Liberty University announced last week that it is offering free tuition for the fall 2005 semester to students displaced by Hurricane Katrina who are interested in a distinctively Christian education.

Founded in 1971, Liberty is the home of 8,717 resident students this fall. The university has experienced a 35-year series of miracles that has culminated in it becoming a greatly respected institution, with more than 100,000 alumni now impacting their communities.

Part of the foundation of Liberty has been the call to reach out to our fellow man, especially in times of trouble.

This foundational groundwork of Liberty was very evident over the course of the last several days as students, faculty and staff have donated tens of thousands of dollars to relief efforts in the Gulf. In one recent convocation service, students filled buckets with $17,000. This truly touched my heart.

We have targeted the funds to assist two key efforts: 1) Operation Blue Ridge Thunder – under the auspices of Bedford, Va., Sheriff Mike Brown – and their rescue efforts in the region, and 2) the North American Mission Board, which has sent relief workers throughout the Gulf Coast.

The devastating impact of Katrina continues to dominate the headlines, and we at Liberty want to offer our help to students and others in the region. As Christians, we are called to be beacons of light – reflective of Jesus Christ – to all.

Liberty University offers us the perfect capacity to offer unique assistance.

Through our 15,000 Club – an ongoing scholarship committee that I instituted at the time of Liberty’s founding – we are making available the full tuition scholarships to Gulf Coast college students who were displaced by the hurricane and who are faced with inoperable schools.

On Thursday, I welcomed two young ladies from the University of New Orleans who are transferring to our School of Business. Both of them lost their homes as well as their school.

In addition, our Liberty Godparent Home for Unwed Mothers and Family Life Services Adoption Agency has been asked by the Virginia governor’s office to assist in the temporary placement of itinerant children who need help.

Many babies and children have reportedly been separated from their parents in the Gulf, and we are gladly opening our arms to these innocent victims. The Godparent Home is a beautiful facility, and we employee a compassionate band of workers and medical/educational staff who are anxious to help.

At Liberty, we have already heard from many other students who are enrolling in our programs; we expect to hear from many others in the days to come.

These students will not only be able to continue their education, but their spiritual lives will be nurtured and the emotional wounds can begin to heal. God may call a young Billy Graham or Rick Warren from this very group.

Readers wishing to help us provide scholarships to students arriving from the Gulf Coast, assist us financially with displaced infants and/or provide help the NAMB Disaster Relief Team may do so online.

I would truly appreciate any help as we reach out to our needy neighbors from the Gulf Coast in the weeks to come.

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