Easter being within a few days of April Fool’s Day reminds me of the time my very first Easter as a pastor came only a few days after April Fool’s Day at my church near Madison, Wisconsin. (Go, Badgers!)
A young mom in the congregation edited the church newsletter. She asked me, “Write something funny for April Fool’s Day.”
At that time — 1994 — I had not been all that far removed from the two years that I had spent in Tanzania, East Africa. I was a Presbyterian missionary, teaching English in a rural, remote secondary school. So here’s what I wrote for the newsletter:
Some of you may know that I spent two years in Tanzania. I used to have two pet baboons. Their names were Jaws and Claws. (Baboons have very large teeth and claws.) When I returned to the states, however, I couldn’t take Jaws and Claws with me. So I left them in care of a friend. But now that I have a place to live [in the church’s manse], I have sent for the baboons. They will arrive this week. And so if you come to the house and knock on the door and hear screaming, don’t get alarmed. That’s just the way baboons are. But do not come into the house until I open the door. I want to make sure it’s safe. And let me wish you a happy Easter — and especially — a happy April Fool’s Day!
A few days later was Easter. We had a packed house. The worship service went smoothly. Afterwards, I was shaking hands as people were exiting. A young mom came up to me and said, “How long are they staying?”
I said, “Who?”
“That was a joke!”
An older woman told me that she had read the newsletter article. She continued, “Regina [another older member) phoned me and said, ‘What do you think about John having baboons in the manse?’ I told her, ‘That was a joke!’ ”
“Oops,” the other woman said, “I’d better call back Marge.”
If only the Gospel spread this fast!