It’s hard to miss Dean Elliott Norris. He’s neatly put together, and usually decked out in one of his easily recognizable T-shirts that proclaim his identity as “The Extraordinary Man.” He can most often be found on Albany Street between F Street, where the heart of his ministry is located, and O Street, near Abysinia Baptist Church, where he is a member.
For years, Norris has conducted his ministry by bicycle, handing out Bibles to people, witnessing his faith to them and helping the downtrodden any way he can.
“I’ve fed the hungry on that corner for years,” he said, pointing toward G Street. “I’ve been working this area consistently.”
The good news is that Norris will no longer have to conduct all of his work outdoors. Thanks to the generosity of a new church in town, he’ll be be able to hold meetings at 5 p.m. the third Thursday of each month at the old Roxy Theater, 1603 Albany St.
Norris said the Church of God the Bibleway and its pastor, Gavin McCullough, overseer, Kevin Williams and presiding apostle, Clayton Allen Cowart, have given him permission to conduct a children’s ministry there.
“We will have Bible training sessions, puppet shows, and youth groups will perform,” Norris said. “We want to help encourage and support their talent, and they will receive awards and recognition.”
Norris said he works in conjunction with the Good News program to encourage children’s spiritual enrichment.
Good News Clubs, are operated by Child Evangelism Fellowship, and, according to the organization’s website, uses “trained teachers to meet with groups of children in schools, homes, community centers, churches, apartment complexes … anywhere the children can easily and safely meet with their parent’s permission. … This action-packed time also includes songs, Scripture memory, a missions story and review games or other activities focused on the lesson’s theme.”
The purpose of the Good News Club is to evangelize children with the gospel of Jesus, and establish them in the word of God and a local church.
Norris, who is wont to speak in acronyms and rhyming phrases (mostly in iambic pentameter), has themes for nearly every aspect of his ministry, beginning with PCI.
PCI, or parent-children involvement, is at the foundation of what Norris is trying to accomplish with his outreach, and the cornerstone of that are family prayer sessions.
“We will have targeted motivation encouragement sessions,” he said. “We want to support children in their schoolwork and spiritual enrichment.”
Lessons will be interwoven with activities including a prayer team, reading programs and hobbies and crafts.
Norris is concerned about the plight of the family and said children must be taught to respect those in charge, or be resigned to not accomplishing much.
Therein lies one of his main themes: “If you don’t respect, don’t expect.”
In addition to reaching out to children, Norris also wants to establish Bible training sessions, especially for people who might have to work on Sunday mornings and cannot attend regular church services, or for people who are “unchurched” for other reasons.
He doesn’t intend on moving forward by himself though. He’s hard at work enlisting organizations — not only churches — to become involved. Norris also intends to expand his program into Jacksonville, Folkston and Darien.
“Where there is unity, there is strength,” he said. “It’s time to form a chain, to bring about a change.”
While much of the work begins at home, Norris’ main objective is to bring “unity back to our community.”
He’s been attempting to accomplish that via his Bible distribution program — he’s distributed 500-600 Bibles since he began —and in addition to handing them out to passersby, he drops one off at his church each time he attends.
The Bibles he’s given away have become keepsakes to those who have received them, many of whom are in dire straits, the result of myriad circumstances.
“You might lose your friends or family members, but hang on to your Bible,” he said.
Norris knows this all too well. The murders of the Holliman family the weekend of June 17 affected him deeply. The late Carson and Vondell Holliman were classmates of Norris’ in the Glynn Academy Class of 1971, which was, at the time of the Hollimans’ deaths, planning a reunion for July 1. For Norris, it drove home how fragile life can be.
Carson Holliman showed up at a meeting of the reunion committee shortly before his death.
“He was excited about the reunion, and to see everyone,” said Norris, adding that in light of the tragic deaths of the well-liked Brunswick family, he’s calling his classmates to the front lines, along with his Southeast Georgia Street Mission Teams, The Extraordinary Men and The Exceptional Women.
“They are equipped for street mission, and to promote unity,” he said. “We’re taking the vision and the mission to a greater dimension.”