". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Well Done, Dean Nelson

December 21, 2023

I still remember that fateful day in spring 2005. I was a junior at Liberty University desperately seeking to land a summer internship as part of my graduation requirements.

I naively believed that being a religion major would make it easy for me to find a local church to extend an internship to me. It proved to be rather difficult — until my Google search landed on The Father’s House, a nondenominational church in Norcross, Georgia.

I had no previous affiliation with the church, but my desire to graduate outweighed my fear of rejection. I picked up the phone and called. What happened next would positively change my life forever.

On the other end of the call was the Rev. Dean Nelson. I explained my situation, and he graciously entertained my request. Little did I know that he was looking for an intern that summer while I was looking for an internship. After numerous conversations and a visit to the church during spring break, he offered me the opportunity to intern for him. 

This began a relationship that lasted until Dean died Saturday of stomach cancer at age 55.

As an obituary in The Christian Post notes, at the time of Dean’s death he was chairman of both the Frederick Douglass Foundation and the Douglass Leadership Institute, as well as vice president of government relations for Human Coalition, a network of pro-life pregnancy centers.

His is a loss that profoundly affects me. I have lost a father, mentor, and friend. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Dean Nelson. Growing up in a single-parent home without a dad, I never knew how a godly husband and father served his family.

That is, until Dean allowed me to live with his family — free of charge — for over two years. He showed the love, discipline, and servanthood I always longed for, and he and his wife Julia are why my wife and I homeschool our kids today.

Dean and Julia provided premarital counseling for Cathy and me; Dean officiated at our wedding. More importantly, Dean Nelson has been a constant in my life.

He was always there to provide wisdom and loving encouragement. Like many other young black Christians in the nation’s capital, I owe my success to Dean. Not only that, but his contributions to the pro-life movement among black Americans are legendary.

When I think of Dean, I think of his humility. He always — and I mean always — used his platform so that others could succeed, even to his detriment sometimes. He was ambitious but not selfish; his love for God’s kingdom drove him.

He was faithful with everything that God entrusted to him. Although his time on this side of Heaven is over, his impact and legacy will live on in everyone who longs to see righteousness and justice prevail in our culture.

Jesus said, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” Nelson undoubtedly will be in that number.

I will miss him ferociously, and these words don’t do his life justice. The 55 years of his life were a resounding testimony to God’s goodness and faithfulness.

I know Dean Nelson has received the reward of his faith and the declaration from our Lord that we all long to hear, as recorded in Matt. 25:21 (ESV): “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”

Marcus Harris is director of Member Engagement for the Church and Ministry Alliance program at Alliance Defending Freedom. He previously served as director of Student Interns and Policy Lectures at Family Research Council.

This article was originally published in The Daily Signal.