God was preparing Erik Bentley (B.A. ’96, M.A. ’20) for a life in Japan far before he met his wife and he moved to the Chiba Prefecture in east Japan. It all started at a job fair on Biola University’s campus.

“I did not have any clear direction on what God was leading me into,” he said. “Looking back, I would attribute this to not wholeheartedly seeking Him concerning this matter.”

At the job fair, he picked up information about teaching English in Japan and thought it was something he could do in the future. A couple years after graduating with a B.A. in Intercultural Studies, he reached out to his contact and soon was on his way to Japan to teach English.

Bentley attributes his readiness to go to Japan to his intercultural studies education for which he is thankful.

“I had learned about the different stages of culture shock and how to minimize its effects which I ended up experiencing very little of,” he said. “Intercultural Studies also raised my awareness of cultural differences and how to adjust and adapt to them.”

After a little over a year, Bentley moved back to the United States to teach English as a second language at a community college. In 2007, Bentley married his wife and they settled down in Arizona with no intentions of moving to Japan. Though his wife had grown up there, she did not want to go back.

“Sometime in the Fall of 2007, I sensed God telling us to go to Japan. I presented the idea to my wife, and she was very much against it,” he said. “While she was against the idea of moving to Japan, she did agree to pray about it.”

His wife flew back to Japan a few months later to be with her grandfather before he passed away, and soon understood that moving to Japan was God’s will.

“We moved in August of 2008 with the plan that we would only be in Japan for a year; however, God had another plan and before that year was over we knew that we were to stay in Japan until He directs us elsewhere,” Bentley said.

For the first six months in Japan, Bentley learned Japanese before he moved on to teaching English part-time for about a year until he started teaching at the Airline Business College of Narita in March of 2010.

His passion for teaching waning a few years later, Bentley applied for an online M.A. in TESOL at Biola. He credits the program with helping him become a better teacher.

“Through the program I saw my skills honed, my understanding of the field deepened, and my passion for teaching reinvigorated,” he said.

Since he was in the program while he was teaching, Bentley thought that he benefited more from what he learned than he otherwise would have.

“I found that being able to immediately apply what I was learning made my study come to life and removed much of the theory that exists when not being able to immediately apply what is being learned,” said Bentley.

Some of the lessons he learned that he immediately applied to class were test making strategies, lesson plan development, classroom management and how to give students feedback.

“It was wonderful to be able to learn alongside fellow believers all the while helping each other grow not just in the subject material, but in our faith, too,” Bentley said.

Additionally, the professors in the program were helpful to his success in the program and in his classroom. Their expertise, passion for the subject, and personal interaction added value to his learning experience.

“I greatly appreciated the way my professors consistently enveloped each class with God's word and a biblical worldview,” he said. “This elevated what was being studied from merely being earthly to the spiritual…in choosing Biola you are contributing to the furthering of the Gospel through your tuition as Biola equips believers to impact the world in numerous areas of study.”

Bentley completed his master’s degree from Biola in 2020 and continues to use the skills he learned in the program in his teaching position at Airline Business College of Narita.

For more information about the undergraduate and graduate programs offered at the Cook School of Intercultural Studies, please visit the website.

Written by Charlotte McKinley, public relations intern. For more information, please email media.relations@biola.edu.