Rachel Hyman didn’t usually write notes during her high school math class, but she was desperate. Lonely, depressed, and hungry, the 17-year-old Jewish girl had difficulty concentrating as the teacher droned on about x, y, and z. Hoping that there might be a God who cared about her, Rachel reasoned that if He was all-powerful, He could read a note.
“Dear G-d, I’m really hungry. Could you give me something to eat for lunch today? I have no support from my family, and no one cares about me. I don’t know what to do with my life. Would you please send a girl about my age to help me know the meaning of life?
“Your daughter, Rachel”
The trouble had started a few weeks earlier at Starbucks. Sipping her latte, Rachel was enjoying the “oldies” music provided by a local guitar player. Being a singer herself, Rachel decided to approach the guitarist, asking if she could join him. The guitarist agreed, and for the rest of the evening the two enjoyed singing “oldies” together.
Afterward the guitarist made an unusual request of his newly found talent: “Hey, would you like to come to church with me?”
Taken aback, Rachel wasn’t sure what to say. “I was thinking of all my objections toward Christianity,” she later recalled. “Christians always talk about how the Jews murdered their hero, Jesus Christ—and that’s not very welcoming. Just like any other Jew, I wondered, Why would we step into a congregation of people who hate us?”
Nevertheless, Rachel was searching for meaning in her life. Home life hadn’t offered much stability, with her parents divorcing and remarrying—each other—five times by the time Rachel was 17. Her mother was into horror movies, and her father and twin brother were into hate—especially of messianic Jews.
Deciding she would go to church with the guitarist, whose name she learned was John, Rachel braced herself for what she thought would be an unpleasant experience. Wearing all her Jewish jewelry and sitting in the pew with her arms crossed, the teen wanted to send a clear message that she was there only because a friend had invited her. But as a young woman began to sing, Rachel was impressed with her sincerity.
“The vocalist sang with so much passion and confidence,” Rachel recalled. “It was very clear that she had almost a personal relationship with this Jesus. I was thinking, She’s a nut—why in the world would she believe in someone she has never seen?”
But Rachel longed for the peace she saw on that young woman’s face. As she thought about her own life, certain questions seemed to continually haunt her: What will happen to me after I die? With 7 billion people on the earth, how could I be special? If God created me, what’s His purpose for my life? Why is there so much suffering in the world?
At last Rachel decided that perhaps she should know more about this Jesus. But it wouldn’t be easy. How would she explain it to her friends at the synagogue, where she was a youth leader? What would her father do if he knew of his daughter’s interest in forbidden topics?
The Phone Call
Deciding to call John, Rachel hid in her bedroom closet and dialed his number. As she confided in her Christian friend that she wanted to learn more about Jesus, Rachel had the distinct impression that her father was listening. Dropping the phone in fear, she walked out of her closet and found her father eavesdropping at her bedroom door.
“As he stood there threatening me and cussing me out, I realized that I was going to have to leave my home. If Jesus was the right way to go, then that’s what I knew I needed to find.”
As soon as her father left the room Rachel grabbed her school backpack, some basic necessities, and ran out the door. Fearing her father, she ran quickly, not knowing where she was going. That night she ended up at the home of a Jewish friend, whose mother became suspicious and threatened to call the runaway’s parents.
The next morning Rachel was running again, finally ending up on the living room floor of an acquaintance. Night after night she slept on the floors of various contacts, while continuing to go to school during the day.
On Her Own
After school Rachel hung out at the nearby Starbucks, where the manager was sympathetic to her plight. One evening as she was desperately looking in the phone book for a shelter, Rachel’s father stormed in, dragged her out of the shop, and threw her to the ground. Hardly able to breathe, Rachel watched as the police came and arrested him. After her father was taken away, the police informed Rachel that while she did not have to return home, there was nothing more they could do for her—she was on her own.
Hoping her father was away, Rachel sneaked back into the house, planning to grab some of her clothes, since she had nothing except the clothes she was wearing the day she ran away. However, a sad surprise awaited her as she flung open the door to an empty closet and learned that her father had thrown all her belongings away.
Soon afterward, Rachel was invited to stay in the large home of a school acquaintance. While she was relieved to no longer be running from house to house, Rachel faced other challenges, as illicit drugs flowed freely in this wealthy home. Not wanting to take part in that lifestyle, yet having nowhere else to turn, Rachel sank deeper into feelings of futility.
“I was so depressed,” she remembered. “I was under so much chronic stress—not knowing where my next meal was coming from, having to wear the same clothes day after day, missing my family but not being able to return home.”
A Desperate Cry for Help
That’s when Rachel decided that somehow she had to get in touch with God. “I felt completely lost and was at the end of my rope. Only God was left. If I didn’t come to Him, there would be no other reason to live.”
Sitting in her math class that day, Rachel felt a strong need to pray, although she wasn’t sure how, especially during class! She had been taught that God could always hear her, so she decided to try writing the note.
She began in the typically respectful Jewish way—“Dear G-d”— acknowledging that the name of the Almighty was too sacred to be written or even spoken. But it was more than that, she later admitted. “For me, God did have a missing letter in His name. He had a missing characteristic. It kind of represented my incomplete understanding of Him.”
Can I Be Your Angel?
As Rachel finished writing, the bell rang. Quickly folding the piece of paper, she stuffed it into her backpack. But God had already read the note.
Moments later, as she was walking down the hallway, Rachel was informed by a school administrator that she would be receiving free hot lunches for the rest of the school year. Delighted, she headed toward the cafeteria, but first decided to stop at the restroom to fix her hair.
As she was looking in the mirror, a beautiful Brazilian girl walked up and gently placed her hand on Rachel’s shoulder. “The Holy Spirit told me that you were hurting. Can I be your angel?”
Although she didn’t know much about the Holy Spirit, Rachel immediately sensed the girl’s sincerity and felt that perhaps she could help. The girl invited Rachel to her home that very day. Although the home was simple—just a one-bedroom apartment where the girl lived with her mother and sister—it made an immediate impression on Rachel. “I remember walking into Danielle’s home, and there was a presence of angels there. It was a real Christian home, and was such a witness to me.”
The Bible Study
Danielle and her family had become Seventh-day Adventists in Brazil before moving to Texas. And although she had never taken a theology course or had any mission training, the high school student opened her Bible and began to introduce Rachel to her Messiah.
In their Bible study Danielle used the Old Testament to explain God, the sin problem, spirituality, and the state of the dead. She also explained the messianic prophecies, which Rachel had never heard of before. They then turned to the New Testament where Danielle showed how Jesus fulfilled those prophecies.
Faith started springing up in Rachel’s heart. “I really wanted to believe in Jesus, because He seemed so attractive,” admitted Rachel, “but I wanted to know if He was actually real.”
Then Danielle invited Rachel to attend church with her the following Sabbath. It was love at first sight. “They were Sabbathkeepers like me,” recalled Rachel, “and they didn’t eat pork or bacon. Man, I was home!”
At the Adventist church Rachel found the balance she was looking for. In the past she had challenged Christians to show her from the Bible where Sunday was the right day of worship, but they had been unable to do so. But the Adventist church made sense to her—“it was logical,” and that was very attractive to a Jewish girl wanting to believe in Jesus and still keep the Sabbath.
At school, however, Rachel’s troubles continued. Her twin brother, who attended the same high school, wouldn’t speak to her, although he was quietly watching. One day Rachel received a note from him, stating that he had noticed that she wasn’t wearing her Jewish necklace anymore and that it bothered him, even though he was an atheist.
Rachel understood. Being a Jew was sacred, even if the person didn’t believe in God. If a Jew was letting go of their Jewish identity, they were basically letting go of their goodness, of what made them special.
Nevertheless, the pull to accept Jesus as her Messiah and Savior was strong, especially as Rachel thought about her situation and how much she needed Him. One night as she was trying to fall asleep, Rachel was thinking about everything going on in her life. The thought came to her that all she needed to do to accept Jesus was to declare her faith in Him. So right there she prayed a simple but faith-filled prayer: “Dear Jesus, I’m opening the doors of my heart—I want to accept You and serve You the rest of my life.”
A peace such as she had never before experienced came into Rachel’s heart, and she felt as if the atmosphere of heaven came down into the room. Her tears of depression turned into tears of joy. On May 20, 2000, she was baptized into the Richardson, Texas, Seventh-day Adventist Church.
A New Life Begins
Rachel was invited to stay in the home of the Adventist pastor, where she found a warm welcome. After completing high school she attended Southwestern Adventist University, where she studied theology before going into literature evangelism. Enjoying the opportunity to share her faith, Rachel excelled at her work and became a literature evangelism leader for the Southern Union Conference.
However, Rachel’s Hebrew background kept coming back to her mind. Why, she wondered, were there so few young Jewish Adventists? She concluded that most Jews had never even heard about Seventh-day Adventists, and most Adventists did not know a lot about Jewish culture.
Having a musical background and being able to read Hebrew, Rachel was impressed to record a Hebrew CD and start giving concerts as a creative avenue to share Jewish culture and to give her testimony. After her outreach concerts Rachel places the books The Great Controversy and Steps to Christ beside her CDs. Her first CD, Hebrew Psalms of Light, features a collection of spiritual songs giving insight into the depth and beauty of authentic Hebrew music.
A Growing Influence
Since beginning this ministry, Rachel has participated widely in Jewish evangelism throughout Europe, singing in Ireland, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, Germany, and Ukraine, with upcoming concerts in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
In addition to music evangelism, Rachel is eager to help Adventist singles develop healthy relationships, so she founded MySooma.com, a Seventh-day Adventist dating site that provides numerous educational resources for those seeking spiritual wisdom on how to follow God in their relationships.
Remembering the challenges she has faced, Rachel is amazed at how God was leading in her life before she even knew Him. One story she finds particularly meaningful is how she began singing publicly at the age of 11.
“My elementary school was having a talent show, and of all songs, my mother suggested that I sing ‘Amazing Grace.’ I didn’t even know the meaning of the song, but I sang it anyway. At the end of the night a Jewish woman walked up to me and said that my music had really touched her, and she wanted my autograph.”
Rachel finds this childhood experience symbolic for the work she is doing today. “It shows me that since the very beginning, God wanted me to sing for Him—and I didn’t even know it!”
Gina Wahlen is special assistant to the editor of the Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines. This article was published January 26, 2012.