Gegrapha began within the four walls of a Hezbollah prison cell. Terry Anderson, the one-time bureau chief for Associated Press, was abducted in 1985 by Muslim extremists. He prayed that God would help him through the ordeal. At about the same time a small prayer group of Christians working for media outlets in Washington, D.C. felt moved to pray for the life of Anderson.
Journalists were beginning to face the dangers of covering a new wave of Muslim militants. They didn’t recognize the line between soldiers and civilians and were particularly hostile to the Western press. The geographical areas that needed to be covered were often difficult to get to and lawless. A few years later in 1996 in a plane crash in the Balkans, another friend of Gegrapha, Nathaniel C. Nash, became the first New York Times reporter to be killed on duty since World War II.
Terry was eventually released in 1991. By that time, the DC prayer group had become close-knit and wanted to continue meeting. David Aikman, then a senior correspondent for Time magazine, emerged as its leader. The prayer group decided to share some of the benefits that they had received from meeting together.
In November 1992, the group organized a first-ever national conference for Christians in the secular media. Sixty journalists from 15 states met at the Preacher’s College at the Washington Cathedral with Terry Anderson as the keynote speaker. It was a homecoming for Christian journalists. They had found a place to shelter.
The group continued to meet for monthly breakfasts with the help of the Washington Arts Group, led by Jerry Eisley. In 1996, the Arts Group, helped by Gegrapha members, organized the first international conference of Christian journalists in the secular media in Jerusalem. Seventeen journalists attended. In May 1997, the Arts Group, along with the Washington prayer group, put on another national conference at the Preacher’s College, which attracted about 30 journalists.
Beginning in late 1998, the Fieldstead Foundation gave the first of several grants that enabled the prayer group to consolidate itself as an international fellowship for Christians in the secular media under the umbrella of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington. David Aikman became a fellow with the EPPC.
In 1999, Gegrapha organized “The Call to Truth,” an international conference for almost 150 journalists in Chichester, England. Many of the participants told of the difficulties of feeling alone as a Christian employed in secular media outlets.
In 2001, Gegrapha organized a second international conference in Washington, “Uncovering the Truth,” which attracted almost 200 journalists. By then, it was obvious that Gegrapha needed to stand on its own feet and the following March, it incorporated as a non-profit. In 2002, Gegrapha sponsored “Risking All to Tell the Truth,” a conference for 40 African journalists in Nairobi, Kenya.
In 2003, with the help of the Fieldstead and the Parker Foundations, Gegrapha hired its first executive director. Gegrapha held an Asian conference in the Philippines in 2004, and Gegrapha board members participated in a national conference in Australia in 2005. In 2005 and 2006 Gegrapha also hosted conferences in Bangalore, India.
In 2007 Gegrapha put on a media week in New York City with tours and talks at the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones, New York Times, National Review, The Nation, ABC News, Fox Cable News and others. At the end of the week Gegrapha hosted the National Journalism Banquet at the Harvard Club. Legendary New York Times Managing Editor Art Gleb and Times’ writers Guy Talese and John McCandlish Phillips talked about their careers and responses to Phillips’ Christian faith. NBC news producer Alice Rhee presented Phillips with the Jacob Riis Award for a life-time achievement of excellent journalism.
Since 2006 Gegrapha has also hosted annual retreats. In 2009 the Gegrapha One Day Retreat featured religion journalist Julia Duin, religion reporter for the Washington Times and business journalist Doriane Perrucci. In 2010-2011 Gegrapha NYC instituted “First Saturdays,” a monthly meeting near Grand Central Terminal.