I asked the Lord to help me succeed —not academically, primarily, but in that prayer. I asked him to allow me to be a faithful student of his Word, and that he might be praised as a result. After that, much of my fear went away. I was able to (mercilessly) edit my paper so that the word-count went back down to 3200 words. I grabbed all my stuff, and head back to the Fakultät. After one, then two, then three scholars, I was called by Dr. Ross —chair of this particular session— to the podium. I had a last arrow-prayer calling to memory Psalm 115:1, and began my presentation.
One of the first things taught in homiletics is that seldom it comes through as positive or helpful for the preacher to excuse himself for any lack on his part. This is also true for public speaking. And yet, my voice was quite literally on the verge of disappearing. So, against the rules of rhetoric and public address; I began by excusing myself for my voice’s lack of potency and volume. Having said that, I did try my best to communicate as clear and effectively as possible, and make appropriate emphases where emphasis was to be made. Suddenly, I noticed that people were engaged. They were actually paying attention. Some took pictures of the slides presented and the papyri translations shown. At times some nodded or assented to a comment or two, or took quick notes (perhaps to further research some of the concepts presented). The Q&A afterwards was fruitful and stimulating. Some of the conversation was carried on to the coffee break. The scholars were very kind, I’m sure. But, most importantly, the Lord answered my prayer. I did as best as I could, with Him in mind, and for his glory. I was glad and thankful. And yet more was to come.
I think that after the conference sessions ended that day, I went to eat and then slept for about 16hrs until the next day. I really needed some rest. Next day was much more enjoyable. I felt so much better, Dr. Ross presented his paper, and I had time to interact with some other scholars and make even more connections from different universities abroad.
Dr. Ross found an International Protestant Church that met that evening, and so we went to join in worship not so sure of what to expect. It was quite a nice service. The liturgy was beautiful (though there were a couple songs beyond the usual taste of the Reformed Presbyterian likes). The gospel was preached. There was responsive prayer, and congregational prayer as well. I can safely say that I would return to that church if I for some reason find myself in Zürich again during a Sunday evening. That night, I decided not to post anything concerning the conference until I came back to Charlotte, spend some time with my family, and share with my wife how merciful and kind the Lord was with me through this experience. My heart was glad and grateful, and I only wanted to stop and enjoy God’s blessing; which I did again by the lake eating a good Zürich Wurst, just as Zwingli did back in 1522 during lent to begin the Reformation in Switzerland —an event known as the Sausagegate. While talking and eating, a notification came. A very kind gentleman who was present at my delivery shared a picture in social media with positive comments about the paper I presented. This then was also shared by others, such that I’m quite sure that my ultimate prayer, that the Lord would be glorified through this academic endeavor, was answered. I’m sure that my family and I praised the Lord for his kindness, and I know many of you have done or will do the same.
There are many things I will take with me from these experience. Among those, the fact that scholars are just (quasi-)normal people. Yes, they often have obscure interests and the stamina to research them. But they are also fun and kind, they sweat when is hot, they become sad when sharing about family problems, and their eyes lighten when speaking about their research as if they were kids showing off a new toy. Sometimes, scholars may come through as intimidating ivory-tower professors. But the fact is that they are, like you and I, also bearers of the Imago Dei. Furthermore, I was surprised for good as I overheard people sharing the church from which they came in their countries of residence, or what ministries they are involved in. Granted, not everyone there is a Christian, perhaps many (or most) aren’t. And yet, there is not such a marked animosity against those of us who openly and unapologetically believe the Bible.
I do not know if the Lord will continue to open doors in the academic arena for me. And yet, this experience has been of great help and formative already in the way I think of Christian Reformed Scholarship. First, there is a place for people who want to glorify God through excellency in research. Second, the academic arena is a great field for evangelistic effort. People there also need the gospel, and many relationships might, sooner or later, come to the point where the most foundational questions of life will be asked, and only a Christian worldview is able to provide a consistent and trustworthy answer. Third, through every investigation, prayer is my best tool. My ultimate purpose is to grow in holiness, and not only in knowledge. After experiencing first hand the great depths of my own ignorance while hearing many brilliant minds; I cannot but think of God as the Omniscient Creator. This leads me to worship him as, after all this heavy research, after hours, days, and months of struggling through complex pieces of information in order to put together a picture that postulates «new» knowledge, this is the result: We are only thinking God’s thoughts after him.
*I want to thank every single one of the people who prayed for me during this process, all those who supported me financially, members at Christ Covenant Church, faculty at RTS, friends and family. Especial thanks to my parents, who helped and encourage me in diverse ways during the process, my mother in law who traveled all the way to Charlotte to help my wife with the babies, and Dr. Ross, for ‘pushing me’ into doing this. Laura, gracias por aguantar noches de desvelo, horas extra en el seminario, y mis emocionantes conversaciones sobre contraseñas y espigas. Te amo. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Thank you all, and please, continue to pray as the editing process for publication is not yet done (hoping to have it ready by Winter).