Long before this cluster of buildings became one of the most recognizable skylines in the world, Biola had a special place in the city of Los Angeles.
It may be difficult to imagine now, but when the original 13-story Bible Institute of Los Angeles building was completed in 1914, it stood taller than all others in the city. Thousands of people came to attend its classes and church services, and tens of thousands came to Christ through its graduates, its publications and its Biola Hour radio show. For decades, its landmark rooftop neon “Jesus Saves” signs proclaimed a simple gospel message to millions.
Today, Biola may no longer be located within the heart of Los Angeles, but we still have plenty of love for our birthplace. Located just 20 miles from the university’s suburban La Mirada campus, the city still offers Biola students and graduates plenty of unique cultural, educational and ministry opportunities — and Biola still has plenty to offer the city.
As the university prepares to return to its roots in exciting new ways over the coming years, meet some of the Biolans who are serving, studying and shaping the City of Angels.
(Janney & Janney Attorney Services)
When Steve Janney graduated from Biola with a degree in Christian education in 1980, he didn’t expect to join the family business. But when his father and brother, who weren’t Christians at the time, needed his help with their attorney service, Janney said, “I really felt that the message of the gospel couldn’t be, ‘I love you, you’re in trouble, but the church is more important.’”
Janney found that he enjoyed the work, and his initial one-year commitment became a career.
Since his father’s death 13 years ago, Janney and his brother, Doug, have shared oversight of five office locations in Los Angeles, Ventura, Costa Mesa, San Diego and the Inland Empire. Janney & Janney Attorney Services assists clients with picking up, copying, certifying and filing court documents, conducting research and serving notice documents to defendants prior to litigation.
“We’re the connection between the attorneys and the courts,” Janney said, estimating that their offices have served over a million documents over the past 30 years.
Janney makes a point of dealing with client concerns personally, making sure that every call for him goes straight to his office.
“I tell everybody, ‘The name’s on the door. You can always get a hold of me,’” Janney said. Janney said keeping his word has given him credibility among those who don’t yet know Christ.
“When I went into business with my dad and brother, there were a lot of people who said, ‘Oh, the business world chews up and spits out Christians,’” Janney said. “And I found just the opposite to be true, as long as you’re consistent with what you say and what you do. … I’ve had a great opportunity to share Christ in a variety of venues, and people receive the message well.”
– Betsi L. Freeman
(CEO, Union Rescue Mission)
When the Rev. Andy Bales was a student at Biola in the late ’70s, he spent time living in Stewart Hall — the dorm named after Lyman Stewart, who founded Union Rescue Mission in 1891 in downtown Los Angeles. Little did Bales know then that one day he would run that very mission, living Stewart’s legacy in outreach to the down-and-out on Skid Row.
Bales, who gave Biola’s fall commencement address in December, has been working in outreach to the homeless in L.A. for 20 years and has made significant progress as the head of URM — the largest homeless shelter in the United States. In his time at URM, Andy has helped in the development of transitional housing for mothers and their children living in and around Skid Row and has played a pivotal role in reshaping hospital and governmental policies related to “dumping” of homeless patients from hospitals onto the streets of Skid Row.
Bales’ effective service to Los Angeles has been featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes, NBC’s Dateline and CNN, and has won him numerous awards and honors — such as being named the 930th Point of Light by President George Bush in 1992.
Bales was inspired to come serve the homeless by his father, who experienced homelessness as a child, and after a sermon that Bales once preached from Matthew 25:31.
“I preached the message six times on a Friday to Christian school students who I hoped would change their attitudes toward the least of these, the ‘losers’ of the world,” said Bales.
“I told them that the way they treated others was the way they treated God. … That Sunday, a man experiencing homelessness approached me and asked for my sandwich. I turned him away. It felt like a hammer from heaven hit me in the head. I hadn’t practiced what I preached. I found him on the streets several weeks later, fed him, and began to practice what I preach. That was 24 years ago.”
– Brett McCracken
Elizabeth Koo Edwards
(Children’s Services Administrator, Los Angeles County)
For more than 16 years, Elizabeth Koo Edwards has been serving Los Angeles County in the Department of Children and Family Services with more than 7,000 staff members, working to protect its most vulnerable citizens.
Since beginning as a social worker for DCFS in 1994, Edwards, who earned a master’s degree from Biola in marriage and family ministries in 1991, followed by a Ph.D. from Fuller Graduate School of Psychology, has been favored with frequent promotions through the ranks, training other social workers along the way.
“At each juncture, I experienced God’s wonderful orchestration, because I had never planned for promotions,” Edwards said.
Edwards now serves as a senior children’s services administrator and executive assistant to the medical director, Dr. Charles Sophy, whose bureau attends to the medical and mental health needs of 36,000 children in L.A. County. Because she worked for years in the field, she is able to encourage and empower staff members as they make crucial decisions for the care of children of abuse and neglect.
On a daily basis, Edwards must respond to an onslaught of critical, time-sensitive requests and inquiries concerning the needs of thousands of children, including the most medically fragile.
“To work here with the department, you really have to be well equipped, while being totally dependent on the Lord,” Edwards said.
Dealing with the ongoing difficulties of children in abusive or other dangerous situations can be emotionally draining, but Edwards said she is able to pray with other staff members regularly, and credits her godly husband for his support.
Edwards also draws strength from John 15:16: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”
– Betsi L. Freeman
Art professor Dan Callis grew up in Southern California, and received his art education in Los Angeles; now he introduces Biola students to the rich and varied art culture of the city.
“In all of our art history classes, we have mandatory trips into the city multiple times a semester,” Callis said. “By the time our students graduate from the art department, they have a pretty firm working knowledge of the city of L.A. We’ve always seen L.A. as a natural professional step for our students.”
Callis said Los Angeles is artistically unique compared to other cities because it’s polycentric; many styles abound from Claremont to Culver City, Hollywood to Santa Monica.
“It’s not just a homogeneous environment,” he said. “We in the art department produce a really wide range of graduating artists, from representational to abstract to photographers. The diversity of opportunities in L.A. can really account for that.”
Callis has also been partnering with sociology professor Brad Christerson to direct Biola's new urban studies program, which immerses students in the urban environment of Los Angeles. As part of the program, the professors teach a class called “The Postmodern Metropolis,” which requires students to work with nonprofit organizations serving marginalized communities. For the fall, Callis and Christerson are considering renting space for students in the downtown “Banker’s Row” area, where relationships could be formed with existing organizations such as Inner-City Arts, The Salvation Army, 18th Street Arts Center and Side Street Projects.
“We want to learn from them,” Callis said. “It’s not that we’re going in to tell them something. What are the good works you’re already doing and how can we come alongside? How can you help us to grow? It’s very much a two-way relationship.”
– Betsi L. Freeman
James Yim and Ray Causly
(Co-pastors of Living Way Community Church)
James Yim (M.Div. ’99) and Ray Causly (’98, M.A. ’01) are changing the way people in Los Angeles view church.
In their ministry through Living Way Community Church of Los Angeles in Chinatown, they work against the casual social culture of Sunday mornings and toward a mission of studious, biblical discipleship.
“If people want to hang out at our church, they can do that somewhere else,” said Causly.
Yim founded Living Way in 2000 and partnered with Causly in 2006. Together, they began what they call a “church plant within a church plant.” They became co-pastors and revitalized the vision of Living Way.
Their desire is to establish in their members a true sense of discipleship. They began discipleship groups that place an emphasis on fellowship and prayer in a context where believers learn together from Christ.
The ministry of Living Way involves both outreach and “inreach.” Church members minister to each other through their discipleship and small groups. For outreach, members are challenged to be intentional in finding eight to 15 people they can reach for Christ.
The concern Yim and Causly have for their congregation is for them to grow not wide in number but spiritually deep in Christ.
“We really began to look at our own congregation and see that the people had a false understanding, or a poor understanding, of true discipleship to Christ and what that really means — the radical, reckless abandonment to his cause,” said Causly. “There was just this surface adoption to church attendance and being a good person, living a respectable life, but not living a radical life.”
Yim and Causly said while their location in L.A. brings a struggle of materialism into the church, it has also blessed Living Way with the diversity the city has to offer. The church places a high emphasis on reaching out to their surrounding communities through ministry. Living Way is partnered with World Impact, a discipleship-oriented organization that serves those in urban communities.
“We just want to do what the Bible says,” said Yim. “We want to be an unstoppable force for good.”
– Amy Seed
L.A. County Teacher of the Year
Allison Israwi impacts young lives each day, formerly as an elementary school teacher and now as vice principal at Rio Hondo Elementary School in Downey. Last fall, in recognition of her teaching excellence, dedication and compelling classroom practices, she was named a Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year — an honor given to just 16 of the county’s 80,000 teachers last year.
Greeting students each day with a high five and welcoming smile, Israwi (’02, M.A. ’03) focuses on instilling confidence in each of her students through a positive and academically challenging learning environment. In her nearly seven years of teaching, she has made an effort to ensure that her students reach their fullest potential. She regularly employs teamwork, educational rap songs and hands-on activities to help promote interaction and engagement.
“With a ‘maverick spirit,’ it is imperative that teachers teach with positive energy, dedication and a sense of humor,” Israwi said. “I consistently reflect upon this ongoing question: ‘If I were a student in my classroom, why would I care?’”
Some of Israwi’s most rewarding experiences have been seeing a transformation in students who are at risk behaviorally, academically or socially, she said. She will never forget the tears of joy one student’s mother shed at an open house night as she shared the visible change that had occurred in her young son.
“Throughout my tenure as a teacher, I quickly realized that there is absolutely no greater reward than the daily impact I can make on a child’s life,” Israwi said. “The rewards you receive in teaching a child how to read, giving a child confidence, teaching a foster child the meaning of success, seeing non-English speaking students leave your classroom in June fully able to read a book … are immeasurable.”
– Jenna Bartlo