I have a joke to share with you. Bishop Alapayo has told it to me twice, because I asked for a repeat performance.
There was a pastor in a rural church, and there was an old woman who went to his church who lived alone. She had a cat who she loved very much, so one day she took the cat to the pastor and said, “I love this cat very much, and I want to make sure that he goes to heaven with me, so I would like you to baptize him.” The pastor was surprised, and tried gently to tell her that he couldn’t baptize a cat. But the old lady insisted, and said, “you know this cat is very important to me, it would make me so happy if you baptized him, I would put an iron sheet roof on the church.” Well, the pastor thought about it, Why not? And so he baptized the cat, and the old lady was good on her word, she fixed up the church properly, and everyone was very happy. But then the bishop heard about the cat. He called the pastor to him, “What is this I hear about you baptizing cats!” “Well, your Lordship it was only one cat, and now we have iron sheets for a roof.” The bishop continued to scold the pastor thoroughly. Then a few weeks later the bishop was visiting the church. “Oh, pastor,” he said, “What has happened to your church?” The pastor smiled and said, “remember that cat I baptized?” And the bishop said “Bring that cat to me, and I will confirm it!”Ok, so it’s probably not as funny without Bishop Alapayo telling it. My favorite part is the “Oh Pastor,” the way Bishop Alapayo says it, and the way you can see the punchline building in his grin and the twinkle in his eyes. And then he tells the punchline again, and we laugh again. In my family we like to retell punchlines too!
Part of the humor of the joke is how important roofs are here. The vast majority of villages in south Sudan are made up entirely of thatched buildings. Houses, schools, churches, stores all thatched buildings. I have seen some impressively huge thatched structures. But thatch has to be replaced at least every 3 years, and mud buildings get infested with termites and bats, and have to be rebuilt at least every 10 years, and it is a lot of work, and a lot of materials. So an “iron sheet” roof, which we would call “corrugated tin”, and which is actually zinc, is the desire of every church that meets under a tree or a thatched roof. In communities where no other building has a permanent roof, the people make the church roof their first priority.