‘We can be very real’
A look inside First Free's Rockford Rescue Mission worship venue and the many volunteers that make it possible.
Jim Killam
May 9, 2023

The Sunday that Kaylin Carlson led the worship song Rattle at Rockford Rescue Mission, she knew she was in the right place.

Kaylin is part of a team of volunteers that lead worship at the Rescue Mission, one of two offsite venues for First Free’s Sunday worship services (the other is Fairhaven Christian Retirement Center). For several months, she had felt the urge to do Rattle. The Elevation Worship song’s lyrics come partly from Ezekiel 37, where the prophet sees dead, dry bones rattle back to life. The song is loud and celebratory, and not exactly standard fare for the Mission’s service. Before singing it, Kaylin read the passage from Ezekiel to the group and then said, “Our God is still doing these things today. If you think he can’t, you’re mistaken.”

© Catalyst Design & Photography – www.catalystrockford.com

Kaylin usually sings and plays guitar alone, but for this week she invited a band – drummer Brad Johnson and bass player Matt Sell.

“And we brought it,” she laughs.

Toward the back of the room, she noticed one of the guys grinning broadly. After the service, he introduced himself to Kaylin. His name is Brian, and he’s a recent graduate of the Mission’s Life Recovery Program.

“You won’t believe this,” he told her, “but I read Ezekiel 37 this week for the first time. I’ve been thinking about it all week. And I can’t believe that you stood up there and read this today and then sang that song. My mind is blown right now.”

Then he told Kaylin part of his story, and how far he has come. (Brian is one of the graduates who will be honored on June 13 at the Mission’s Restoration Celebration.)

“Every time I think about it, it gives me chills,” Kaylin says today. “What evidence that the Lord is working! It just so happened that I was able to get everyone together for that Sunday, and it just so happened that he had been reading it that week.

“Stuff like that is such evidence to me that he is orchestrating things. You can’t explain it any other way.”

Personal connection

© Catalyst Design & Photography – www.catalystrockford.com

Addiction has scarred Kaylin’s own extended family, so serving at the Rescue Mission is one way for her to deal with that pain, too.

“It’s definitely where I’m most passionate about serving right now,” she says. “You just feel this pulling to be there … To me, it seems like a safe way to love people who are going through those things. It’s a way to pour into them a bit.”

She also loves the simple, stripped down worship service. No special lighting, no show. Just imperfect people worshiping together in a gymnasium/cafeteria.

“There’s something beautiful about the simplicity of things there. I don’t feel like we’re putting on this production. We can be very real. There’s no sense in trying to keep things very shallow or pretend that everybody in the room isn’t going through something really hard.”

Kaylin Carlson

Interested in serving?

There’s always more opportunity to serve at the Rescue Mission venue, located at 715 W. State St. Renee Cooper, First Free’s Classic worship director, coordinates the volunteers and often takes part in the services herself. The service starts at 10:45 a.m. and typically includes a welcome, some worship music and the week’s First Free sermon on video.

The venue could use more greeters, musicians, hosts and sound/tech people, she said. It’s a great chance to get to know people at the Mission. And don’t be scared away by the tech role. “It’s a small system and easy to learn,” Renee says.

Interested in serving? Step 1 is filling our volunteer application, linked below.

Jim Killam
Jim Killam is a journalist, author, teacher and terminal Cubs fan. He and his wife, Lauren, live in Rockford and work internationally with Wycliffe Bible Translators.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Very good story. Thanks to both of you for sharing this experience.


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