Roger was born October 2, 1947 in Toledo Ohio. Raised in a dysfunctional family, he and his twin brother, Ron, joined the Marine Corps in 1965 right after High School. He served as an infantryman in Vietnam, a Drill Instructor and a CID (Criminal Investigation Division) Investigator while in the Marines. Roger did three tours of duty in Vietnam where he was wounded on three different occasions. On his last tour, however, he was critically wounded. While laying in the hospital he heard the doctor tell his twin brother he was going to die and there was nothing else they could do.
Hearing those words and only three months from his 23rd birthday, Roger cried out to God. He prayed; “God, if there really is a God, if you let me live, I will do anything you want!” God did, but Roger didn’t! He would carry the emotional wounds of Vietnam for 4 ½ years. With his marriage failing and his career as a criminal investigator in jeopardy because of his drinking, Roger and his wife, Shirley, surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ in December of 1974. Their lives were changed forever.
In 1978 Roger resigned his position as District Manager of the Pinkerton Detective Agency in Omaha, NE. He and Shirley then became part of the Teen Challenge ministry that was started by Rev. David Wilkerson (author of The Cross & the Switchblade) in New York City in 1958. Together they opened homes for men and women bound by addictions in Nebraska and Iowa. The Helles served in the Midwest for the next 16 years.
In 1994 Roger accepted a new challenge and he and his family moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee to assume the position as Executive Director of the Teen Challenge Center. From 1994 to 2017 the Helles worked to help grow the program to include both men and women and all of the phases of the residential program. They came to the place where there were no more beds to offer the growing list of those who desperately needed help. The Board of Director’s and the Helles conducted a Capital Campaign that expanded the residential capacity by 150% with the campus being debt free by the time the new facilities were completed.
In 2017, Roger mentored his successor at Teen Challenge and turned over the leadership in May of that year. The Helles continue to minister and established “Roger Helle Ministries (RHM) in 2018. RHM mentors other “faith-based” programs and nonprofits using their experiences of 40 years of non-profit ministry.
Roger and Shirley have been involved in ministry in Vietnam since 1989 with “Vet’s With A Mission,” serving the people and the church in that country. Roger has spoken to many diverse groups such as doing chapel at the Pentagon, the National War College, churches, schools and other venues across the country. They have been featured on the cover of Parade Magazine and Guidepost Magazine as well as a number of secular and Christian TV and radio programs. They have also ministered to our nation’s veterans whenever possible.
Roger’s most recent book, “A Time to Kill, A Time to Heal” has impacted literally thousands of lives. It is a story of hope and healing for wounded, broken people. It is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and itunes, as well as through Roger’s ministry.
While in the Marine Corps, Roger was awarded the Bronze Star medal with combat “V”, three Purple Heart medals, two personal Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry medals, a Good Conduct medal and other service medals and Unit Citation awards. The Helles have been married since September 9, 1972 and have two children, a son, Joshua, and a daughter, Jamie. They are also the proud grandparents of five grandchildren.