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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Evangelical Alliance and worked with the Arab World Evangelical Ministers
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.
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,