By Chuck Goldberg
Friends since their years together at Christ For the Nations Institute (CFNI) in Dallas, Olena, 29, a Ukrainian, and Emmanuel, 31, a Nigerian, felt a connection. Their relationship, however, did not take a romantic turn until after Olena graduated and went to RegentUniversity in Virginia Beach, Virginia, to pursue a master’s degree in Biblical interpretation.
Romance with Olena was not what Emmanuel desired at first, because he had always reserved his heart for a fellow Nigerian. Also, when Olena left, Emmanuel began dating a Nigerian to whom he had been introduced. But he did not feel a release in his heart that the Nigerian woman was God’s will for him. Also unable to put Olena out of mind, Emmanuel did what he always does when facing a major decision—he fasts and prays. This time, he embarked upon 21 days—at one point praying with a pastor-prophet friend who said he saw Emmanuel with a white lady standing near him.
“I couldn’t sleep thinking about that white lady,” Emmanuel says. “I just didn’t connect it with Olena. I wasn’t thinking of any white lady, because I had made up my mind not to marry outside my tribe.”
Throughout the 21 days, Emmanuel heard nothing from God, leading to more questions, but he persisted in seeking Him. Finally, on the 22nd day, the answer came. The Nigerian lady called from out of town, and they had a strong disagreement.
When she hung up, Emmanuel knew immediately he had received a strong sign that she was not meant for him.
“It was tempting to be discouraged after 21 days,” Emmanuel says, “but God knows what He’s doing and He knows the hour. Just keep hanging in there is what I learned. Just wait on Him and leave the results to Him.”
Eventually, Emmanuel resumed contact with Olena, having nightly hour-long phone chats and a visit from her in Dallas. Again, Emmanuel sought God, this time for specific signs that Olena was the one. Some signs God answered; others He did not, fueling confusion. After Olena left, they went on a three-day fast and prayed each evening. Soon, the Lord showed Emmanuel his view of the unanswered signs as negatives was wrong.
Once Emmanuel was convinced, he proposed by phone, wanting to marry immediately, while Olena hoped to wait until after graduation. When she sought God, however, He provided her peace, as well as several confirmations through friends who knew nothing about their situation. When Olena came to Dallas for the wedding of Emmanuel’s sister in January 2006, Emmanuel proposed in person. Olena moved to Texas in May, and they were married June 17, 2006.
Exactly one week later, a drunk driver ran a red light, hitting them at 60 mph in a 35mph zone. Their car spun several times, hit a bridge, and jumped the median. Emmanuel broke his right arm; Olena’s mother, still visiting after the wedding, broke her pelvis and an ankle; Emmanuel’s sister Tracy, nearly five months pregnant, emerged only with bruises, though thrown into the back window.
Olena, in the front passenger seat, was the most seriously injured, rushed for surgery to prevent bleeding into her brain. She also suffered a broken pelvis, leading to five weeks in the hospital and another three months bedridden at home. In the end, she recovered from her brain injury in one month, when her doctor said it should have taken six months or more. Today, she is completely whole, without memory loss, side effects, or headaches. Despite the 18 screws remaining in her hip, she is completely recovered, along with her mother.
“To see us today, you wouldn’t know we suffered anything,” Olena says.
God’s hand was also evident among her family, who met for the first time at the wedding but remained to help after the accident. Despite six people in a two-bedroom apartment, everyone united.
“It was a challenging time,” Olena says, “but we just focused on the Lord and it brought us together. Little things were not important, because God gave us life. He helped us overcome any cultural differences that might have arisen between our families.”
Another way God brought good was giving Emmanuel a business. As he convalesced from his broken arm, he used his good arm to become more adept at graphic design, videography, and more. Consequently, today he runs a business he never expected as a media specialist for churches and ministries. Olena supervises the Remedial English Department at CFNI, heads the school library, and is pursuing a second master’s degree in communication. Both are youth pastors at their church, VictoryRoyalChurch in Grand Prairie, and Emmanuel is media director. Olena is also children’s coordinator and an occasional adult Sunday school teacher.
The drunk driver was treated and taken to jail, eventually sentenced to seven years. All the good that God brought to the Ogiozees made it that much easier to forgive the driver, whom they visited.
“It was a powerful moment,” Emmanuel says. “He was so shocked we were able to forgive him and embrace him. We shared our story, and he said it helped him get closer to God. We prayed for him that it would bring continued transformation.”
The driver said he had reflected upon the mistakes he had made in his life and resolved to reconnect more strongly with his daughter, according to Olena. He apologized for the accident and said he had begun seeking the Lord in prison and got involved with ministry.
Today, the Ogiozees have three children: David, 4; Daniel, 3; and Nicole, 2. Tracy had a healthy girl, Angel, 5; and another child, Star, 3.
Fasting and prayer remain indispensable for the Ogiozees whenever they face any challenge or serious decision.
“We want to ensure we are acting in line with God’s plan for us,” Emmanuel says. “We try to be sensitive to God’s direction. We commit the whole situation to Him.”
Fasting leads to more concentration upon God, focused prayer, and more accelerated answers, say the Ogiozees. It gets them more in tune with the Spirit and empowers them.
“I wish we could fast every day, because it makes our spirits so alive and just enhances our faith,” Emmanuel says. “It keeps you in that atmosphere. Whenever we stretch our faith and go out of our way, God is always faithful to meet us.”
While others sometimes lose faith in God through trying times, the accident only served to strengthen the Ogiozees. Olena says she completely understands how some could question God in tragedy, but that was not their reaction. They instead focused on the future, realizing that God had given them another chance at life and has a higher purpose for them. As a result, they felt peace—even joy—through it all.
“If you look at pictures of me through that time,” Olena says, “I’m smiling even in my wheelchair. I had such peace and happiness at God for giving us our lives back. It happened for a reason, and that reason gave us an overwhelming sense of joy
and a supernatural level of faith. We kept repeating throughout that the devil meant this for evil, but God meant it for good.”
Further adding to their faith was the news that another couple had died in an accident less horrific than theirs.
“It made me see that God must have a plan for our lives and has a destiny for us, that He wants to do something in us and through us or He would not have rescued us,” Emmanuel says. “He values us more than I thought. It just makes our faith in God grow.”
The accident brought the Ogiozees additional perspective that will forever shape the way they view future difficulties.
“God allowed the challenge to come and supplied His grace to meet the challenge,” Emmanuel says. “My family is a miracle family. No matter what happens, I know now that God has a plan. Anything negatively that happens to me now is just a shadow. None of it has come to stay. We feel like our lives have more purpose and meaning.”
Chuck Goldberg has a degree in journalism and a Master of Divinity in Christian education. A former newspaper reporter and magazine managing editor, he is now an ordained minister and freelance writer-editor. He and his wife Dolly have three children and live in Layton, Utah.