At 16-years-old, Julie Helliwell was somewhat of a legend at Schurr High School in Montebello, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. She was the only teenage roller skater on the renowned Los Angeles Thunderbirds roller derby team. Notes from her fans, and requests for autographs after an evening session of bruises and bumps, were some of the highlights Julie remembers during her skating days.
Not just another “sweet sixteen teeny-bopper,” according to her high school paper, Julie was someone who stood out from the crowd. However, a year later the State Labor Board discovered she was “under age, working in a hazardous occupation.” Without the rigorous training schedule of roller games and glamor to occupy her time, Julie said she began to dive into the L.A. punk scene.
“One morning in 1981 I went to see Atila at Genesis Hair Company on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood,” she related. “As I slid into his chair I said, ‘Do whatever you want.’ Within hours my hair was a half-inch long, cut into stripes, each dyed a different color. I was ecstatic. Surely this marked the end of boredom. Surely now my independence from the status quo was displayed for all to see.”
When her mother saw the striped, dyed hair, Julie said she gasped. “She thought it was just a passing phase, and she was relieved that I had been removed from the Los Angeles Thunderbirds.” With a new tattoo and nose ring, Julie hit the L.A. punk club circuit and became totally immersed in the new culture, the new music, and the new friends. However, when rioting erupted at some of the biggest punk concerts, Julie says she remembers “wondering what I was doing there in the midst of all the police brutality.”
After six years of parties, heavy drinking, and punk morality, Julie said she became bored with the gigs and burnt out on all the parties. “I wanted to get out of the scene, but I didn’t know where to go from there. Now, six years later, all of my friends were punks as well, and I just wasn’t interested in leaving them to venture into something else that would probably go stale in a matter of time anyway.”
With the growing dissatisfaction, Julie explained that she had lost hope of finding fulfillment in any kind of relationships. She became apathetic about her future. “I’d lost the expectancy that makes life exciting. Soon I was in despair thinking, ‘What’s the use of living? What good is there?’”
As she pondered suicide, she also began to think about God. “I’d heard that He was a good God – a loving Father – that knew me and was concerned about me. Supposedly He even knew how many hairs were on my head, however short or colored! I’d heard He’d created me with a plan and a purpose in mind.”
Since the world hadn’t offered much of a plan, and I’d heard that committing suicide meant going straight to hell, there was only one truth I knew: I desperately needed God.” She began praying and asking God to reveal Himself to her. “I prayed that He would place me in a church where people really loved Him and weren’t playing some kind of a religious game.”
Two weeks later Julie was invited to a Bible study at the Maranatha Christian Church of West Los Angeles, near the UCLA campus. “When the invitation was given to accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior, I stood up and went forward … ‘This is it,’ I told God, ‘there is no turning back!’ Undaunted by the nose ring and the knife in my pocket, they prayed for me.”
Now Julie says God has restored her hope for the future. “He’s given me an exciting vision to share the hope of the Good News, and I’d like to go to Ireland to see churches started on the campuses there. His plans for us are far greater than anything we could dream up for ourselves, and he delights in revealing those plans to those who are willing to pay the price and live for Him.”