ROCKFORD (WREX) — Inmates from the Winnebago County Jail get the chance to discover a new way of life with an experience not found anywhere else.
Participants get an impactful weekend of peace, strength and support.
"I'm passionate about seeing men grow and change in their faith," said Rockford Reachout Jail Ministry Executive Director John Evans.
More than 30 inmates chose to participate in the Kairos Jail Ministry Retreat held this Thursday through Sunday. The four-day retreat has been provided 12 times in the Winnebago County Jail in the last three years.
"What better opportunity to try to make these guys lives better or at least try to give them an opportunity to improve their life and if it's through the ministry, then so be it," said Captain from the Winnebago County Sheriff's Tim Owens.
Rockford Reachout Jail Ministry connects those incarcerated with outside volunteers in an intense four-day retreat. The event, usually only found in prisons, encourages volunteers and inmates to accept and love each other despite their differences.
"Even though I am a law enforcement officer, retired, that gets put aside by the men and they accept me just as a man of God and willing to share with them and they share with me and we develop a friendship," said volunteer Jose Rangel.
"But the relationships that are formed are probably the biggest take away from here with the men from the outside and that's the hope is to connect and positive relationships and support," said Evans.
A bond organizers say travels beyond bars and into the community.
"Really when we are starting to see the proof of the change is as they leave here. We stay connected. We go into their home. We meet with them. They're starting to form a community outside of here," said Evans.
The event encourages incarcerated men to take their time seriously and to do better in the future.
"It's not like it's just a one day or weekend event. Potentially, it's going to be a life changing event not only for them but also for me," said Rangel.
Volunteers say the retreat hopes to not only better participants but create a positive impact in surrounding communities.
"Change their hearts. When the heart changes that's when the life starts to change," said Evans.
The retreat helps to create a foundation of brotherhood and faith inside and out.