In John 8, verse 32, Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” If today’s blog sounds like a commercial…it’s supposed to.
In March of 2007, Branches was just being born. Chonda had a dream. I had an encounter with God and Mark Laaser. We had just found a building. And Doris had a vision. Doris was playing the piano at home one day and she began to see people raising their hands, praising God, telling their stories of being set free. In her vision, as they did, chains were falling off other people. Everyone was being set free by the truth and testimonies of others. Doris called me, weeping, and described her vision. We began to pray and by the next day decided that God was calling us to host a weekend where the focus was Him and His desire to set us free. We had a room in that original building that would seat fifty people. We sent out a mass email and 600 people signed up for that very first Simply Free. We borrowed a church and an unbelievable event took place. This is a blog I wrote a few days after one of the very first weekends.
SIMPLY FREE is 3 days behind us but the glow and peace of 2 days in His presence is very much still with us. It was an amazing, amazing experience of grace. From the pre-service music by Stefanie and Hillary to the cardboard testimonies at the end, God was all over this weekend and the reports of changed lives are still coming in.
I never fail to sense the power of God when my friend Ravi Richard prays. He opened the weekend. The praise band was so full of the spirit and so gifted. On Friday, Heather McMurry told the story of her healing with passion and power and just set the tone for the entire weekend. After Heather, Chonda was, well Chonda. She was funny. She was poignant. She is my favorite singer. People began to be set free on Friday night.
On Saturday we started the morning with prayer and God came. Testimonies interspersed all day reminded us of His ability to redeem and reconcile. Fi sang, Anne Beiler spoke, both were incredible. Anne’s story is so gripping and she has never told it better. Breakout sessions on Co-Dependency (Debi Russell), Purpose, Passion, and Planning (Bill Robison), Forgiveness (Jonas Beiler), Deliverance (David Appleby), Clinical Issues (Tracey Robison), and Inner Healing (Robert and Joan Collier) added substance and insight and every room was packed. Then David Appleby spoke on hope and healing and you could see people “get it.”
Lunch. More music. More Breakout sessions. More of God’s presence. More healing. Less of anybody. More being set free. SIMPLY FREE is not about an agenda or a doctrine. It is not to promote Branches or lift any person or organization up other that the matchless name of Jesus. And this year, we came pretty close to that. On Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, long after the OFFICIAL time was over, people were still being delivered and set free. I began the weekend by saying I just wanted to see God come. He did. Praise His Wonderful Name.
A young woman who has struggled with an eating disordered for years was set free. A mother who has been smothered by sadness and incredible pain was delivered. A young man that has battled drugs and poor choices was ransomed and renewed. On and on….
People come from Kentucky, Texas, Alabama, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, all over the place. We had a lady come from England come to that first Simply Free. Every year God brings us people who share their testimonies of redemption and deliverance. Healing happens in the halls and cleansing comes in the classrooms. It is a Friday evening and a Saturday morning, one time a year, to focus fully on the freedom that is ours in Christ, and nothing else. And it is always FREE.
This year Simply Free is October 20-21. The stories that will be told are absolutely amazing. The worship will be wonderful. The break-out sessions will be beneficial. Lives will be changed. Hope will be had. Free will happen. As long as there are men and women and young people that are bound by addiction, depression, anxiety, fear and shame, there is a need for us to be SIMPLY FREE. We want you to come. Take a trip. Get a car load together. Cram into a cheap hotel for one night. And come to Simply Free. This is our 10th anniversary. It will be special.
We need you to register today by going to the Branches website, www.branchescounselingcenter.com. You can choose your break-out sessions and order your lunch for Saturday. (That’s NOT free.) And you can begin praying for an event that is only about “knowing the truth and being set free.” That’s what Jesus said. Mike