This week our Grace Ambassador Jordan Gray and our htty family on Instagram heard from Heather Friesen, a beach volleyball player with a spectacular testimony.
A Chicago native, Heather grew up playing indoor volleyball before discovering her love for beach volleyball. After playing indoor volleyball throughout high school, Heather received a scholarship to attend Western Kentucky University where she played four seasons. Upon realizing that she deeply enjoyed playing on the beach, she reached out to just about every university she could find that had a beach volleyball program.
University of Hawaii answered the call and became her home for the next year and what would be her fifth year of playing collegiate volleyball. Despite being on a beautiful island with the opportunity to do one of her favorite things, Heather’s senior season did not go as planned.
It was February of 2016 and Heather was out hiking with some friends just a week ahead of the beginning of her beach volleyball season. Along Honolulu’s Ka’au Crater Trail she spotted a waterfall and turned on her GoPro to record the scenery as she went in for a closer look. Seconds later she was tumbling down the side of the waterfall and then deposited into the water below where she struggled to breath.
She had fallen around 50 feet onto rocks and suffered several broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and a fractured shoulder blade. Heather told Jordan that she remembers feeling the presence of God with her as she dangled from the helicopter that came to airlift her to the hospital. The entire experience, riddled with displays of God’s providence and mercy, helped put life and sports into perspective for Heather.
“I need to glorify God with how I play and not let my sport become my everything, but let Him be my everything,” Heather shared. “I find so much fulfillment in being able to run around…and get all sandy because I know that He’s given me these abilities and I just want to honor Him with that.”
During her conversation with Jordan, Heather also shared that her religious roots are in catholicism. She grew up going to catholic grade schools and even aspired to be a nun at one point. What really tied Heather to her catholic beliefs was her ‘by the book’ nature. She appreciated the rules and structure, but she, in her own words, “didn’t really have a relationship with the Lord.”
Fellowship for Christians Athletes, a non-profit Christian sports ministry, planted the seed of God’s grace in Heather’s heart. She got her first Bible from the FCA chapter at Western Kentucky, and soon Heather was beginning to know the Lord for herself. When she moved to Hawaii she found another FCA chapter and continued to grow spiritually.
After her time in Hawaii, Heather moved to southern California to continue her beach volleyball career professionally and is still in Los Angeles training, playing, and serving. Currently, she is pursuing her Master of Divinity at Biola’s Talbot School of Theology in California. She shared that during her waterfall recovery, God led her to Psalm 73, a psalm about trusting in the Lord and seeking Him ultimately.
Before saying ‘Goodbye’ to Jordan and the audience, Heather shared a piece of advice for her fellow athletes and Christians: “Jesus needs to come first, above everything, because He’s given us everything that we could ever imagine and we need to be grateful for that.”
To keep up with Heather’s volleyball career, visit her website.
Heaven to the Yeah (HTTY) is an online retail start-up with a mission to encourage people to live with heaven in view and spread the hope of heaven globally. HTTY sponsors children and missionaries on four continents through universally recognized non-profit organizations such as Compassion International and Food for the Hungry.