Editor’s Note: J.R. Church wrote his own biography in the form of a series of ‘Reflections’ articles in the Prophecy in the News magazine. PITN’s  Tabitha Cook pieced together the founder’s memories and images to create the Keep Looking Up! autobiography that premiered in January 2023.

My twin brother and I were born on November 17, 1938, in a little house at 1318 North 7th Street, in Abilene, Texas. Dr. Solomon B. Estes, one of Abilene’s leading physicians, dropped by the courthouse and picked up a birth certificate on his way to Dad’s place. He registered the certificate in the name of “infant baby Church.”

I’m not sure he was planning on twins because he only brought one birth certificate. I am told that everyone was surprised when my brother showed up fifteen minutes after I was born.

Dr. Sol B. Estes. Does that name sound familiar to you? His brother, Levi, had a son named after Uncle Sol. Yes, the nephew of Dr. Sol B. Estes was Billie Sol, one of Abilene’s more notorious citizens.

Well, back to the story. I was told that my brother and I made quite a hit with everyone. We were such darling little identical twin boys. I must admit, Terry is one of the most handsome men I have ever met! My brother and I have been special to each other all our lives. Not only are we identical, but we are also mirror twins. I’m right-handed, and my brother is left-handed.

The doctor told Dad that “little Jerry” had a heart murmur but that he thought I would outgrow it. I didn’t know anything about it until I was over 50 years old. After a routine heart examination, the doctor told me that I had a heart murmur. When I mentioned this to Dad, he said, “Oh, yes. Dr. Estes told us about that on the day you were born!” One of life’s little surprises!

It was a cold November that year, and both Terry and I developed pneumonia. I had double pneumonia. Mom and Dad sat up with us for two weeks – day and night. They thought they were going to lose both of us. Finally, the doctor told them that we could not survive the cold winter in Abilene. He said, “If you want these two boys to survive, you must take them to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas.” Or, as my dad would have called it with his Tennessee twang, The “Rior” Grande Valley.

Dad left the hospital immediately, and, within a few hours, he loaded up the family truck with furniture and household items. He and Mom, my sister, Katherine, my brother Bob, and my twin brother, Terry, and I, all moved to south Texas that very day. Dad said that Terry and I improved dramatically in the nice warm, dry climate of the south-Texas Valley.

After about a year, we moved back to Abilene and lived in a little house near the corner of 10th and Orange, just three blocks from where I was born.

A few years ago, the pastor of a small church in Abilene called and invited me to come and hold a prophecy congregation. I accepted the invitation. To my surprise, when I got there, I discovered the congregation was meeting in the YWCA, located at the corner of 10th and Orange.

For several days, I preached the meeting on the very spot where my family once lived, in the very same neighborhood where I was born!

Early Years & A Hurricane

It was in the summer of 1941, the war in Europe was raging, and Dad went to work for Dow Chemical at their magnesium plant on the Texas Gulf Coast in a little town called Freeport, Texas. Since he owned his own truck, the plant paid him for both his time and his truck.

The Dow plant extracted chemicals from the seawater, including enough gold, I am told, to pay for the overhead of the operation. Their primary chemicals were used in making war materials.

We lived in government housing nearby. I remember the small shotgun-styled house, side-by-side, all in a row. They were long and narrow-one-room wood-frame houses, built on stilts about two feet above the ground. You could look in the front door and see out the back door. Shower facilities were located in a separate building out behind the little community. We must have been dirt poor to live in that place.

With few resources of entertainment, Mom’s mother (we called her Mamaw) made puppets using pillowcases and put on a show for the kids. The pillow with a face was placed in a chair with sheets covering the makeshift stage area in the small one-room house. She knelt behind, took a fork in each hand, and put on a play called “Grandma Knitt’n.” The pillow came to life and talked while pretending to knit. It didn’t take much to entertain us!

One foul odor I shall never forget came out of those hand-held spray cans used for killing insects. There were no aerosol cans in those days and the mosquitoes were menacing!

One day, Dad was driving his truck across the plant property and noticed that the water in the canal was running upstream. Instead of the water flowing into the Gulf, it was backing up. Dad knew that only one thing could cause that – a hurricane was coming! He looked out in the Gulf and saw a waterspout come down out of a cloud and begin to pick up water. The cloud suddenly turned from gray to black and grew tremendously. Dad hurried to the plant manager and asked for a pass to leave with his truck. He wanted to move his family inland to safety.

The plant manager refused Dad’s request. He said, “You’ve got to stay here. Your truck is needed.” Dad told him that his family came first. He had a wife and four children nearby that could not be left in the path of danger. Dad said that if the man did not give him a pass to get his truck through the security guards at the gate, he would not leave the gate standing when he left.

Needless to say, the man was convinced to let Dad go. Within minutes, Dad came home, loaded us into his truck, draped a tarp over the bed, threw in a mattress for Bob and Kay, and Terry and me with Mom in the cab, and took off for the higher ground.

By that time, the rain was coming down on the windshield so hard, that Dad had to pull under the overhang of a large building for a few moments until the rain let up a bit.

After a few hours, we pulled into the small town of Bellville, Texas, about a hundred miles inland, and checked into a hotel.

Though Terry and I were not quite 3 years old, we both remember the adventure quite well. Within a few hours, every hotel in town was full. Some of our friends and relatives couldn’t find accommodations until they got to Dallas. By September 23, 1941, the “category 3” hurricane had weakened to a “category 1.”

 It made landfall at Freeport, clocking winds of 110 mph, causing $6.5 million in damages and killing four people. But we were safe. The Lord was watching over us.  

Dad Was a Cowboy

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, my ancestors lived in Middle Tennessee, on the Duck River, near Columbia, just southwest of Nashville. My father (Henry) was born in 1907, one of seven children – four boys and three girls.                                    

When Henry was only 8 years old, his father Charles Winters Church, contracted malaria. In those days, doctors bled their patients, a procedure that just made matters worse. My grandfather was so weak the doctor gave him a transfusion. Back then, I guess they didn’t know how to check for the proper blood type, and he died of blood poisoning. Dad was convinced that the doctor gave him a transfusion of horde’s blood!

For the next few years, his widowed mother held the family together. Eventually, however, things got so bad, that they had to liquidate what little they had and take a train to central Texas, to a small called Rigger Springs. Dad said that he rode the train on a half-ticket. Though he was 15, he was small for his age.

For a few years, Dad worked as a cowboy on the Getzendaner, a large ranch near Waxahachie, Texas, south of Dallas. Ropin’ and ridin’ was the dream of many young men in those days. He met Marie (Mom) on a trip to Childress, Texas. She was a pretty young thing and Dad’s heart was smitten. They were married in 1929.

When the Great Depression swept across America, it didn’t seem to affect him and Mom. They didn’t have any money to lose anyway. Living in the Dallas area, Dad knew that everybody had to eat. So, he bought a truck and drove down to the Rio Grande Valley, where he bought a load of tomatoes. I think he said he paid about 10 cents a crate for them. As he drove north, he would stop off in every little town, find a grocery store and ask if they wanted to buy some of his tomatoes.

There were no supermarkets in those days and no nationwide system of distribution for stocking grocery stores. Most groceries were mom-and-pop operations. Needless to say, by the time he got back to Dallas, Texas, he had sold all of his tomatoes, and paid off his truck.

Doing what counts

In those early years, Dad and Mom lived in Abilene, Rio Grande Valley, Freeport, and finally, in 1943, they moved to Lubbock, Texas, a thriving community in the heart of caprock country in West Texas. I grew up in Lubbock, the largest flat area on the entire planet.

The land is so flat, that you can stand on the ground and see for miles. There were no hills to slow down the wind. Consequently, all the trees seemed to lean toward the northeast!

Throughout his life, my dad was a self-employed trucker. He would drive to the Hondo Valley in New Mexico and buy a truckload of apples. He would drive to East Texas and buy a load of watermelons. Not only would he peddle these to grocery and fruit stands, but sometimes he would set on the side of a highway and sell to passersby.

Each year, in late November, Dad would drive up to Colorado and buy a load of Christmas trees. He would rent a corner lot on some busy avenue in Lubbock, poke some holes in the ground and create an enchanted forest.

Every December of my young life was spent huddled over an open campfire and running with my twin brother through a forest of blue spruce trees spread out over a quarter of an acre.

Dad never made a lot of money, but he took care of his family, and that’s what counts …



From birth to death and the journey in between, this autobiography illustrates the faithfulness of Prophecy in the News founder J.R. Church and his life of service to the Lord and mission to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a dark world.

Taken from Church’s monthly column, Reflections, in the PITN magazine, the longtime leader in biblical prophecy looks back on his life in this collection, published all together for the first time.

Under Church’s shepherding, Prophecy in the News became a national leader in biblical prophetic interpretation and today continues Church’s vision, as well as exploring new perspectives and discoveries – as we await Jesus’ blessed return and do as Church admonished: Keep looking up!

J.R. Church

J.R. Church

Prophecy in the News Founder

In November of 1979, Prophecy in the News launched its worldwide ministry from Oklahoma City, founded by J.R. Church, a Texas pastor with a heart and a vision for Bible prophecy, as well as reaching the world with the Gospel.

Church’s colleagues in the ministry, Noah Hutchings and Dr. David Webber at Southwest Radio Church, helped introduce J.R. Church to the fans of their far-reaching radio ministry and provided support as he built his prophecy ministry from its Oklahoma City base.