Biography -
Norm Nelson

Biography -
Cher Nelson

Norm Nelson was President of Compassion Ventures, Inc. and host of Compassion Radio, a unique faith-based, boots-on-the-ground activist media ministry based in Lake Forest, California. From the days of co-hosting the Morning Chapel Hour with his father, the broadcast pioneer and pastor Wilbur Nelson, Norm was heard daily in most major markets across the United States, and in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. To date, Compassion Radio has conducted transformational projects in almost 50 countries.

Norm’s pioneering vision was to move beyond the traditionally passive “I talk, you listen” broadcasting formula, to involve listeners in responsible servant outreach to the neediest people in the toughest places on earth. In keeping with this vision, Compassion Radio mobilized its partners to launch and support dozens of Compassion projects, including: restoring schools in Afghanistan; providing shelter and care for abandoned infants in South Africa; supporting “safe houses” for North Korean and Eritrean refugees; ministering to the victims of human trafficking in Cambodia; funding blindness-curing eye clinics in Ghana; and delivering emergency food and medical provisions in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Darfur, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Gaza and the West Bank. The ministry has been instrumental in the founding and maintenance of three orphanages in Asia and Africa; pastor training in Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Cambodia; bible distribution to the booming Church in dozens of countries. New projects are presently being initiated in Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, northern India and numerous regions of China under the leadership of Cher Nelson and the Bram Floria, current President and Host.

Norm led Compassion Radio to partner with leading human rights organizations in the cause of religious freedom around the world. Compassion Radio continues to keep listeners informed and involved through programs devoted to the issue, motivating listeners to encourage and strengthen victims of religious persecution. Norm's example and legacy continue with travel to sites where such suffering occurs, supporting and supplying the Church there, and bringing their stories home to the Western Church. The need for advocacy to address persecution in China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan, Sudan and Vietnam continues.

Commenting on the adventurous front-line character of Compassion Radio, Dr. Luis Bush, International Director of A.D. 2000 and Beyond, called it “one of the most exciting and promising developments in ministry of the early 21st century!” Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie, former Chaplain to the United States Senate, has described the ministry as “power-packed!”

Nelson was well-prepared for such an activist ministry. He held a B.A. from Westmont College, an M. Div. from San Francisco Theological Seminary, a Th. M. from Princeton Theological Seminary, and is completed doctoral studies in Religion, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution at the Graduate Theological Foundation. He pursued graduate study in Islamics at Oxford University and held post-graduate certificates in Human Rights and International Law from the International Institute of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, and from American University in Washington, D.C. In 2005, he participated with political scientists, policy advisors, Foreign Service personnel and United Nations staff in the International Conflict Research Program at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland.

Norm had a long history of involvement in compassion-oriented ministry. While in seminary at Princeton, he established an inner-city youth mission in Trenton, N.J. In the 1960’s, he taught Religion and Social Ethics at Middlebury College in Vermont. In the 1970’s he created a summer service program called Youth Experience in Service (Y.E.S.), which involved students in compassion projects in Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. In later years he served on NGO disaster response teams that ministered to victims of hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and war in Central America, South America and Eastern Europe. In the summer of 2002, Norm and his wife, Cher, taught English at Balkh University in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. In 2014 they served as visiting faculty at Beijing University teaching Media Communications.

He also served as a regional board member for such organizations as the American Red Cross, the Heifer Project, and Partners of the Americas. He was a trustee of several Christian human rights organizations, including Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding (EMEU), and a Board of Advisors member of service organizations in India and Egypt and was appointed to the national Mission Network Task Force on Iraq of the Presbyterian Church USA.

On the journalistic front, Norm and Cher traveled to over 150 countries, including in recent years such “hot spots” as Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, Sudan, Pakistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Lebanon, Syria and Colombia. Together they recorded and broadcast informative on-site reports from locations of conflict and suffering. Examples include program series from Kosovo (during the war), Pakistan (in 2001), the Palestinian Territories (during the second Intifada), and numerous times to Afghanistan (beginning 2002) and Iraq (throughout the 1990s and 2000s). Norm interviewed leaders of such diverse organizations as Hamas and the European Union, and government officials in such countries as Iraq and Sudan.

He was interviewed on dozens of radio talk shows and by other international media for his insights into world events. He appeared on television in Iraq, Iran, Australia and New Zealand, and on Marrakesh Regional Radio in Morocco. The Nelsons’ work has been noted by CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX television and other media organizations.

Norm was a published author, and a contributor to numerous books, magazines and journals. He was a frequent speaker at churches, colleges, universities, schools and conferences.

In the post-9/11 era, Norm, through Compassion Radio, became a unique and effective advocate within the evangelical community for the peaceful resolution of conflict between Christians and Muslims. He personally dialogued with Muslim clerics in the U.S., England, Palestine, Syria, Jordan and at the historic shrine at Najaf, Iraq. He delivered aid to Palestinian refugees in the camps at Ein el Hilweh in Lebanon, Rafah in Gaza, Dheisheh in Palestine and to the Afghan refugee camp at Akora Kattakh in western Pakistan. Compassion Ventures, Inc. helped create conflict resolution projects with the World Evangelical Alliance and worked with the Arab World Evangelical Ministers Association (AWEMA),

In 2004, acting on a firm commitment to the ministry of reconciliation, Norm accepted an invitation to be a panel member in a Muslim/Christian symposium at the Institute of Interreligious Dialogue in Tehran, Iran. He was invited back to Iran in 2005. Building on that experience, he worked with Sudanese academics to establish a peace institute in Khartoum. He initiated interfaith dialogue events as part of a grass-roots peace movement in that country. At the request of Jaafar al-Nimeiri, former President of Sudan, he founded the development of a new transformational comprehensive university in Khartoum. The project has, to date, elicited the cooperation of Sudan’s political and religious leadership.

In the post-9/11 years, Norm repeatedly engaged in discussions with clerics at the Khan Theological College in Shiraz, Iran. He helped to foster a transformational video series in Kuwait-an unlikely video series called “Under Abraham’s Tent”, which brought together Christian, Muslim and Jewish scholars for dialogue on inter-faith issues. The series telecast regionally from Kuwait.

Norm was a member of the President’s Council of the National Religious Broadcasters. Compassion Radio has won both the NRB’s Award of Merit and Milestone Award.

Norm and Cher led a family of 7 married children and 17 grandchildren.

On April 10, 2017 Norm passed to Glory after a long illness, attended by his wife Cher and current ministry President, Bram Floria.