Is New Hope Church a Real Church?

Left Behind

Jerry answers questions from a reader about people and places mentioned in the Left Behind series.

As we began thinking about doing a series of short articles on some of the real places that are used in the Left Behind series, we were spurred by some questions from a reader, which we ran past co-author Jerry Jenkins.

Does New Hope Church in [Mount] Prospect, Illinois really exist?
No, but Mount Prospect does.

Is the pastor Bruce Barnes a characterization of a particular person or several people?
No, I made him up. Though he is named after an old friend of mind who chided me for leaving him behind.

Is one of the authors, Jenkins or LaHaye, from the Chicago area?
Yes, I am. I always set stories where I have lived so I don't have someone driving the wrong way down a one-way street or, in the case of one novel I read, having the main character drive east out of the Loop for 20 miles. Glug, glug, glug.

Thanks, Jerry!

There are a lot a references to the Chicago area throughout the series. Jerry lived in Zion, to the north, and Wheaton, to the west, and worked at Moody Press, just north of downtown Chicago.

As he mentioned in that last response, one of Chicago's prominent features is its location on Lake Michigan, which forms it eastern boundary, running 29 miles from an industrial area on the far south side to its border with Evanston and the lake-front campus of Northwestern University on the north.

The Chicago River divides the Loop on its south with a shopping and residential section along Michigan Avenue known as "The Magnificent Mile" on its north. A little further west, the river divides into a north and south branch, with the southern one forming the western boundary of the "Loop."

The "Loop" is the heart of Chicago's downtown, which gets its name from the elevated train that forms a loop around the central business district.

If you do drive east from the Loop, you'll pass through Grant Park and within a mile or so hit Lake Shore Drive. LSD, as it is referred to several times in the series, runs along the lake for many miles. It starts down south at the Museum of Science and Industry, the only building left from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, an event that put Chicago back on the map after the disastrous fire of 1871. The Exposition also provided the impetus for the Chicago Transit Authority to build an elevated train to get people there. The Loop is part of that whole system, known for years simply as the "L."

Lake Shore Drive follows a greenbelt of parks and public beaches inspired by city planner Daniel Burnham in the early 1900's. Burnham envisioned the lakeshore as a public treasure, which he hoped would not be spoiled by industry. His comprehensive plan in 1909, encompassing an unobstructed lakefront, neighborhood parks and inland forest preserves, was the first such plan presented to an American city. Had it not been for the Chicago Fire, it would be unlikely that such a plan would have been possible.

Chicago grew into an important transportation hub. The Illinois & Michigan Canal connected the Chicago and DesPlaines Rivers with the Illinois River and ultimately the Mississippi. As railroads came into prominence, they spread out in radial arms from the center of the city. While the street system is essentially a uniform north-south, east-west grid, the major commuter railroads and highways that now link Chicago to its suburbs followed that radial pattern.

Prominent places in the series, DesPlaines, Mount Prospect, Wheeling, Park Ridge, Arlington Heights, and Palatine are all suburbs northwest of Chicago, close to O'Hare airport. The Northwest Metra commuter line or Kennedy Expressway (I-90) takes you to downtown Chicago, while "294" (the Tri-State Tollway) forms a north-south bypass through suburban Chicago connecting Milwaukee on the north with cross-country route I-80 to the south. Mount Prospect and Palatine are a little further west, along highway 53. All are places mentioned in the series.

If you know Chicago, you can envision where the events described in Left Behind are occurring because the details are so accurate. If you don't know the city, you can grab a map and follow much that is described.

In the future, we'll look at other real places used in the series.