IN HIS STEPS: Endowment Fund to Assist Students Traveling to Israel

Giving // August 11, 2021

Since 2017, Bill and Shelva Biggs and their children, Bill Biggs, Jr. and Desiree Biggs Barnes, have assisted Freed-Hardeman University students in traveling to the Bible Lands. To continue that tradition well into the future, they have established In His Steps, an endowment fund in memory of their daughter and sister, Melissa Renee Biggs. She died in a car accident when she was 16 years old.

“People called her ‘Sunshine,’” her mother said. “She was just a sunshine girl. Everybody loved her, and she loved everybody. People still tell me Renee stories. After her death, I kept getting bills from a florist I did not remember ever using. When I called to inquire, I was told that the purchases had been signed by Renee. She had been sending flowers to people in the hospital.”

Renee frequently invited friends to come to church with her. Following her death, several of those friends were baptized or restored because of her influence. Her family believes it would have given her great joy to know that many people will benefit from this experience to walk where Jesus walked. “She would be delighted!” her mother said. “She would have loved to be right there with them.”

FHU juniors and seniors may apply for financial assistance to make the trip. Criteria considered in making the selection include total credit hours earned, grade point average, a statement of purpose and recommendations.

“The Office of International Education at Freed-Hardeman University works with the deans from each of the four colleges to select students from the pool of applicants,” Josh Barber, Associate Director of International Education, said. “The number of students from each college corresponds approximately to the composition of the campus. Deans may work with their department chairs, program coordinators and/or faculty members to recommend the top applicants from their colleges who are chosen for the program.

Mary Emilee Lussier, a 2020 graduate who went on the trip in 2019, said, “The Bible Lands trip will continue to influence my faith unlike any other trip could ever do. I'm forever grateful for this incredible opportunity for myself and many other FHU students in the past and now even more in years to come.”

Dr. Mark Blackwelder, the FHU director of the program concurred, saying, “The sites and stories of scripture feel more ‘real’ and ‘historical’ when you have walked in the footsteps of Jesus. It is a time of spiritual reflection for these travelers as they encounter the powerful realities of scripture while standing in the places where those lessons were originally taught.”

“These students will be preaching from our pulpits and teaching the next generation of children in our Bible classes. The energy and perspectives they have gained from their experience in the Bible Lands ignites passion in their spiritual lives and enlivens the lessons they teach,” Blackwelder continued. “Only God knows the ways He can use that for His glory!”

“The impact of this endowment cannot be fully measured. To influence so many so significantly every year until Jesus returns is the result of two things, the magnificent generosity of a donor and the fundamental concept of endowed funds,” FHU President David R. Shannon said. “When I signed the document finalizing this fund, I immediately stopped to thank God fervently. We all have the power to do good, and the Biggs family has generously ensured a portion of their goodness will powerfully impact lives beyond ours.” 

Anyone interested in assisting more students experience walking where Jesus walked is invited to contribute to the In His Steps endowment fund through the FHU Office of Advancement by contacting Kyle Lamb, Associate Vice President for Advancement, 731-608-7744 or