Sam Hellekson: Broken Chains
By Sarah Morris
Bondage—chains of sin hold on tight, clasped around the freedom of our souls. No matter how much a person struggles against them, the chains just rub hearts raw. They weigh humanity down, pulling us deeper and deeper into a pit. But then there is Someone that is stronger than the chains we encompass. And He can break the clasps, setting us free.
Sam Hellekson felt this bondage of sin in addiction and lifestyle choices. It wasn’t always this way—he grew up in a Christian home, accepting Jesus as his Lord and Savior at the age of four. Moving from Devils Lake to Grand Forks in 1998, Sam attended Christian schools all the way until his freshmen year of high school. But then the tide changed. It was gradual; he started playing football and became more and more popular. He got into a bad relationship. A good student ministry was almost absent; and he didn’t really have any mentors other than his parents. So he drifted away slowly, still attending church on Sundays but not really caring anymore.
Senior year came and he was being recruited for football by seven schools. But he had his heart set on UND, because it was close to his girlfriend and family. They didn’t offer him a scholarship for football because his grades were poor. But soon that didn’t really matter, as he tore up his knee playing in the North Dakota Shrine Bowl football game, ending his chances of being recruited for the sport. So he enrolled at UND and started attending there. He lived at home, but was always at the dorm; partying with his friends on the weekends, getting involved with marijuana as well. Soon his weekends melded into weekdays, consuming his life. This happened for a few years, and he would be late and miss classes because of his partying. Sam’s grades were bad and he dropped out of school. Then he got fired from his job because of the effects of his lifestyle. It was all just going downhill.
“I was staying at home with my parents, not working, not motivated, still partying, and not really going anywhere in life,” Sam said. “I wasn’t even going to church; my parents I’m sure they were praying for me, calling me home, trying to get me to go to church and get involved in stuff, but I was just rebellious.”
Then a door opened. His sister and her husband, who was a worship pastor, urged him to move out to California with them, which at the time made no sense to Sam. But an incident pushed him towards that direction. Near Christmas of 2008, Sam and his girlfriend got into a bad argument. Her parents wouldn’t let them date, and she wanted him to do something with his life. Now California didn’t seem all that bad.
“Then I was like, well, it seems like a good option to go out West, and try to start something out there,” Sam said. “Logically, it didn’t make sense to me, and I still don’t know why I did it, but it was just one of those things where it was the only opportunity at the moment, and it just made sense to do it. Hindsight looking back, that was just God’s plan. He wanted to pull me away from Grand Forks and what I knew. If I would have never left there I still would have been there today; in trouble, partying, doing drugs, all of that stuff—if not even dead.”
So, he moved out to California. After a month his girlfriend broke up with him. Heartbroken and feeling alone, he really started to pursue God.
“I asked God for peace because I was so hurting, and I’d call out for peace from the Lord,” Sam said. “And He would bring it. He was the only thing that could take that pain away. And so I knew He was really real, that was probably the first time I really knew that He was real and that He loved me and wanted the best for me.”
After a while he couldn’t find a decent job out there, so he moved back to North Dakota to try and mend his broken relationship with his girlfriend. It didn’t work, and so he left Grand Forks for Fargo, where he got a job. He fell into that party lifestyle again, not meeting good friends, all the while choosing to not dive into a relationship with God.
He was working in Western N.D. for his job, successful but not happy. He didn’t want to be in construction anymore.
“I was making a lot of money, but I had nothing really going for me. I was working long hours with no benefits, and trying to fill a God-shaped hole with money.”
So, he quit and got a job with Dakota Supply Group. He worked in the warehouse at DSG, but then after six months, the president of the company said he should do this program with sales. If he did the program, he knew he would have to move somewhere. So he traveled around for about six weeks and learned about all the different sales in the company.
Out of all the branches he could get hired in, he knew that the only place he did not want to go was Pierre, SD. He got hired on in Aberdeen and then shortly after getting placed in Aberdeen, the manager asked him to move to Pierre. He wasn’t excited.
He moved in 2013 and hated it. He was far away from his family and his favorite hunting spots. It was a small, old town. The branch he worked at wasn’t very profitable or successful. But God had a plan, and one night, he found an old note that his father had written him on his 19th birthday. This simple note from his father pointed him toward his Heavenly Father.
“I was unpacking something, and found a letter that my dad had written me,” Sam said. “It basically just spoke life into me. … He thought that God was going to use me for good things, to glorify the Kingdom. I read that and just broke down, because I knew how much he loved me, and how much God loved me. Anyway, from that, something switched in my mind and I finally realized that I was alone. That everything I ever done didn't mean anything, and I finally started listening to my parents when they decided that 'hey, you should go to church and get plugged in.’”
He went to church in Pierre, and he started listening to Joyce Meyer podcasts, who reminded him of his mom in ways. He started to really pursue God. And no matter where he was, God wouldn’t leave.
“I would smoke weed and read my Bible,” Sam said. “And He would meet me there.”
He also started listening to his brother-in-law’s new worship album, and God used the music to speak to him. Getting to love Joyce Meyer podcasts, one in particular spoke out to him, talking about being content in every season of life. He worked on being content in Pierre, and it started happening. He would still smoke a lot of weed, but God continued to work on his heart.
“God would still meet me, because I was hungry for Him,” Sam said. “And He was feeding me when I looked for it.”
Out of the blue, a phone call came. One of Sam’s friends who also worked for DSG was getting a job elsewhere, and he suggested that Sam should take his job in Bismarck. But Sam was content now, so he really didn’t want to move. But then, his friend called the next week and said again, that he should look into it. So Sam decided to travel to Bismarck for an interview. They were impressed with him, and offered him the job. But he decided he would get input from his parents on the matter first.
He called his mom on his drive back home, and she thought it was a great idea. She said that he always would talk about wanting to live in Bismarck. Shocked, he said that he had never said that before. Then he called his best friend, and again the same thing happened. His friend said that Sam always talked about how he loved Bismarck and how he wanted to live there. And again he thought, I never talked about that before.
After those phone calls, not talking, listening to his brother-in-law’s album, he drove.
“The presence was there. God just spoke to me softly in the vehicle on the way home. … He reminded me of times where He had put Bismarck on my heart. … He also brought up times in my life where God had protected me, and given me favor, and had kept me safe from things, even when I just wasn’t good, like I just didn’t follow Him and made the wrong choice.”
He thought about everything that God had placed on His heart the rest of the ride home.
“When I walked in, I just set my stuff on the ground, and I just got on my knees and just like, surrendered to the Lord,” Sam said. “I said ‘Lord I surrender. You’ve been so good to me, when I sucked, and when I was awful, when I chose the wrong things. I just want to try living for You.’ Just in that moment, right away, God took so much hurt away.”
And like that, God broke the chains of addiction. Sam had been chewing for many years, but then he stopped. He had no desire to party anymore. He moved to Bismarck, and got involved in Evangel, then eventually into UG and the Element. Now, he is a Midwest Leadership Center intern at Evangel and feels like God is calling him to work with men’s ministry. He got a different job as a financial rep, believing that God has given him the gifts and passions to help others with their finances. And every day, he continues to grow more in love with a God who never gave up on him.
The chains of addictions kept a strong hold on Sam’s life, even when he kept trying to shake it off. He couldn’t do it by himself. Only by surrendering it all to Jesus was the weight lifted. Freedom came for Sam when he gave up control, when he gave God uninhibited access of his heart and life. The locks are broken; he is free by the grace of Jesus Christ.