November Newsletter


I read a story last month about the courageous first responders on 9/11. I know it is an old story by now but it gripped me all over again. On the 10th anniversary of that tragic, yet in many ways, defining moment in American history I heard the personal accounts of survivors tell about the amazing men and women who were going up the stairs in the Twin Towers as most headed down. There were tales of firemen who stormed the building, going in to an inferno while thousands were trying to flee. The phrase that was repeated over and over again was, “They went in when everyone else was getting out.” What a picture of heroism and self-sacrifice. What incredible examples of bravery and putting others ahead of oneself.

Now the Branches story in no way measures up to the national cataclysm of 9/11 but there are some comparisons to make in the actions of so many men and women who surround Branches. (And no, this is not to suggest that Branches is getting ready to collapse in plume of smoke and pile of rubble.) However, there are events after events where I stand back and see heroespush ahead where most people would turn back.

Our counselors stand toe to toe with hurt, and despair, and anger every day. When nearly everyone else would say, or has said, “I don’t want to talk about that. You just need to get over that. Why do bring up that pain all of the time?” The counselors at Branches gently take people by the hand and say, “Let’s walk through this together. I’ll climb in this hurt with you and we’ll find a way out.” I see them every day taking on heavy burdens that they do not have to, picking up others peoples sorrows and carrying them as their own. I have been in staff meeting when counselors wept openly over the pain of a client, when they pleaded with God to take the situation away for someone that they only see an hour a week. Our counselors are not first responders, in many ways they are the last hope, but they go the opposite direction of most people and wade into the troubles when everyone else has fled.

For that matter, our clients are heroes. Listen, it would be far easier to just let this stuff stay stuffed. Many times they have been choking down excruciating pain and sadness for a long time. They have developed coping skills, not healthy ones, but coping skills nonetheless and they get by. When they come to Branches they are often going against the tide. They have been told, “Don’t bring that up again. You’d better keep our little secret. Don’t you ever tell anyone what happened.” Yet somehow they have found the courage to say, “Enough. I am going to get well no matter the effort it takes. I will be rid of this demon. I deserve to get over this.” Sometimes we will warn clients, “It will get worse before it gets better.” And it usually does. But these heroes of healing stay the course. They do the hard work when many others have given up. And they come out on top, not only finding God’s amazing grace for themselves but breaking generational curses for decades that follow. I am so proud of our clients.

Here’s one more group of Branches folks that go in when others are getting out, our supporters. We would not be here without the hundreds of men and women who stand behind Branches prayerfully and financially every day. Our per client cost we try to keep between $70 and $80 per hour. We do that by living frugal, sacrificial lives, cutting back on every expense possible, just doing without where necessary. We just do. But still the per client cost is far above the $55 dollars or so average income. That means in a typical month when we see 400 clients we have a shortfall of $8000. That is $8000 every month, 12 months a year that God and His heroes must provide. That’s where this group comes in. Let’s face it, we are in an economy that says, “You’d better cut back. Watch every penny. Do not give away one dime right now.” Frankly, that’s probably good advice. The wise thing to do would be to follow the crowd and say, “We just don’t have anything to give at this time.” But do you know we are surrounded by hundreds of “against the grain” heroes, men and women who every month say, “I believe in Branches and I will go in while others are getting out.” Some of those heroes support Branches, well, heroically, $800, $1000, $1200 per month. Others support Branches just as heroically, $10, $25, $50 per month. The amount is not as impressive as the fact that these guys are going against everything they are hearing on the news and standing their ground so that men and women can be healed, marriages can be saved, children can find peace. I am overwhelmed by our heroes.

I don’t imagine there will ever be a monument built or a national holiday dedicated to our Branches heroes. But we are at our ground zero. We face our infernos each day. And we keep going in. And I have never been more grateful to be associated with such an outstanding family of heroes. Thank you for being one. Now here’s a verse for our heroes:

“We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed. We always carry in our body the death of Jesus so that so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in us.” 2 Corinthians 4:9-10


Annually the Board of Directors meets just before Simply Free each year. Our meeting this year was exciting and a cause for rejoicing. We have such a gifted board, men and women that believe God, believe the mission of Branches, and are able to provide great wisdom and direction for the ongoing operation of Branches. The complete annual report is available online at our new website.

Bob Schwarz has led us to a place of excellence and accountability financially. We know where the money is coming from and where it is going at Branches. For the 2010-2011 fiscal year (our year is from August 1 to July 31) Branches raised nearly $500,000. Thanks to Bob and to Dena Jordan, our accountant, you can be sure that we handled that money carefully and spent it wisely.

Rob Nicodemus has developed the policies and procedures of Branches to an amazing level. Rob has worked tirelessly with counselors and administrative staff to create job descriptions, counseling forms, and structured methods. The vision of Branches has always been to be reproducible. Rob has helped us to do that.

Stacey Wessner is a hero. She has worked with a very limited budget to create an atmosphere of quality and credibility around Branches. As our Development Director Stacey has led us to improve the way we present the message and the ministry of Branches. We are all proud of the Branches “brand” because of her work. (The website is a prime example.)

Finally, Tracey Robison has helped Branches to do what we do very, very well. Under her leadership our counselors are well trained, compassionate and just good. We minister to hundreds each month not only with love but with tools and techniques well beyond what would be available to us without Tracey. She is really at the heart of Branches.

Every counselor, secretary, volunteer, and board member is vital to Branches. We would not be here without them and without you. But these 4 leaders have made the last year our best yet. They have helped moved Branches from a vision to a strong, sustainable ministry/business that works for the glory of God.

What Happens At An Intensive?

An INTENSIVE is a one week, deeply focused, therapeutic event at Branches. The goal is to do in a short period of time through intense counseling what might otherwise take months or years. Clients begin early on Monday morning and conclude on Friday afternoon with a daily regimen of counseling, support groups, EMDR, inner-healing prayer and much more. It is truly life changing.

INTENSIVES are appropriate for non-using addicts needing to strengthen their recovery, persons with depression or anxiety issues where they have become stuck, couples in crisis, and a number of other hurts, habits, or hang-ups that need a boost for forward progress.

In both November and December our INTENSIVES will be the 2nd week if the month. That is November 7-11 and December 12-16. Give yourself or someone you love the gift of healing in 2011. Call Branches for more information about an INTENSIVE. (615) 904-7170.

God’s Kiss

I was sick a couple of weeks ago. (I’m going to milk that for as much sympathy as I can.) Really sick. Couldn’t get out of bed. Couldn’t play with Jon-Mical. Couldn’t play tennis. Sick.

For a week Jon-Mical came over and my bedroom door was closed. Finally after a week I was out and ready to go back to life. The first day Jon-Mical came over and greeted me with a huge smile. Then he asked, “PoppyC, are you not sick anymore?” I said I wasn’t but he wanted to be sure. “Are you not a little bit sick?” When I assured him I was good and well he asked, “Then can I have a kiss?” Did that make my day or what?

I told them that story at the beginning of SIMPLY FREE but it reminded me of something. As wonderful as Jon-Mical and his kisses are there is something even better. God’s kisses. With God’s kisses it is just the opposite. God says, “Are you sick?”  “Are you really sick?” Then how about a kiss.” When I am at my very worst Gods’ desire is to reach down and plant a big juicy one on me. And that makes my day. Wherever you are and whatever is “wrong” with you today just let Him draw you very close and kiss you, He loves you that much.

For more ramblings from Mike go to his blog. It’s fun. It’s too the point. And hopefully it is a Word from God at the right time.

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