The sister of kidnapped
heiress Patty Hearst once aspired to be an entertainer whose glamorous life
would be featured on the TV show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. But
today Victoria Hearst is a born-again Christian who says
she’s “having way more fun” leading an evangelistic
ministry in Colorado.
Reared as a Catholic,
Hearst is the granddaughter of newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst and
youngest daughter of Randolph Hearst. The family was thrust into the public eye
in 1974, when Hearst’s sister Patty was abducted by domestic terrorists and
later accused of robbing a bank to aid them in their cause.
Patty Hearst was imprisoned
for almost two years before President Jimmy Carter commuted her seven-year
sentence in 1979. President Bill Clinton granted her a full pardon before he
left office in 2001.
Victoria Hearst says
she never doubted her sister’s innocence and was instrumental in lobbying for
her pardon. “It was just clear that she was not enamored of these people and
didn’t join them voluntarily, that she was just trying to stay alive,” she
Victoria Hearst became
a Christian years later in 1995 when a “miserable” relationship brought
her to a breaking point. “[He] treated me so badly, I finally said, ‘I can’t do
this anymore,'” she said.
She fled to her
vacation home in Colorado and spent the next week reading a Bible a friend gave
her. “I just read and cried and read and cried,” she said. “And I was just a
sponge. I was like, ‘God show me the truth here.’ And the Holy Ghost was
wonderful. He showed me the Word. He said, ‘Here’s the Bible, and here’s man’s
tradition.’ He just showed me the truth and the error.”
While watching TBN one
night, she prayed the sinner’s prayer and eventually ended the relationship
with her boyfriend. She said that marked a turning point when she decided to
give the Lord all of her life.
“I just took my hands
off my life and had just reached that point where I just said, I don’t know
what I’m doing anymore because what I’ve been trying hasn’t worked,” she said.
“I gave it over to God, and He’s been driving ever since, and it’s been way
Hearst moved from New
York—where she’d been pursuing a career as a dancer, singer and actress—to
Ridgeway, Colo., a town of just over 1,000 in the state’s southwest. She began
teaching dance to young girls and leading a choir at an area men’s prison. In
2002 she opened Praise Him Christian Ministries in a 10,000–square-foot
facility that houses a Christian bookstore and youth center.
Hearst hosts Christian
conferences at the facility, and for the last six years she has sponsored a
two-day evangelistic festival called Night Vision that features popular
Christian artists such as Third Day, Michael W. Smith, Tye Tribbett and
Francesca Battistelli. Drawn from the idea that Christians are to be light in
the darkness, the event drew 10,000 people each day when it was held in Olathe,
Colo., in July.
“It’s kind of to show
them, we can rock, we can dance, we can have a good time and have a great life,
but we’re not doing all the stuff that’s going to hurt you,” she said. “… And
kids get to go to heaven at the end of it; that’s not too shabby either.”
Bible teacher Billye
Brim, director of the Prayer
Mountain in the Ozarks in Branson, Mo., and a spiritual mentor to Hearst, says Hearst is a natural evangelist in a town
with a strong New Age influence. “She’s very evangelical in her heart,” said
Brim, who first befriended Hearst’s father, who came to faith a few years
before his death in 2000 at age 85.
“She does the work of
an evangelist, and she does it in very unique ways,” Brim continued. “The part
of Colorado where she is, is a very unique place. And she’s a Christian voice
speaking out in very unique ways.”
Hearst hosts a radio
show where she evangelizes and gives conservative political commentary. She is
also an ardent ally of Israel and has supported humanitarian work in the Jewish
nation as well as Night to Honor Israel events in the U.S. in cooperation with
the advocacy group Christians United for Israel.
Hearst says since she
accepted Christ, her life has taken some unexpected turns-toward evangelism,
youth and prison ministry instead of fame.
“It’s funny how God has
just changed my heart,” she said. “He’s equipped me financially, He’s equipped
me as far as having this show business background, given me a mouth to speak
with. … Instead of using that in the
world, I’m using it in God’s world. And it’s a lot of fun. I’m having a lot of