Michael Fichera:But for anyone who’s struggling with whatever the issue is – could it be financial, could be personal, relational, diagnosis, healthwise – it doesn’t matter. Jesus is the same today, yesterday and forever. And he will never leave us, nor forsake us. And that is such a great hope and a great confidence that we can place our trust in a loving God, who does love us with a non-ending love.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Linda Fichera and her husband Michael are with us today on Focus on the Family. And your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: You know, John, here at Focus on the Family, we want all of our listeners who have kids in the home to be the best parents they can be and to help their children build a strong faith in their hearts. That is one of our goals clearly stated here at Focus. And to help you do that we want to – from time to time – provide a program that really lifts up a couple, a family that is doing that well. How do we get scripture into the hearts of our kids? I mean, that – every parent wants that to take place so that their faith becomes their own. And something we started three years ago here at Focus on the Family has really hit its stride – Bring Your Bible to School Day. And that is right around the corner.
It’s Thursday, October 5th. And that’s a very exciting day for us here at Focus because that’s a day we encourage and equip students to bring their Bible to school and to share during the appropriate times – recess, free time, those kinds of things – to share and read the scripture with their friends. It is completely legal. There is no problem with it. We’ve partnered with a legal group, uh, Alliance Defending Freedom, to provide the piece of paper that the student can hand the teacher when they get challenged in that regard. And it’s very clearly outlined that a student has that very right. I think too few people realize it, John, that our kids can go to school and bring a Bible and read it at recess and read it at a lunch break and, again, any of those free times. We want to equip you to empower your children to be able to do that. This is a great nation we live in. This is one of the fundamental rights. Let’s not squander it.
John: Yeah, the – there are so many ways that we can help our children live out their faith, and this is a very easy way to encourage our kids to do just that. I mentioned our guests Michael and Linda Fichera, and they’re gonna share how they’ve imparted the – that kind of a spiritual hunger in their kids and a desire for their girls to walk and inspire others. And there’s a lot to their story. They’re both self-starters, um, by definition. Michael runs his own insurance and financial services company. Linda is the founder and operator of Tees With A Purpose , which does silkscreening, embroidery and promotional products. They live in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. And they are the parents of three beautiful girls – Emma, Kearly and Miriam.
Jim: Michael and Linda, welcome to the broadcast.
Linda Fichera: Thank you for having us.
Jim: Now, you are a couple that’s just doing life, right? I mean, you are going through life. How did you guys meet? And how long ago was that?
Michael: 1991, we met doing the MS 150 – a bike ride – from New Jersey, from Garden State Parkway down to Ocean City, N.J. – 75 miles down one way, spend the night and then come back the next day.
Jim: So why would you do that? That’s the next question.
Michael: I’ve been asking myself…
Michael: …That since 1991. It just feels like it’s downhill.
Linda: And when I met him I thought, wow, he’s an athlete. This is good. But it was a bait and switch because he just did the event…
Linda: …But he really…
Jim: Oh, I like this.
Linda: Yeah, so…
Michael: It was a ruse.
Linda: But it was…
Michael: It worked.
Jim: That was like…
Linda: He was with a group, and I was with a group. And we had…
Jim: …With my first date with Jean. I packed a picnic lunch and iced tea. And she drank it. And later she told me, after we got married, she goes, I hate iced tea.
Jim: I thought – but she drank it our first date. She said that was just to impress you.
Linda: That’s right.
Jim: So you did the same thing but with, uh…
Michael: I kind of did the same. And I’ve been blessed ever since, so…
Jim: Well, you’re both in great shape. And, in fact, Linda, you ran here in Colorado Springs. And that – uh – you found the air a little thin.
Linda: Way too thin.
Jim: (Laughter). So but still, we want everybody to come and visit us here at Focus. You don’t have to go for a jog…
Jim: …But going up the stairs may be a little difficult.You have adopted three girls, and I think that’s a beautiful part of the story, as well. It’s not really Bring Your Bible to School, but we love that aspect. You’re touching – you’re like a Focus family.
Jim: You’re doing adoption. You’re doing Bring Your Bible to School. What prompted you to adopt, and how did that process go?
Linda: Well, a couple years after we got married, I had gotten pregnant, and I think it was almost nine weeks later, I had a miscarriage. And God was all over that because I didn’t feel devastated by it. I really sensed that God was leading us to something else. And I guess four or five months later, I woke up one morning and I said to Michael, I think we’re supposed to adopt. And adoption is not in my family, or it was not even in my vocabulary at the time. But we started to investigate adoption. And initially, we thought about adopting a little boy from Guatemala and…
Jim: You just got – that was the image.
Linda: Just – yeah, that was the image that we had. And when we went to the adoption agency, we told them what we were interested in. She went in the back to look at some paperwork. And we were looking at all the pictures of these little Chinese girls, and we felt that that was absolutely where God had us go. And that’s our first adoption from China. And Emma came home at nine months, and she’s now 14 and…
Michael: 14 years old.
Linda: 14 years old.
Linda: And it was probably one of the – other than accepting Christ as my Savior, that was one of the best days of my life because I became a mom.
Linda: You know, they handed me this beautiful little 9-month-old baby girl, and life changed in such a beautiful way.
Jim: Linda, so many folks that have considered adoption might say – and in this conversation happens between couples – will we ever love them as if they were our own? And, man, you are testifying to the fact that that is absolutely possible, that you can love a child, who may not be your biological child, as much as if she or he were. Explain that to a couple who might be, you know, kind of struggling with the idea of adoption because they don’t know about that unknown factor – can we really feel like they’re ours?
Linda: We hear that a lot. People ask us, do you have any of your own? And I say, they’re all our own. You know, God has given us this picture of adoption in the Bible, right? And now we have adopted children into our home with the desire to show them who Jesus is. And there’s– something happens when you set your heart and your mind on adopting. And it happens with a picture. You know, we get a picture, and we – I – we fall in love, you know, and then they’re ours from that moment. And the love grows. But I’ve never had a problem loving children that people say are not our own…
Jim: Right, I mean…
Linda: …You know.
Jim: …You two – really, you are the poster parents for adoption. I just love your enthusiasm, the way you embrace children and the way you went about it – sounded like the Lord just, how about this one? How about (laughter) – just looking at pictures on the wall. But your first daughter from China was not your last. What happened next? Who else did you adopt?
Michael: We began to look at others. In fact, we had had kind of an interesting road after China. We originally thought after that, we felt God was leading us to Vietnam. And about two years, two and a half years into that whole process, Vietnam decided to close the doors. So we were not only out of money, but we were out of another child. And we began the process again, and God turned one thing into another and opened the door into Russia. That door closed. Uh, a small door opened in Nepal, and that door closed.
The next thing you know, we were going to a dinner supporting some friends of ours that were going to be missionaries in Ecuador. And we saw a group of faces and pictures on the wall. And Linda said, can I have one of those? And – uh – the man next to us happened to be a gentleman who ran an organization called Extreme Response. And he said, well, I know somebody who knows somebody. And the next thing you know, Linda got a phone call. And phone calls were made. And literally from that day, or that night, 10 months later, she stepped off the plane with our second daughter Kearly from Ecuador.
Jim: Now, you know people are going, how does this tie into Bring Your Bible to School? But it will. Hold on.
Linda: OK, and it will.
Jim: Now, that’s number two. But you adopted a third time.
Michael: We did. And Linda literally stepped off of the plane at the end of March of 2012, and we were sitting at dinner one night. And she shows me a picture. And she said, look at this beautiful little girl. And I looked and there was a picture of this little African girl, I said, oh, she’s beautiful. And Linda said, well, I’m glad you think so because I think God wants us to go get her.
Michael: And I thought she was nuts, of course, but – uh – Linda had been looking at this and praying for – her name was Miriam – praying for Miriam for a couple of months unbeknownst to me. And sure enough, we started the paperwork. And – uh – one thing led to another – turned about a four-year process because the government in – in Kinshasa where she was, at the Democratic Republic of Congo, had pretty much closed the doors on literally hundreds of families looking to bring home children there.
Linda: And they were fully adopted at the time.
Linda: We adopted her. And she was four when we adopted her. And then – uh…
Jim: So all legally done.
Linda and Michael: All legally done.
Linda: Everything was done. You know, we don’t pay for children. We paid for fees.
Linda: We tell our children that. But, yeah, we were ready to leave a month later, and they closed – not – they just wouldn’t let her come – now, I could live there with her, but I couldn’t bring her home. Um, and for four years, we fought. We went to Washington. We did a lot of things to try and advocate for these children. There were thousands of them…
Jim: Oh, my goodness.
Linda: …That were stuck. And it wasn’t like the government was helping them because they – we were still feeding them, sending money…
Linda: …for food. They weren’t helping them, they just wouldn’t let them leave.
Jim: Did you ever get an answer as to what the rationale was for that? They just…
Linda: We thought it was more of a power thing – dealing with the United States.
Jim: …More politically based…
Linda: Politically based, yeah.
Jim: …Than the – the good of the child, the welfare of the child…
Michael: From a personal persepective, though, I – I – I likened it to the fact that it was just God’s calling on our heart for us to trust Him and to wait completely on Him. And because of that – we had seen some kids come home in the interim. But since that time, just being obedient to God and waiting on him, and he has blessed us royally. And Miriam is quite a joy. And the girls have taken to her as their sisters, as well.
Jim: Well, and, again, I started at the top saying here you are kind of – uh – you know, the regular family. But you’re doing extraordinary things, so I don’t know if that’s actually true any longer. But – you just seem to seek the Lord and ask the Lord, and it’s so wonderful. But in the midst of adopting Miriam – uh – you had a really tough diagnosis. What happened?
Michael: I did. April 16 of 2013,we were having dinner one night. I got up and Linda had asked me a question. And as I began to answer, I couldn’t articulate my words real well. And she thought something was wrong. She asked me to smile. My right side of my mouth drooped. She thought I was having a heart attack, so she immediately…
Linda: Or a stroke.
Michael: …Or a stroke…
Michael: …Drove me to Doylestown Hospital, which is about five minutes away. And from the time they dropped me off – uh – put me on a gurney, she parked the car and got into the hospital, I was intubated. I was pretty much gone at that point. Uh, somebody had come down to see Linda and asked if I had any family nearby. And at that moment, both Linda and Emma got on their knees and began to just praise and thank God and – and just ask His favor. And within minutes, my arms and legs began to flail, apparently. They flew me down to Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia. Two days later, I had surgery. And, uh, I ended up having…
Jim: What was the surgery for?
Michael: The surgery was diagnosis of stage three brain cancer.
Jim: Oh, my goodness.
Michael: Stage three brain cancer followed with six weeks of radiation and about a year of chemotherapy. That rolled out to where two years of stable scans and actually was told I was in remission, which was a real blessing. And then April of 2016, another tumor surfaced, and I had a second surgery. And since that time, God continues to show favor. And we’ve been doing a lot of the right things.
Jim: Yeah. Michael and Linda, there’s so many directions to go here. Because we’re talking about your adoptions. You’re doing these things – the way the Lord is using you to enhance, to help, to point children into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Did that thought cross your mind – why? Why, Lord? Why us? Why me?
Jim: What’s happening?
Jim: Explain and help those that are struggling with that question, which is a normal question to have.
Michael: It is.
Jim: But how do you – how do you not ask that? And how do you trust God?
Michael: The easy part, for me, if there’s an easy part – and no diagnosis is ever easy – but the easy part, for me, is the fact that in – in my – our faith, not only my faith, but Linda’s faith, but our faith together as a couple and as a family, is that the peace that surpasses all understanding has been with us since day one. And that has always resonated with us, and it – it truly continues to this day that, no matter what the battle is, we’re all running a race, whatever that is. You can fill in the blank whether it’s cancer, heart attack, stroke, it doesn’t matter, but we’re all running a race. And as long as Jesus is the one that we’re following and that’s where our hearts are focused on…
Michael: …That gives us great solace.
Jim: How did you explain that to the girls? I mean, here, you adopted three beautiful girls from different parts of the world, and things are going well, and they’re learning about the Lord and the blessings of God. And now, they’re seeing maybe some uncertainty and the fact that…
Michael: You could answer that because I was in the hospital while you were…
Michael: …Explaining it to Emma and Kearly.
Linda: Yeah. Um, yeah, at that time, when Michael was first diagnosed, we only had two. We had Emma and Kearly. And our thought process was not to give them more than they asked for and needed at that time, as far as any kind of explanation about what was going on. But, you know, we were gone a lot for doctors’ appointments…
Linda: …For chemo, for radiation and things. But they never showed much concern because, I think, they take their lead from us. And since we were walking through with that peace, they had that peace, too. I mean, if they asked a question, we answered it. But – um…
Jim: So you modeled it…
Jim: …And they followed.
Linda: Yeah, they do.
Jim: And that…
Linda: Kids do that.
Jim: …That had to build their faith in the Lord. Your confidence, regardless of what this life brings, you’re going to trust in Him.
Jim: That’s an awesome…
Jim: …Lesson for anybody.
John: We’re talking today on Focus on the Family to Michael and Linda Fichera. And – um – we’re hearing about a number of remarkable things in their lives, but an unwavering faith in God and how you can live that out with your kids and empower them, as Jim said earlier. Ultimately, we’re going to get to Bring Your Bible to School Day, which is October 5th. And we’ll give you more details about that in a little bit. But you can find out more right now online if you want to keep listening and hit the web at focusonthefamily.com/radio. You’ll see a participant kit there. And also, we’re linking over to our Adventures in Odyssey Bible, which is a great new tool for kids to grow with in their faith.
Jim: Michael and Linda, I love the background, and that’s the key because, again, you’re dealing with a lot. You have a plate full of family stuff, and I think that leads in well to what we’re about to talk about which is Bring Your Bible to School and how that’s affected your daughters and how you jumped on board. OK, let’s do this thing!. So let’s talk about it. Kearly is the young daughter that engaged this, so describe why she took an interest in it. How did that come about? And what happened?
Linda: So I found it on your website, just a couple of days before. And – um – at that point, all three girls, we were going to – we engaged all three girls to do it – to bring their Bible. But Kearly is that child who has a deep faith that she has made her own very early. It’s been a couple of years where we’ve seen that growing. So I gave her the student Bill of Rights that I printed off your website, which is wonderful, by the way. And I said to her, now, if you need it, keep it in your backpack, and then hand it in. But if you don’t need it, leave it there.
So she went with her – her Bible. And Kearly is a child who can fidget, is easily distracted, and her teacher knew that about her, because she’s had her for two years. So she had her Bible on her desk in the morning, and she was playing with it, probably looking through it. And her teacher came over and said, I’m gonna take this for now, and you can have it back later. Well, Kearly thought, oh, she’s taken my Bible. She went over and got the student Bill of Rights, handed it to her teacher, and her teacher immediately gave her back her Bible.
Linda: So, um, but she asked her if she would put it away until lunch or recess, which was a…
Jim: Yeah, that’s reasonable.
Linda: …Reasonable request. So she did. She brought it to lunch with her first, and just opened up the Bible and started reading to her peers that were sitting around at lunch, sharing scripture, talking about Jesus. And that is her heart. So it was something that came natural. And she felt free to do it because of the day, right?
Linda: And, um, kids were interested. She brought Gospels of John, and she was handing them out. And then, when she went out to recess, she sat on the curb with some other kids and shared more of Jesus, more of scripture, and, got to pray with some little girl who had just lost her dog, um. So it was a great day.
Jim: In fact, Linda, Kearly gave her Bible back to the teacher. Describe what happened with that.
Linda: So at the end of the day she walked up to her teacher and she said, I want you to have my Bible.
Linda: And I think the teacher was a little stunned, and said, well, I have to check with your mom first because I don’t want to take your Bible. And Kearly says, it’s my Bible. But anyway, she did email me, and said, could Kearly give her Bible to me? And I said, absolutely, it’s Kearly’s to give away. And to this day, the teacher keeps it in her desk. And Kearly likes to believe that she reads it.
Jim: Yeah, I mean, what a good…
Linda: So God’s word does not return void, so we believe that.
Jim: And that’s a beautiful story. We receive so many testimonies. Again, we’ve done this for three years. The first year, we had about 8,000 students participate. Year two, about 155,000. And last year, over 355,000. So it’s just continued to grow. And I’m hoping that, you know, this is just a – a hope– that we will have, maybe, 500,000 students that will participate. And your story is part of that, to encourage people, on October 5th – this October 5th, right around the corner – you can participate in Bring Your Bible to School Day. And all the information is there at the website for you to download. And I would encourage you to do it.
Um, this one story that I recall, where a little girl sat at the table at lunch and started reading the Book of John, and I think three or four or five of the kids that were listening were excited to listen and actually accepted Christ. That’s not parent-driven or teacher-driven. This is all student-driven. And that’s what I love about it. And there’s no expense in doing it. Everything at the website is a free download. And I am so appreciative of it. Is Kearly going to participate again this year?
Linda: She is, and she’s excited about it.
Linda: And I’m excited to share it with my friends so that their kids can bring it. Like I said, I found out too late last year to put it on my Facebook and to share it, um. And so this year, I am. Because a lot of friends had said, boy, if we had known, you know, our kids would have brought it. And our other two daughters brought their Bibles to school. And just seeing a Bible in school is – is a good thing.
Jim: It’s encouraging.
Linda: It’s encouraging, yeah.
Jim: Um, how has it shaped their view of that? I mean, you’re expressing it. But let me ask that direct question. I mean, do you see them more committed? Do you see them excited about the Scripture and the fact that they’re doing something they can, uh, feel good about?
Michael: I think there’s a confidence now knowing that, well, listen, we’ve already sent Kearly into the lion’s den, and she’s come back fairly unscathed. I think they’re excited. Miriam – and Emma is home-schooled, so bringing her bible to school is not a big deal for her, but – but Kearly, again, on October 5th, we’re gonna circle that date so that she can, you know, know that that’s the day that’s going to be a special day. Miriam attends a different school, so Miriam will do the same thing. And, uh, I think all of them are just encouraged about that and realizing that it’s something that they have a right to do. And, uh, our culture would – would have them say no, you can’t. But the reality is yes, you can. And we can do it with love and with grace.
Jim: Yeah. Michael and Linda, you know, again, your story is so powerful in every direction. It’s like the rays of sun coming out from who you are in Christ. And you look at, your desire, your heart to adopt – to lift a child out of certain poverty in the parts of the – the world that you have adopted these girls from, uh – maybe even greater despair of sexual abuse or something like that. And then, uh, the diagnosis of brain cancer. Michael, you – you are living it. You’re living what this life is all about. And what’s so amazing to me is your confidence – that no matter what happens in this life, you’re not going to be shaken. That has to be so reassuring to your daughters.
Jim: And to participate in Bring Your Bible to School, that whole combination is just so energizing to me. You have a grasp on what this is all about. And I see it in your face, Michael, and your support, Linda. That if this thing comes back, so what? You know what, we’re all going to take a last breath. It’s what we do with our breath and with our life that matters. Do you…
Michael: That’s exactly right.
Jim: Yeah, you are like the walking embodiment of this. I feel it, man.
Michael: Well, and you know it has to be because of Jesus Christ because that’s…
Jim: That’s the only reason.
Michael: In and of itself – myself, I – I’d be home under the covers somewhere. But there’s a boldness that he has given to – to us, and by extension, to our daughters as well. So Bringing Your Bible to School Day, you know, hey, if my dad’s got stage 3 brain cancer, I can certainly bring my Bible to school, you know. And the whole idea is just to honor God and glorify his name, so…
Jim: Well, it’s such a great reminder for all of us, and I so appreciate your confidence. It gives everybody around you confidence, doesn’t it?
Michael: I hope so.
Linda: That’s our hope.
Jim: And your belief in Christ. Let me ask you, what would you say to that person who is struggling? They’re not waking up every day – whether it’s a – a medical diagnosis, a divorce, a prodigal child – they’re all listening. Michael and Linda, someone, if not many, are going through difficulty. And they’re saying, God, where are you? I don’t feel you today. I don’t see you in my life today. Speak to them directly. Give them that hope that you have that – that’s pouring out of every pore in your body.
Michael: Mhm, you know, Jesus said I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me. And I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, we have walked through it for years now. Uh, we encourage our daughters through adoption. And Paul writes in Ephesians that we are all adopted as believers in Jesus Christ, so we belong to a wonderful family.But for anyone who’s struggling with whatever the issue is – could be financial, could be personal, relational, diagnosis, healthwise – it doesn’t matter. Jesus is the same today, yesterday and forever. And he will never leave us, nor forsake us. And that is such a great hope and a great confidence that we can place our trust in a loving God, who does love us with a non-ending love.And as an adoptive father – as an adoptive mother, we just absolutely put our hope and confidence and trust in the king of kings and the lord of lords. And we encourage anyone to do that who’s struggling right now – open their hearts, open their minds to receive the gift that God has for them.
Jim: Yeah, it’s so beautiful to see your daughters pick that up and express it through Bring Your Bible to School. And what wonderful stories. And let me turn to you, I mean, Michael and Linda, these are listeners to Focus on the Family. They haven’t written a book or anything like that. These people are you. And I’m so proud to be associated with you. Thank you for your prayers for Focus, and listening to Focus, and being alongside Focus all these years. And I – I just – I’m stunned and I am so grateful to you. And if you’re hesitant, if you don’t know what to do, and you have children in the home again, man, take a small step. Let them know about Bring Your Bible to School. Encourage them to do it. Uh, will it be easy? No. I’m sure you may have kids who are shy, but encourage them. Don’t push them too far, but if they’re willing to do it and want to do it, stand with them and support them in doing that. Michael and Linda, wow. You guys have really been so forthright and wonderful on the program today. I hope people will simply take your lead. Don’t listen to what Jim Daly or John Fuller say, listen to what Michael and Linda are saying, and step out in faith and trust God today. Thanks for being with us.
Linda: Thank you for having us.
Michael: Thank you. Thank you.
John: And again, October 5th is Bring Your Bible to School Day. That’s when we hope, over a half million students from every state in the nation will participate and, take a Bible. We have a free kit with all the information you need. It’s downloadable at the website, focusonthefamily.com/radio. And, Jim, this is just one example of so many different things we’re doing to encourage families and to encourage people of faith, even kids of faith.
Jim: (Laughter) Yeah, that’s right. And I hope you’ll support the ministry in doing this. There’s so much happening here with, protecting marriages, helping marriages that are failing, helping parents do a better job parent. This is really what it’s all about. And again, I’m just smiling from ear to ear because Michael and Linda so represent what we hope is the impact that Focus has in every family. And, uh, let’s do it together. Let’s not, slip off the face of this earth without doing the best job we can do for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And we can stand together and help these young people learn the word, know the word and express the word. Yes, right there in school.
John: And perhaps, if your child needs a new Bible, you’d like to donate to Focus on the Family today, we’d say thank you by sending a copy of our new Adventures in Odyssey Bible. It’s a great way to put God’s word in the hands of the next generation. So donate, we’ll send that Bible to you. And get your free downloadable kit, Bring Your Bible to School participation guide at focusonthefamily.com/radio, or call us and, uh, we’ll tell you more. You can donate over the phone. Our number is 800-232-6459, 800-A-FAMILY.
Well, be with us again next time. We’ll hear from Dr. Gregory Jantz on how to identify and respond to depression in your teen.
Dr. Gregory Jantz: Remember, their sense of overwhelmedness is very real for them. So we’re always going to try to understand their experience. If you say things like, “Oh, it’s no big deal”, but they’re overwhelmed, it is a big deal.
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