My brother Nat | WORLD
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My brother Nat

A visual artist who helped fashion WORLD’s commitment to beauty

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Relocating to Asheville was a tough assignment for me. I needed to revive a shrinking magazine, and I took on the challenge with the tool I know best: words. I love words. That was the focus of The Presbyterian Journal, and writing words and editing them was my main assignment.

But the more I got into the job, the more I realized we needed something else. We needed more vivid graphics, color, and design. Every publisher then wanted that, not just in the secular press. HIS Magazine published by InterVarsity was the best example of visual excellence in the Christian press. Eternity magazine was as classy as they get. These two publications tended to win most of the awards at the annual Evangelical Press Association.

In 1981, we moved into our publishing venture for kids called God’s World News. We hired a local woman named Anne Peck for design. We had to learn quickly about new printing methods. We made feeble steps in those days, but we learned a lot. And I realized how short-handed we were in areas that mattered so much: how to use photography; how to use art and illustration; and how to make these images ready for the press.

I called my brother Nat, who then lived in Washington, D.C. I asked if he, with his wife Mindy, would come and help us in Asheville. Mindy of course became a favorite in the pages of WORLD for decades for her attention to and deep reporting on stories of God’s work in places most Americans will never be able to go.

Nat’s role is less well known. As we built the children’s publications and launched WORLD, he was often the one who knew the most about fonts, color, printing, and the nitty-gritty of production. Most of all, he brought a flair for the visual experience of a magazine. I with words, and he with design, began looking for people who could help. Thankfully, talented people like Rich Bishop, Matt Barker, David Freeland, and Rob Patete joined us to build on Nat’s gift for design.

The tree that is WORLD was shaped by early commitments. Commitments to journalistic standards, ­certainly, and to sound reporting on how God is at work in the world, but also to photography and design—to beauty. Nat’s sensibility helped fashion that commitment. The aesthetic of the magazine has always been a point of pride for me, and today, with newer endeavors such as WORLD Watch, the video program for children, one can see the through-line of thoughtful presentation.

On March 30, my brother Nat died after a brutal five-month battle with cancer, at home with his family in Asheville. Death has never before hit me in the way that Nat’s death has.

It hit others hard too. Rich Bishop, who began working with Nat in 1990 and is now executive producer of WORLD Watch, wrote to us: “This ­personal news is hard to accept. Still, it is so good to learn from Nat and his family how to cling to Christ with hope. I owe my career to Nat. He was a patient mentor—full of ­creativity, ­talent, energy, curiosity, and most of all joy and humor. Nat blessed us in ways we take as an example and hope to bless others in kind.”

My brother’s vision was not limited to design. His expansive view of God’s world led to the 2000 launch of EXPLORE! magazine. The pages of the publication attended with enthusiasm to the making of cheese or animated Claymation, the Tour de France, or the country of Bhutan, always with colorful maps, insets, and capitalized pronunciation guides. EXPLORE! made its mark but private funding quickly dried up. WORLD’s board couldn’t justify the cost of funding it, though it did believe in the mission.

No piece of Nat’s work, whether in imagination, curiosity, or wonder better capsulized his worldview. His impulses led to observing, studying, and explaining ­creation, and then praising the Creator.

At one point in WORLD’s early days I was editing a piece by a young writer. When I took it back to her for more work, she struck her forehead with her palm and said, “Oh yeah, I forgot the God thing.”

I never had to remind Nat of that. And so the visual artist who saw so clearly, though it was in a mirror dimly, now sees face to face.

Joel Belz

Joel Belz (1941–2024) was WORLD’s founder and a regular contributor of commentary for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Radio. He served as editor, publisher, and CEO for more than three decades at WORLD and was the author of Consider These Things. Visit WORLD’s memorial tribute page.


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