of internal joy. David understood this and was experiencing it when he prayed those words.

I work for an organization that builds houses for people that have earned them by volunteering in their community. In order for us to build a house, the person has to own or be paying on their land. Amparo is a mom who volunteered all of her hours (well over 200) only to find out that she did not truly own her land. She thought she did, she had been paying a little bit on it every month, but something was wrong with the paper work and she didn’t legally own it. She had already volunteered her hours and the land only cost $180, about two months wages. We decided to gather up some money and drive down to city hall and get this straightened out.

On our way to city hall, I got a phone call from one of her neighbors. Her neighborhood had taken up an offering and was just $20 short. The neighbor wanted to know if she could get a ride to her pastor’s house to see if the church could help out. It took a few extra days, but Amparo was living in her new house within the month and her neighbors all came to help her build it.

It would have been easy for us to simply pay the $180 and move on. It would have been the noble thing to do and it would have felt really good. Without knowing it, we almost robbed Amparo’s neighbors of the joy of giving.

When we do things that a community is capable of doing for itself, we are robbing people of joy. 

No matter what aspect of overseas work you are involved with, you have to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do the people I serve experience the joy of giving?
  • What actions of mine could send the message that their gifts aren’t enough?
  • Have I ever discouraged someone from giving (on purpose or not)?
  • How am I encouraging people to give?

A new measure of success you could start using is: How much are the people I serve giving?

If I saw some old widow trying to give away everything she has, I’d probably sit her down and convince her that giving away 100% of her money was bad stewardship. Jesus commended a woman for doing just that.

The joy of giving is such an essential part of maturity and development. Be extremely careful that you aren’t robbing anyone, or any community, of this joy.

What are some things we do that may be unintentionally robbing people of the joy of giving?

– Dustin Patrick,  1MISSION in Mexico & Central America

Blog: GoodMud | Twitter: @DustinPatrick

Beyond Good Intentions

Working with the materially poor is really tricky. We want to help, but it’s not always easy to determine what is helping and what is hurting. How are we supposed to fulfill our biblical mandate to care for the materially poor without creating dependencies?
Puerto Peñasco is a small city just an hour south of the Arizona-Mexico border. Almost every weekend, well-intentioned Americans drive here and hand out countless suitcases of old clothes. The recipients are incredibly happy, sometimes even moved to tears. Neither the giver, nor the receiver, has ever stopped to ask why so many people are without clothes in the first place.
I work for an organization called 1MISSION and we employ a few locals who work full-time in the barrios of Peñasco. They go from house to house training people in Community Health Education (CHE). I asked them to research this clothing conundrum, as they spend a lot of time with the very people who receive these clothes on a regular basis. They quickly had an insight I had missed. Many houses they visit have numerous piles of dirty clothes behind it. The clothes are everywhere you look. In one case, we observed a young family paving a sandy road with old clothes so their small car could pass through. According to the trainers, it is not a supply problem, but a stewardship problem. One trainer put it this way, “They don’t need clothes, they need to learn how to take care of their clothes and make them last.”

The Americans thought giving away clothes was fulfilling the biblical mandate to clothe the naked. The reality is, actually clothing the naked in Peñasco requires us to respect the poor as stewards of resources, not helpless victims of circumstance. The problem is bigger than a lack of stuff, so should our solutions be bigger than handing out stuff.
You see, God didn’t ask us to take pictures of ourselves caring for the poor, he asked told us to actually care for the poor. Relief, done without development, will hold a community back. Relief has a place; there are cold people that just need a jacket, there are hungry people who just need some rice. Not to mention, the Bible makes it pretty clear what’s expected of us. The problem is when relief is detached from long-term development. Without development, the outcomes of relief are temporary and usually do more harm than good. As international do-gooders, we have to focus on long-term solutions that will last beyond our presence. If you were to leave right now, what part of your work would last beyond your presence?
Giving “free handouts” has unfortunately become the rule rather than the exception. This has left many communities and lives worse off than before. Free has huge costs. 
How about you, where have you seen good intentions fall short?
Dustin Patrick served as the Field Director for 1MISSION in Northern Mexico. After three years, he handed off all operations to the local team he recruited and trained. He now lives in Phoenix and leads all the creative endeavors for the same organization. He blogs about development work and more at