In last week’s newsletter – please read it here – we shared the sad news that Wilfrid’s mom, Dieuna, passed away from the COVID-19 virus. Mia wrote this in memory of her:
I don’t really know how to begin this post. I suppose there’s no way to sugarcoat it. Wilfrid needs our prayers. Wilfrid is a man who I am sure is familiar to you if you’ve ever heard me talk about Haiti or read any of these posts. His sweet sweet mother passed away this week to COVID-19 while visiting family in New Jersey. This news broke my heart. So many thoughts go through my mind as I think about the devastation Wilfrid and his family must be feeling. But, I have decided that this post will not be about death, or sadness, or heartbreak, or the corona virus. It will be about joy, family, birthdays, cake, and small miracles.
Cecilia and I had the absolute honor of staying with Wilfrid and his family at his house last August. His mother cooked for us, cleaned up after us, made sure we were comfortable and hung out with us. Cecilia and I were recently reminiscing about how clearly we remember her beautiful, unique face. She would wear her hair up in spikes, almost like reverse pigtails and she would greet us with a warm smile and hug every time we walked in the door. Wilfrid had mentioned that her birthday was coming up the following week, so we marked the day on our calendar. He invited us to her birthday celebration and we assured him we would not come empty handed.
Later that day at the orphanage, Cecilia and I began our work. We decided that if the boys at the orphanage can make heaps and heaps of bread every morning, we would be able to scrounge enough ingredients together to make a birthday cake. We looked up the simplest recipe we could find, dragged our baker friend Mercidieu along, and went shopping for eggs, sugar, baking powder, and vanilla extract. With about 30 minutes and five U.S. dollars, we had gathered all our ingredients. The children at the orphanage doubted us, but were very interested to see how the “gâteau” would turn out. We forewarned them that the cake was not for them, only Wilfrid’s mother could eat it. We convinced Mercidieu to help us with the big baking oven and the cake was ready in just a few minutes. We locked up our masterpiece and called it a day, ready to tackle the project of frosting tomorrow.
On the day of the party we concocted a Nutella frosting and spread it carefully all over our cake. The whole thing was just so … sticky. I chopped up some bananas for a nice addition and placed the slices all around the cake. The Haitian summer heat was quickly melting the frosting and the bananas slid down the sides with the frosting. We wanted the cake to be a surprise to Wilfrid and his mom, so we hid it away in our air-conditioned room until the proper hour. Wilfrid was quite impressed with our cake, but I think he was more pleased with the gesture and what the cake meant to us. We poured all our energy and love into that cake, and we did it all ourselves, with all Haitian equipment and ingredients. It was the most heartfelt gift we could think to get her, even though she truly deserved the world. To us, that cake was a small miracle. I still really can’t explain how we pulled it off. It was just really important to us, so we played worship music while we eye-balled all the measurements and slapped on Nutella straight out of the jar; and something so beautiful came out of it; we got to celebrate someone we loved.
That afternoon, we enjoyed home cooked pizza and a melted messy sticky banana Nutella cake with Wilfrid and his mom. We told her how grateful we were for her and how she deserved to feel special on her birthday. We told Wilfrid we were proud of the life he’s made for himself and his family, and how Jesus must be so pleased with his heart and the way he shares his home with people who need him. Everybody has a place at Wilfrid’s little table and it is so beautiful to witness.
Bob Goff says, “Why does spellcheck make me capitalize satan’s name? I don’t want to. It’s giving him too much credit. I think satan exists, but I don’t give him a lot of thought. Neither does the Bible, actually. When I think about satan, I think about how Jesus interacted with him in the desert. Jesus spoke with him for just a few seconds and then sent him away. He has no problem telling him off and getting rid of him. I think we should do the same. That’s all I have to say about satan. He gets too much airtime already.”
In a similar fashion, I will not give this virus any more power over me. It has already taken so much from all of us. It will not take our spirits too. It cannot take our faith, our softness, our praise, our compassion, our hope, our banana-Nutella-cake miracles. Our sweet memories of a simple, joyful birthday celebration – those are ours to hold on to.
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