Experts on "Missions"

Betsy A. Barber

  • Associate Director of the Institute for Spiritual Formation
  • Associate Professor of Spiritual Formation and Psychology

Dr. Barber has a clinical practice with specialization in the soul care and mental health of christian workers. She teaches courses in spiritual formation, soul care, missions, maturity, and marital relationships. She has particular interest in spiritual formation and supervision of students in spiritual direction and mentoring. She has worked with her husband as a missionary in Bible translation and counseling ministries for 24 years. In addition to being a licensed clinical psychologist, she has background and training in spiritual direction.

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Marla Campbell

  • Professor Emerita of Intercultural Studies

Presently Dr. Marla Campbell teaches with the faculty of the School of Intercultural Studies following five years in the Education Department at Biola University. Prior to this, Marla served as Dean of Students at Bethany College and as a missionary in the Balkans of Eastern Europe then later with Asia-Pacific Education working with Bible colleges. All of these have offered opportunities to fulfill her desire to reach the lost, especially through the teaching and training of others who will carry on the task. During her 14 years of teaching in Christian high schools, Dr. Campbell had a vision for taking drama ministry teams nationally and internationally with the development of Parable Drama. Her mission opportunities have taken her throughout the USA and to over 60 countries. Whether at home or abroad, Marla has always had a focus on education and ministries with a strong passion for biblical integration, intentional living and spiritual formation. She enjoys opportunities to teach and speak in a variety of these venues as well as in women's ministry settings. Equipping Christian educators in public or private schools, whether at home or abroad, remains a primary focus for both speaking and publishing.

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Octavio Javier Esqueda

  • Professor of Christian Higher Education

Octavio Javier Esqueda is a professor of Christian higher education in the doctoral programs in educational studies at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. He was born and raised in Guadalajara, México, where he graduated with honors with a Licenciatura in Latin American Literature from the University of Guadalajara as well as two additional diplomas, one on religion and society and the second on journalism. He graduated with honors from Dallas Theological Seminary with an M.A. in Christian Education and completed his doctorate (Ph.D.) in Higher Education at the University of North Texas. Before coming to Biola University he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He and his wife, Angélica, have two children Darío and Salma. Dr. Esqueda has several publications on theological education, Christian higher education, and literature. Teaching is his passion and has had the opportunity to teach in several countries on different academic levels. He is an avid soccer fan.

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Richard Gunasekera

  • Associate Dean and Professor, Academic and Research Affairs
  • Professor of Biological Sciences
  • Professor of Biochemistry

Richard Gunasekera, Ph.D., has enjoyed a 20-year career in higher education as professor and a scientist in the field of Biochemical Genetics and Forensic DNA. He earned his bachelor’s in biochemistry at Baylor University, where he researched and published in organic synthesis as an undergraduate. Gunasekera earned a master’s degree in bio-organic chemistry from the University of Houston-Clear Lake, a master’s in molecular genetics and a doctorate in Biomedical Sciences at the Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. Before coming to Biola in 2018, Gunasekera founded the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Houston-Victoria and acted as the Department Head and later as Director of Graduate Studies. He has held faculty and research positions at Texas A&M University Health Science Center, the University of Houston-Clear Lake, and Rice University in Houston. Gunasekera’s research now spans several interdisciplinary fields such as cancer biology, forensic DNA studies, nano-biotechnology and biochemical genetics. He has also received awards for excellence in teaching, research and as a distinguished faculty member from his previous institutions. 

Working with his students and colleagues in research Gunasekera stays committed to the student and the classroom. He believes that all teaching in the sciences is an extension of rigorous research and discovery, and that a science professor is best when he professes what he practices in the laboratory. Thus, he considers teaching both graduates and undergraduates in the classroom and laboratory in a Christ-centered environment as his first calling. He is committed to work as a team member to contribute toward building a world class institution and continue to make Biola a national leader in the sciences.

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Joe Henderson

  • Associate Professor, Torrey Honors

Joe Henderson is a scholar of English literature and the Old Testament, uniting his love of reading well with his love of reading the Bible. His doctoral research on the poetry of the book of Jeremiah is the fruit of his interest of both the history of biblical interpretation and of literary criticism. His other interests include Robert Louis Stevenson's novels, Paul's theology, Milton's Prose, Brevard Childs' hermeneutics, Flannery O'Connor's stories, and Charles Wesley's hymns.

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Hyuna Lee

  • Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

Hyuna Lee’s teaching interests are in the areas of neurobiology, biochemistry, and cancer biology. She teaches courses for both science, technology and health majors and non-majors. Lee teaches first-year seminar for students in biological sciences majors and is an academic advisor in the Biola Office of Health Profession Advising.

Lee's research currently focuses on the regeneration properties of the zebrafish caudal fin exposed to various environmental toxicants. Her future interests lie in tumor angiogenesis and the anti-tumor effects of novel therapeutic drugs. These experiments will be performed by transplanting cancer cells in the duct of Cuvier of 48hpf Tg(fli1:EGFP) transgenic zebrafish larvae that have been knocked down of specific vasculature genes using morpholinos. Students can participate in zebrafish research with her through BIOS 450 Directed Research.

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David Shane Lowry

  • Associate Professor of Anthropology

David Shane Lowry obtained his bachelor of science degree in anthropology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his doctorate degree from the University of North Carolina. His scholarship focuses on human empathy. His graduate research took place between 2009 and 2012 when he spent hundreds of hours with missionaries, healthcare providers, and social justice advocates from the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina.

Lowry is writing two books. One book is an anthropology of Michael Jordan, and the other book is a story of how the Lumbee Tribe became a hub for healing in America. Lowry is currently part of an interdisciplinary research team that is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the environmental aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in North Carolina. He will be teaching courses in cultural anthropology, medical anthropology, and other topics related to his research and writing.


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Alan McMahan

  • Undergraduate Chair, Cook School of Intercultural Studies
  • Program Director Undergraduate Studies for Intercultural Studies
  • Professor of Intercultural Studies

Alan McMahan has served in churches in North America and on the Pacific Rim as well as taught in the areas of missiology, church growth, leadership, organizational development and evangelism. He has been active in training undergraduate and graduate students including mid-career professionals, Bible school teachers, pastors and denominational leaders through the U.S., Canada, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia in the effective means to develop leaders and grow churches. He maintains an active consulting service in churches and is the former President of the American Society of Church Growth. He has earned degrees from Fuller Seminary, Asbury Seminary, the Alliance Theological Seminary and Nyack College. His Ph.D. dissertation was entitled, "Training Turnaround Leaders, Systemic Approaches to Reinstate Growth in Plateaued Churches." He has served as a Vice President for the Alliance Theological Seminary, and as the Academic Dean at The King’s College in mid-town Manhattan. McMahan now works at Biola University as an Associate Professor in the School of Intercultural Studies and serves as the Department Chair for the Undergraduate Intercultural Studies Program. He is married to Terri, and has two sons.

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Kenneth Nehrbass

  • Associate Professor of Intercultural Studies
  • Program Director, MA Intercultural Studies
  • Chair, Graduate Studies of Intercultural Studies

Kenneth Nehrbass was a pastor before he and his wife Mendy joined Wycliffe Bible Translators in 2000. In 2002, they moved to the island of Tanna (in Vanuatu) to translate the New Testament with a team of nationals. In 2012 they moved back to the USA, and Nehrbass became assistant professor of International Studies at Belhaven University. In 2014, he moved to Biola to teach and direct the M.A. and Ph.D. Programs in intercultural studies. He continues to volunteer as a translation and anthropology consultant with SIL and the Seed Company. His research focuses on contextual theology and missiological anthropology. He and his wife have four children.

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Katherine Purgason

  • Professor of TESOL

Kitty Purgason brings to her classes in TESOL methodology, curriculum, materials and intercultural communication her years of experience living, studying, serving and teaching in India, Russia, Korea, China, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Mauritania, Indonesia, Kuwait, Oman, Tajikistan, Vietnam and Spain. She has received three Fulbright fellowships and the Biola Faculty Awards for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring. She has been a U.S. State Department English Language Specialist. Her professional interests include methodology in local context and professional ethics.

Purgason has presented on methodology and materials-related topics at more than 30 local, state and national TESOL conferences, and has spoken about TESOL at Urbana and other similar conferences. She is the author of Professional Guidelines for Christian English Teachers (2016), "Planning Lessons and Units" in Celce-Murcia, Brinton, & Snow (2013), "Classroom Guidelines for Teachers with Convictions" in Wong and Canagarajah (2009), and English Language Teaching in Theological Contexts (2010). 

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Richard L. Starcher

  • Professor of Intercultural Education & Missiology
  • Co-Program Director, Doctor of Intercultural Studies

Richard Starcher served as a pastor in rural Nebraska and as a missionary in Africa for 20 years. He taught at the Goyongo Bible Institute in Zaire, at the Bangui Evangelical School of Theology in the Central African Republic and at the Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology in Kenya where he also served as Dean of Extension Studies. He continues to teach and serve as an educational consultant in Africa. He is particularly interested in research methods and in exploring models for equipping leaders for the majority world Church. He also edits Missiology: An International Review, the official journal of the American Society of Missiology.

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Anneke Stasson

  • Assistant Professor, Torrey Honors Institute

Anneke grew up in Olympia, Wash. and is thrilled to be living on the West Coast again after living for eight years in Boston. Anneke received her B.A. in English from Calvin College and her M.A. in Church History from Regent College in Vancouver, B.C. Most recently, Anneke received her Ph.D. from Boston University, where she studied the History of Christianity, Global Christianity and the History of Missions. Her dissertation was on twentieth-century missionaries and marriage counselors Walter and Ingrid Trobisch. Her current research continues to address the relationship between Christianity and cultural conceptions of gender, marriage and family life. Anneke and her husband, Stevie, have three daughters, Mary Lou, Eleanor and Ruthann, all of whom enjoy swimming, hiking, cooking and reading.

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Tom Steffen

  • Professor Emeritus of Intercultural Studies

Dr. Steffen served 20 years with New Tribes Mission, 15 of those in the Philippines. He is Professor Emeritus of Intercultural Studies in the School of Intercultural Studies at Biola University in La Mirada, California.

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David L Talley

  • Associate Dean, Strategic Partnerships and Student Welfare
  • Professor of Old Testament
  • Faculty Athletics Representative

With varied ministry experiences, including student development, counseling, pastoring and teaching psychology and Old Testament studies, David Talley brings a blend of scholarship and practical application to his classroom instruction. He co-pastors a local church, and enjoys research in the areas of Old Testament theology, the Pentateuch and the prophets. His dissertation research on the judgment of pain in Genesis 3 continues to be a focus in his research as he formulates a perspective on Godly living in a difficult world. Talley is passionate about understanding and teaching the truths of God's Word, discipling and equipping others, and "passing on the faith" to the next generation. In 2013, he completed a survey book on the Old Testament, which seeks to focus on both the information of the biblical text and the transformation of the heart. His work has also been published in The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and the Christian Research Journal . Talley travels extensively with the goal of partnering with the international church and training leaders, especially with a focus on impacting Muslim nations with the gospel. He has traveled to South Korea, Kenya, Thailand, Armenia, Russia, Ukraine, Brazil, Honduras, Dominica, Nigeria, Mexico and the Congo to equip believers.

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K. Erik Thoennes

  • Professor and Chair of Theology

Erik Thoennes is committed to teaching biblical and systematic theology so that he and his students love God and people more fully. He strives to make the necessary connections between the study of theology, obedience to Jesus and fulfilling the Great Commission. He has taught theology and evangelism at the college and seminary levels for several years and is a frequent guest speaker at churches, conferences and retreats, in addition to co-pastoring a local church. Thoennes has received the University award for faculty excellence and professor of the year. His research interests include godly jealousy, the atonement, the exclusivity of Christ and theology of culture.

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Evanson Wamagatta

  • Associate Professor of History

Evanson Wamagatta has taught history at the University of Nairobi for about seven years. He also taught for four years as a graduate instructor at West Virginia University. In the 2001–02 academic year, he was a Visiting Lecturer at Biola University. He became a full time faculty in the fall of 2003.

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Suzanne Welty

  • Associate Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders

Suzanne Welty’s interests and experience are in remediation of autism spectrum disorder and spoken language disorders in children. Her specialty is providing evidenced-based interventions within the school setting to meet the communication, social and academic challenges that these children face. Welty teaches Research in Speech-Language Pathology for the M.S. in Speech Language Pathology and teaches Research in Communication Disorders and Speech and Language Development and Disorders within the undergraduate program. She utilizes case studies, current readings and discussions to encourage the development of critical thinking within her students, with an emphasis on clinical application of theoretical principles. When teaching research she focuses on writing as a process and equips students to present their research at state and national conferences in speech-language pathology. Welty counts it a privilege to engage students in prayer and reflection on the Word of God, which will equip them to grow as competent and compassionate professionals. She also encourages students to integrate scriptural principles as they analyze evidence and evaluate solutions to clinical and theoretical problems. Welty’s dissertation was entitled California Special Education Eligibility: Analysis of Trends from 2002-2010. She is interested in the scholarship of teaching and learning, specifically evaluating classroom pedagogy and instructional techniques when teaching research writing.

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Allen L. Yeh

  • Associate Professor of Intercultural Studies

Allen Yeh is a missiologist who specializes in Latin America and China. He also has other academic interests in history, classical music, homiletics, social justice, the California missions, the Maya, and biographical interest in Jonathan Edwards (America's greatest theologian) and Adoniram Judson (America's first intercontinental missionary). He serves on the Board of Trustees for the Foundation for Theological Education in Southeast Asia. He earned his B.A. from Yale, M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell, M.Th. from Edinburgh, and D.Phil. from Oxford. Despite this alphabet soup, he believes that experience is the greatest teacher of all (besides the Bible). As such, Allen has been to over 60 countries on every continent, to study, do missions work, and experience the culture. As Mark Twain said in 1857, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." He is joyfully married to Arianna Molloy, a professor in Biola's Communication Studies Department.

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