When I saw the full programme of IOSOT (International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament) I felt a tinge of regret that I withdrew my paper accepted for presentation at the said Congress in Aberdeen next month. I saw a host of scholars from all over the world and some of the big names are presenting short papers. I can still go as an attendee but not as a presenter. It's been three years since I attended an academic Conference. It was almost a perfect symmetry of sorts when I started in 2006 at Peking University where I presented a paper on Father-Son relationships in the book of Genesis: Foundations for a Harmonious Society. Then in 2010 at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and in 2013 at Murdoch University, Perth for the SNTS Society of New Testament Studies. In Perth, it was most enjoyable sitting in the same seminar room as Tom Wright (yes, NT Wright) and John Collins of Yale University. And then to top it up I sat next to Prof Richard Hays (author of the famous text, "Echoes of Scriptures in Paul") on a bus to the venue.
And I managed even to share my birthday joy with doctoral supervisor, Prof Paul Trebilco of Otago University who was one of the main speakers that year in Perth. I remember vividly the double rainbow over the city of Perth during a cold and wet winter day which happened to be my 49th year. Three years on in 2016, I presented two papers at Yonsei University, Seoul at the SBL International Meeting where more than 600 professors, scholars and doctoral candidates attended. I spoke to a packed room on the Psalms with the title, "Enemies Everywhere: The Psalmist Struggle for Survival". A number of Professors came up to me after my talk and one asked whether I did my PhD on the Psalms. At a dinner three days later, another scholar complimented that my paper on Psalms was one of the most edifying papers he had heard in the Conference.
I thought this might be the year I go again; this time to Europe but much uncertainty looms just as my Seoul attendance in 2016 when I quit College for 2 months in the middle of the year before being sent back in the middle of the 2nd Semester. I remember vividly 10 students or more came to me after Chapel and welcomed me back but they were all caught by surprise as I only told one student I was returning against all the odds. Perhaps my paper on the Psalms was a precursor to my experience for the next two and half years there where I faced much opposition and even enmity from various quarters. It was a miracle that I lasted that long (for the students' sake), all in all a full 3 years at the Namaus Bible College. Now I am free from shackles as if I received a get out of jail card in the Monopoly game. But like Ezekiel I am confined in my house for the past 6 months, per chance it will be 390 or even 430 days before my chains are broken and I can stand up again - "He will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the LORD, his God" (Micah 5:4).