The Law of Probability. (can bite me)

I tweeted this the other day…you know…on Twitter:
And I totally believed it when I left the house. I totally believed, just like I do every Tuesday, that I was gonna go to the precario and love on these kids, play with them, hold them, feed them, and all that good stuff, and then, because I showed up, their little lives would be changed forever.
Yes. I can be exceptionally dumb at times.

It’s funny that I think I can make a difference. Laughable really. The real truth is that one stupid banana per week and a hug from a white missionary lady is probably NOT going to change anybody’s life.

No. The law of probability tells a different story. It tells me that I’m probably not making a bit of difference, and that…

…she will probably still be pregnant by the time she’s 14.
…he will probably be a gang-banger when he grows up.

…she will probably lose that smile to Meth addiction.

…he will probably end up in jail.
…she will probably not go to school past the 6th grade.

…she will probably survive by selling her body.

…he will probably abandon his wife and children, just like his Dad did.

…Probably none of them will ever leave this prison of poverty.

The law of probability says that none of these kids will remember us, and…
...they probably won’t care that we played with them.

….they probably will never know how much we loved them.

probably, they’ll never know the power of their own love, or how it has changed my life, changed me.

The poor kids in the precario will probably never know about how they taught me aaaall about the law of probability. Because the very same Law of Probability that is trying so hard to hold them down, is the one that says a wild child, knocked-up at 17, and raised believing that all Christians were dumbasses will never, ever, ever in a million years and a thousand lifetimes, fall in love with Jesus and give up her lovely suburban life to hold urine soaked 3 year olds in the slums of Costa Rica.
I don’t do math or anything (cause it gives me hives) but I’d venture to say that it’s almost a statistical impossibility that I would be living the life that I’m living today.
So, basically, what I’m getting at is, the Law of Probability can bite me.
Because the laws of Faith, Hope, and Love tell a different story.
And I’m going to keep showing up to prove it.
When I got home that day, I tweeted this:

…because when we arrived that day, the kids swarmed us with so many hugs and kisses and I-missed-you!-Where-have-you-been?’s you would have thought we’d been gone a year and not a week. Or, you might have thought, as I did, “Good God, how unlikely is this?! That a foreigner with bad Spanish and a weak stomach could become beloved and missed to this smelly bunch of ragamuffin babies!”
And I had to remind myself that “likelihood” and “probability” aren’t words that matter to me anymore. It’s true, we may not be making a huge dent in the War on Poverty, but we are totally kicking the Law of Probability’s ass. And that’s a pretty good start…

Your turn: What is your unlikely story?



  1. Anonymous on June 2, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    I really like your blog, and I get point you are trying to make here, but I'm hung up on something. Did you ask the children and/or their parents' permission to post their pictures here with comments like "she will probably be a whore"? I keep thinking if this was a picture of my child, I would be so upset.

  2. Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary on June 2, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    No. Of course not. But you are so correct, it's in bad taste.

  3. molly june. on June 2, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    oh man, this is making me think! a good kind of think ๐Ÿ™‚ i think. ha. you have such a way with words. real. honest. kind. thank you!

  4. Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary on June 2, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    Thanks molly june!! I'm kinda freaking out about this after the first comment. i really appreciate your encouragement!! :

  5. Anonymous on June 2, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Just tell people that you clipped the pics from national geographic. Also, I probably wouldn't be at least sort of okay today without you having been there.

    Jenna Kemp

  6. Natasha on June 2, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    I'm kicking probability's butt too. My unlikely story: An only child who really doesn't like a lot of noise or kids get blessed by adopting 3 kids from foster care. I couldn't have predicted that 15 years ago.

  7. Lee on June 2, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Dear VWM,

    Let's see. Which unlikely story should I choose?
    The kids (and adults) who walked for hours to hear me teach/preach the gospel in Kenya? The teenaged monks-in-training at the Thai temple outside Bangkok who overwhelmed me with their kindness/smiles, though we had no idea what language we were speaking? The orphans in Honduras that would not let go of my legs/arms/hands/feet during each visit we made? Or the old, old story about a blood stained cross that completely shatters the laws of probability/fairness/worthiness?

    Decisions, decisions . . . Yours, Lee

  8. Kirk on June 2, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    Thanks for witnessing so passionately! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Jenna on June 2, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Jamie, 1) this post is awesome. thank you for writing it. 2) what happened to your cool comment thing from the last post? do you have to like do something special to each post to get that going? 3) in regards to Anonymous' comment…i disagree with you that it was in bad taste. and i'm not sure how to put this, but though i would also be upset if that was a picture of my kid, i don't see how this issue is relevant with these kids/families. ya know? (how can i say what i mean without sounding like a total jerk?)

  10. Andrew on June 2, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    When we allow ourselves to be ruled by the laws of probability, we will do nothing. Thank God people like you don't give the west end of a rat going east for said laws of probability.

  11. thehecticeclecticgirl on June 2, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Bumblebees are also not SUPPOSED to be able to fly, but they do… and if those children are not able to escape the law of probability, does that make your actions less faithful? I don't think so. And where there is faith, there is hope. And therefore the law of probability states that you ARE making difference, even if you never see it. That you are planting seeds, as it were, for future changes. And to me, that means that the law of probability is going to kick its own butt…

    *ow, my head hurts now…*

  12. tamaraoutloud on June 2, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    What a beautiful victory.

  13. Anonymous on June 2, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    A child born of 2 teenage parents, who got married… then got divorced 7 years later. They were not Christians, and I attended my church with my Grandma, only becasue it was an escape from reality– at the age of 12 said "who would want to marry a pastor? you have to be fake so people will like you…" and then, 9 years later… I married a pastor, who told me I was going to hell, because I wasn't serving the Lord… Eeek! And ever since I have been wrestling with God, because I hate church, but I love Him.

  14. Heather on June 2, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    So Holy Spirit bad ass, I cried. Do not doubt what you've written. It's got the power of God on it.

    Love to you and yours and every single one of those probablies –

  15. heather b on June 2, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    …I never considered the probability that a beautiful, pregnant mom, with long hair and two energy filled boys, that I met many years ago in my comfortable suburb, would challenge and encourage me while reminding me to get off of my sorry ass and kick butt for Jesus!
    I love who you are and the Jesus that comes shining through.xo

  16. Missionaries in La Ceiba, Honduras on June 2, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Oh sweet Jamie – how often I have felt the same way! With the same yet different smelly, dirty, urine soaked kids in Honduras. How cool God is that He brought both of us to our appropriate places to do His work and not ours. Thank God for that ๐Ÿ™‚ Love ya girl!

  17. Melinda Patton on June 2, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Love your blog. You are doing what so many of us only wish we were doing. The world is better because of you, and other's like you. Reading the "unlikely" stories above inspire those of us not yet brave enough to take that leap. Keep the faith! And keep doing.


  18. Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary on June 2, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    Aaawww, you guys are all making me cry!!

  19. Alece on June 3, 2010 at 3:05 am

    WOW. i love this, jamie.

    you're so right. screw the probabilities. i'm going with Love.

  20. Anonymous on June 3, 2010 at 5:07 am

    Jamie. What an awesome blog and the work you are doing is amazing. Stuff the probability of the children not remebering in years to come. They remember now of the love you are giving them. Keep up this work you are doing.


  21. Jason on June 3, 2010 at 8:37 am

    100% of kids you never help have a greater chance of ending up in a terrible situation. You're lowering that chance and that's an incredible thing. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Oh…and on the anonymous comment…don't sweat it. You just posted the truth…there's a very real possibility that would happen to that girl and others like her. Anonymous may not like that thought because you put a face to it rather than just making a nebulous statement that's a lot easier for some people to handle…because then they can ignore the issue. ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. neona on June 3, 2010 at 8:48 am

    OT: No Discus on this post?

    On Topic: Love. This. Post!

    Last: Unlikely story:
    As a kid, I swore I'd never get married or have kids. Just celebrated my 17th anniversary w/ the most bestest hubby ever! With our 3 kids (2 born to us, last one a gifted blessing)….

    Speaking of kids: 3 years after I had DS, went in for a torture session (checkup). Found out that I had such a severe pelvic tilt that I should have NEVER been able to conceive. Color me surprised! (and I can now tell people Fo' SHO'- miracles totally happen)

  23. Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary on June 3, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Love your story neona!!

    I think what happened with Disqus is that I started writing this post before I added Disqus to comments, so it's not applied. I tried all kinds of stuff to fix it, but I can't figure it out. ๐Ÿ™ And, of course, this would have been a GREAT post to have it on!!

    The good news is that I did a test post yesterday and disqus was running on it. So from here on out we should be good. ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. Becca H on June 3, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Yeah, thanks for putting pictures of the kids up. It makes this post. Your writing always encourages me, and I love the new angle from which you cause me to see the world. ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. Katy on June 3, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Jamie, you have an awesome blog, inspireing post. I loved the pictures.

    My unlikely story? I celebrated my 28th birthday yesterday and my 11 year old's graduation from 5th grade.

  26. Desirie on June 3, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Great post. I did mission work in Brazil last summer and can totally relate.. but if someone with a background of drugs, promiscuity and more encounters with police than I can remember can find God at 30 and turn her life around then probability be damned!

  27. Chelsea Robbins on June 3, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Thank you. I LOVED that. At first i wanted to say "quit bumming me out!" with the pictures of the kids, and then i felt encouraged.

    you're gifted.

  28. Anonymous on June 3, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Appreciate the post. The El Sistema program is doing a great job at breaking multi-generational poverty in Venezuela…started about 30 years ago and teaches kids as young as 3 and 4 classical music. About 250,000 kids in the program now and it is spreading to the USA, of all places. I heard the founder speak a couple of years ago and he said that key ingredient for changes is "beauty"…and, oh yeah, the kids learn all sorts of great things when they learn to play a musical instrument. So God's love is important, but stick a violin or trombone or electric guitar in the hands of a kid and wonderful things will happen.


  29. Betsy on June 3, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Don't EVER be discouraged or think that your showing up for those kids won't make a difference. Sure, Christ did amazing things all over the place every day and we have a whole book about it… But to each person, he just showed up. And for all of us, he just showed up. He showed up in a manger. And he showed up on Calvary.

    For me, it was a lady who met me in a parking lot and gave me a tight hug that made me remember God's love for me. I hadn't been hugged in almost 10 years. Something about that moment was the start to my life taking a turn down suicide lane to falling before the cross. (Turns out, that lady wasn't even a Christian, but she showed up. It mattered).

  30. Betsy on June 3, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    And P.S. You showing up and having faith in those kids is WAY more relevant than whether or not you have photo permissions or whatever. Forest through the trees people…

  31. Pam on June 3, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    My unlikely story is that it is a miracle I survived my youth. SERIOUSLY. Yet here I am, now a follower of Jesus, trying to spread faith, hope and love instead of the fear, despair and hate that I had before. The Law of Probability can bite me too because our God is WAY bigger than that! ๐Ÿ™‚

  32. Kim on June 4, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Oh wow! So powerful! Can I borrow :

    the Law of Probability can bite me.

    Because the laws of Faith, Hope, and Love tell a different story.

    So many people need to hear that message.

  33. Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary on June 4, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Go for it, Kim. ๐Ÿ™‚

  34. Shauna on June 4, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Thank you for posting this. Reading it gave me hope in a gloomy day. Laws of probability indeed!

  35. Jensa on June 5, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Don't I know about love nepalm! I'm a teacher and I thought I was blessing these kids and being a missionary to them, and bam! They go and burn me up with the love and blessings they've thrown back… burns me right through to the core. (I was going to say something about clothes being burned off, but that's not really appropriate for an Academy teacher now, is it?)

  36. bub on June 5, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    This was such an awesome post. The pictures made it so real. They are so beautiful and full of hope and I'm praying that they get an opportunity to live a better life than the one that the laws of probability deem for them. Hmm. Unlikely story? How about doing meth since 15 years old, throw alcohol and tobacco and multiple children with multiple women, playin in a punk rock band called Bald Headed jesus where half the songs were about what a joke Jesus and his followers were. About 5 years go getting off the dope and booze, meeting a girl on craigslist that happened to go to church and I went with her to get her off of my back to two years after that being baptized in the waters of Mission Bay in front of my family and friends to two years after that joining a missional church experiment to help the disenfranchised and marginalized in one of the poorer neighborhoods of my fair city (where I used to run around scoring and causing problems). Unlikely, yes! Impossible, no! Oh, and I married that girl too! How's it go? Through Christ all things are possible. Amen!

  37. Anonymous on June 5, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    Jamie, the first time I read this post I cried so hard, and didn't even think to comment. This might be my favorite ever of all your posts.

    I work with kids, and I've now been in it long enough that 3 of the boys I worked with as teens are now dads. One in prison (a felon before age 25), one in trouble (a felon at age 21), one a soldier. All separated from their babies. Sometimes I really feel like the law of probability has stomped my head into the ground.

    But tonight a baby boy belonging to one of those boys sleeps in my apartment, and today we stomped in puddles together, and God continues to give me enough hope to keep pouring into these "hopeless" cases.

    So I'll happily join your chorus against probability, even though part of me asks when I hold that baby whether he'll some day sell drugs like his daddy, for whom I still pray with all my might.

  38. Debra on June 5, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    I love this! We serve a God who sees no impossibilities and no improbabilities and when we follow Him, then the miracles start. Keep planting the seeds, He's making them grow! Awesome!

  39. Rebecca on June 6, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    First comment…I spent a rainy day yesterday reading most of your posts…..

    I agree…this is one of the best posts! Hard to say, because they are all so good. (Think about a book. It would sell. You already have most of the writing done. Just sayin'…..)

  40. Zac on June 10, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    I see this post must have been when you tweeted about your awesome comments going haywire.

    Yet another awe inspiring posts that drops empathy bombs on me like empathy napalm! It is awesome that you care for these kids and whether you can admit it or not, I am sure your visits are one of the highlights to their week!

    One unlikely story involves my wife. When I met her she was extremely anorexic and there were days I wasn't sure she would live through the night. She had been abused and thought if she got small enough she couldn't be hurt. Flash forward to today and she eats light years better than she did back then. She may still be 'too' skinny, but at least she eats and doesn't struggle (if she does, she doesn't let it consumer her) with food anymore. I thank God that she got pregnant when she did and that she doesn't go through daily battles anymore.

  41. Mommypotamus on June 10, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    So this is why my husband has located all the orphanages within a 30 mile radius of our home. Well, thank you. Because when we were actually traveling through Costa Rica a couple of years ago I brought up the idea of fostering/adoption and he totally wasn't down with it. But now? We'll see . . .

  42. Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary on June 11, 2010 at 11:51 am

    WOW, Mommypotamus!! That's so cool!… and so fun to imagine the possibilities…. ๐Ÿ™‚

  43. Sarah on June 11, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    It was either your post or a piece of dust that made me seriously tear up.

    (It's not dusty in here.)

    Thank you for being you and posting about it.

  44. Jill on June 12, 2010 at 10:09 am

    I think I must be the last person in the world to find your blog (found via Mommypotamus)….um, LOVIN your post! Laughed and cried.

  45. Lori Vernon on June 14, 2010 at 7:45 am

    I HATE the statistics that show the people I love as the mostly likely to be sold into prostitution or most likely to be addicted to opium. I try not to think about it… but what sucks even worse is when one day I see that lovable old grandpa strung out of opium and all my hard work that's gone into denial goes down the toilet.

  46. Terry and Carol on August 20, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    i just found your blog recently- love your transparency. We work with children in Honduras- my line is the most I can change each day is my own underware….
    Takes the pressure off me and puts it righty where it belongs!

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