I’ve played volleyball for 12 years now; I started when I was in the 5th grade. Volleyball was, and still is, everything to me. It was my whole life — it was how I released frustration, it was a way for me to bond with my family, it was my icebreaker to making friends, and among all the other aspects of my life it helped me with, it was also my ticket to college. So, when I first started at Stevenson, I was really excited. Excited to be a part of the team and meet the girls, excited to start practices, excited to get the gear. I was even excited for the team lifts, because in my head this is what college was for a student-athlete — school by day, and sports by night.
One day after a couple days of practicing, I see this short lady in plaid shorts and flip-fops walk down the steps and sit in the bleachers. Because this team is now my pride and joy, I start getting defensive. The sass in me starts to arise, and I’m thinking to myself: “Who is this lady?! Why does she think she can just come in here? Doesn’t she know this is a closed practice?” Practice ends, and Heidi comes in the huddle and introduces herself. She’s telling us about how she is our FCA rep, and she’s here in any way to support us and pray for us. So now the wheels in my head are turning, and I’m like: “Okay, I get it now. She’s like our own personal ‘Jesus’ lady, and she’ll come pray for us and teach us about God periodically”. Heidi, the Jesus lady, comes to another one of our practices and invites the team to Dunkin Donuts for what was called a ‘team huddle.’ Just wanting to be involved in anything volleyball related, I decided to go. I get there after practice and join the conversation and its nothing like what I had pictured in my mind. I thought I was going to an after-practice Bible study, but it was so not that. We sat in Dunkin until close, stuffing our faces with donuts and ice cream, just talking about life and our everyday struggles. Team huddles in Dunkin Donuts was such a comfortable environment. So eventually, I started going to more FCA team huddles, and then I started going to FCA huddles without the team, which then shifted to me and Heidi meeting one on one. Before I knew it, this infamous Jesus lady in the plaid shorts becomes a life partner, and a confidant.
During my four years, FCA and Heidi have not only impacted my thinking in so many ways, but just my life in general. One example, for instance, is the way she’s opened my eyes to realize that I am more than my sport. As I mentioned before, volleyball was my life. It’s the reason I was in the place I was in. But Heidi taught me that as much as I love my sport, there’s so much more to me than being a volleyball player. As an athlete, oftentimes, we equate our self-worth and success with the number of games we win, or how many points we scored. This is such a self-destructive way to think about things. Through FCA, I learned that there’s more to Moriah than the 3 blocks I got last game. There are so many layers, dimensions, talents, and beautiful qualities to me that I need to explore and appreciate. Ultimately, I learned that volleyball is not the definition of me, but more of a mechanism for me to connect and serve others.
FCA has also helped me accept and hone my gift to lead. Fast forward 2 years, I’m in my junior year and there’s questions surfacing about who’s going to be captains. Heidi’s been whispering in my ear that it is going to be me. Now, if you know me, you know that is not something I would want to do AT ALL. Every time I’d meet with Heidi, I’d complain about how I don’t want to do it. I just want to stay behind the scenes and play volleyball. I distinctly remember this one time, I was just being the biggest crybaby. Heidi and I are talking, and I told her, “I don't want to do it. Please tell coach I don’t want to do it. Why would these girls listen to me? They don’t even know me, why would they respect anything I have to say.” Heidi turned to me (just completely done with my antics) and said, “Moriah stop. God has given you the ability to inspire and lead. These girls will listen to you, simply because it’s you. Stop hiding from it and embrace it. You can do this.” FCA has taught me how to speak up, how to be someone who holds my teammates accountable, and how to inspire confidence and tenacity.
I’m sure I’m not the only one, but I’ll be the first to admit that I had this stereotype in my head of what FCA and the people involved with it would be like. I’d never heard of it before I got to Stevenson. So, in my head, I’d pictured these completely unrelatable bible-pushers, that quote scripture off the top of their heads at the beginning of every sentence. And after telling them about the slightest issues in my life (like failing a math test), they would tell me Jesus died on the cross for my sins. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but that’s the great thing about FCA. FCA is designed to break down the walls and shatter the stereotypical thinking of someone as close-minded as I was. They communicate and interpret the Bible in such a relatable way, that understanding it all actually becomes less of an obligation, and more of a leisurely activity. They guide, teach, and inspire young people like me through fun and crazy icebreakers, mini-field trips, stupid competitions, deep conversation, and just good old companionship.
Heidi has become a mentor to me, my life coach, my shoulder to cry on, my support system in the stands, and just a good friend — she’s like family to me. She doesn’t belittle or intimate me with scripture, but she builds me up by speaking the Word of God into me. She makes me feel taken care of and looked after by reassuring me that she’s always praying for me. Heidi has helped me realize things about myself I never knew and pushed me past limits I never knew I could overcome. I’m going to end with this. We all have heard of the Christmas hymn “oh little town of Bethlehem?” Okay, well that was written by a man named Phillips Brooks. He was an author and clergyman for the episcopal church back in the 1800s. He once said: “The truest help we can render an afflicted man is not to take his burden from him, but to call out his best energy, that he may be able to bear the burden himself.” This quote is the epitome of what FCA is to me. They train you and equip you with the necessary life skills and with the armor of God’s Word so that we can handle all of life’s twist and turns - both on the court and off.