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Coverage of Iraq war has unintended results; death of NBC’s David Bloom results in media elite hearing message of Christ

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Media coverage of the war with Iraq contained key elements of faith, speakers said at the Baptist Press National Student Journalism Conference.

Eric Metaxas, author and creative development writer for Big Idea Productions, told students how the death of his friend, NBC journalist David Bloom, resulted in hundreds of media personalities hearing the message of Christ. Bloom died of a pulmonary embolism while covering the war in Iraq.

Writer Sara Horn and photographer Jim Veneman detailed their experiences covering the war aboard the USS Harry S. Truman. Horn and Veneman published their war coverage in a Baptist Press series titled, “A Patriot’s Faith.”

Metaxas, whose work has extended to The Washington Post and National Public Radio, said Bloom’s journey to faith began more than a year ago when he began attending a home Bible study in the New York City area.

Although Bloom co-anchored the weekend editions of NBC’s morning show “Today,” he felt comfortable in the Bible study, Metaxas said, “because there wasn’t a lot of Christian jargon.”

Within a short period of time, Bloom formed a close friendship with Bible study attendees Jim Lane and B.J. Webber. Through their witness, Bloom committed his life to Christ.

Metaxas, who also was part of the weekly gathering, remembered his own reaction upon hearing of Bloom’s conversion.

“When David came to faith, I was just praising the Lord. I thought, look at this. Look what the Lord has done through our little men’s fellowship. He’s brought this amazingly visible … man into the fold. … This is an answer to prayer. … He’s going to have years and years of a future, and he’s going to influence people.”

When the war with Iraq began in 2003, Bloom became an embedded reporter for NBC News with the U.S Army’s 3rd Infantry Division.

Sending Bloom away proved difficult for the men at the Bible study, Metaxas recounted.

“We laid hands on him and prayed for his safety,” he said. “How do you engage emotionally with that kind of thing? It’s just too much.”

Metaxas expected Bloom to return to the United States within months, but one Sunday morning Webber called to inform him that Bloom had died as U.S. troops approached Baghdad.

“In my thinking, there was just no way to comprehend because I think it’s vitally important for believers to be in the media reaching the secular elites,” Metaxas said. “… So the day that I heard that he died, it was one of the few times in my life, maybe the only time that I can recall, where I felt an inclination to be angry at God or to say that I truly couldn’t fathom how this could be.”

Still angry and grieving, Metaxas attended Bloom’s funeral in St. Patrick’s Cathedral several days later. Dozens of famous media personalities also attended the funeral, he said.

“You thought you had fallen into your TV set. Every other person was a talking head. General Barry McCaffrey was two heads in front of me. George Pataki was there. Ari Fleischer, Giuliani, Katie Couric, Ann Curry, Matt Lauer, Stone Phillips, Tom Brokaw, on and on. … I’d never in my life seen such an assembled throng of super media elite, the very people that I keep praying that we would reach,” Metaxas said.

At the funeral, Lane delivered a eulogy for Bloom during which he read from Bloom’s last e-mail to his wife, Melanie.

“I hope and pray that all my guys get out of this in one piece,” Bloom wrote. “But I tell you, Mel, I am at peace. Deeply saddened by the glimpses of death and destruction I have seen, but at peace with my God, and with you. I know only that my whole way of looking at life has turned upside down — here I am, supposedly at the peak of professional success, and I could frankly care less. Yes, I’m proud of the good job we’ve all been doing, but — in the scheme of things — it matters little compared to my relationship with you, the girls, and Jesus.”

Bloom continued, “When the moment comes when Jim or John — or Christine or Nicole or Ava or you — are talking about my last days, I am determined that they will say, ‘He was devoted to his wife and children and he gave every ounce of his being not for himself, but for those whom he cared about most — God and his family.’ Save this note. Look at it a month from now, a year from now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now. You cannot know — nor do I — whether you will look at it with tears, heartbreak and a sense of anguish and regret over what might have been, or whether you will say he was a changed man, God did work a miracle in our lives. But I swear to you on everything that I hold dear — I am speaking the truth to you. And I will continue to speak the truth to you. And, not to be trite, but that will set me free.”

In the eulogy, Lane also read a text of the last voice message he left for Bloom, a devotional reading from Oswald Chambers.

“The agony in the Garden was the agony of the Son of God in fulfilling His destiny as the Savior of the world,” Lane read. “The veil is pulled back here to reveal that it cost Him to make it possible for us to become sons of God. … The Cross of Christ was a triumph for the Son of Man. It was not only a sign that our Lord had triumphed, but that He had triumphed to save the human race. Because of what the Son of Man went through, every human being can now get through into the very presence of God.”

Through David Bloom’s death, dozens of media elites heard how a personal relationship with Jesus Christ had changed his life, Metaxas said.

“I thought, can you imagine the witness that they’re hearing this not from a friend, but actually his words written hours before he died? It was very, very powerful, and I think it’s kind of going to stick in their craw. … When one of your own, the good-looking, suave, wonderful buddy, David Bloom, when he talks like that, now you’ve got problems. … It was awfully powerful,” Metaxas said.

He concluded, “All this is to say, I think it’s vitally important that … you pray for those of us who are journalists … because for them to come to faith is strategically important.”

War coverage also provided Horn and Veneman with opportunities to glorify Christ through journalism.

Working with Navy sailors aboard the USS Harry S. Truman, Horn wrote numerous stories about the faith of U.S military personnel.

“Being embedded gave you the fuller story. You weren’t just going to the press conference with … officers who knew how to talk to reporters. … You could talk to anyone and get the bigger picture,” Horn said.

Veneman added, “The learning experience never ends. And I learned a lot on the trip.”

In addition, students heard Joni Hannigan speak about her recent coverage of Southern Baptist relief workers in Jordan and attended a panel discussion on coverage of the war with Iraq.

Horn is a corporate communications writer with LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Veneman is director of visual communications at Union University; and Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: BLOOM’S LIFE REMEMBERED.