Joy Ogeh-Hutfield was an award-winning businesswoman when a cancer diagnosis turned her life upside down. Hearing the audible voice of God moments before her surgery reignited the faith that had grown dim


I was born in Nigeria and came to the UK when I was 16. I was brought up Catholic, so church was very important. Everybody went, more out of obligation than anything else. 

In my late teens, I started to develop friendships with people who called themselves “born-again Christians”. I didn’t even know what that meant! They would invite me to church and, over time, I began to take more interest. It wasn’t like anything I was used to. I thought: Wow! This is different. It was exhilarating, but speaking in tongues? I thought: I don’t know about that! That’s a whole different level!

I got married at 26. My husband wasn’t a churchgoer, so getting married in a Catholic church was a big deal for him. Before you get married, you have to show that you’re part of the community, so we went along to the Catholic Church, and we just carried on with that tradition. 

Baptised in the Spirit

I had a few miscarriages, but when my daughter Lauren was born prematurely, I began having recurring nightmares. I confided in my aunt, who is a born-again Christian, and she said: “This is not right. You need to pray into this.” Her best friend was married to a well-known pastor who had a prophetic ministry. She said: “Why don’t you go and share what’s going on? They will pray with you. But you need to open your heart and really receive Christ, you know.”

I took her advice. I explained what was going on and the pastor asked: “Have you given your life to Christ?” I replied: “I think I have. I’m not sure.” He prayed over me and then he said: “Would you like to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit?” I chuckled and said: “I don’t think God would like to give me the gift of the Holy Spirit. I am one of those people who laugh when I hear people speak in tongues. I just don’t think it’s real.” He paused, looked at me and said: “Shall we let God decide?”

I was on my knees at this point, and this wonderful lady standing next to me said: “Open your mouth and let the Holy Spirit take control.” I opened my mouth and just started speaking. I could not stop. The next thing I knew, they were shaking me and saying: “Are you OK?” I had been speaking non-stop for 15 minutes in tongues! From that moment, the nightmares stopped. 

That moment taught me something. Why would God want to give me his Holy Spirit? I was a sinner, I took the mickey, but God was saying: “I know you. I love you.” It was transformational. I went to church all my life, maybe to please my mum and dad, but when people talk about the love of God, you’ve got to experience it. 

I found a Pentecostal church and started attending. My husband and I got baptised, which was very special. Life carried on. I started a business, working with teams, helping them to look at diversity, entrepreneurship, leadership and transformation. Business was booming. I still believed, but I began to lose my way a little. I was a picture of success, but part of me was struggling. I was chasing after something and I couldn’t quite pinpoint what was missing. 

The gift of time

In 2011, out of the blue, I was diagnosed with a rare form of skin cancer on my leg. I had three young kids at the time, and fear gripped me. I was lying on the hospital bed, about to be wheeled into theatre, and I said: “God, I don’t want to die. I need more years.” I heard a voice, literally, say: “What did you do with the 42 years I gave you?  And what would you do differently if I gave you more years?” I was so shocked! I had to recognise that I wasn’t living for God. Sometimes we don’t want to admit it. We think: I go to church, I tithe, I do all those things. But in reality, I was doing my own thing. I said to God: “If you give me more years, I will get my act together. I will serve you more. I will love you more.” 

From that moment on, my life took a whole different turn. After the operation there was no trace of cancer. I didn’t need to have any further chemo, no radiation; it was a miraculous healing. But I was in bed for four months, with my Bible, while my leg healed. For the first time in my life, I was asking: Why am I here, Lord? What do you want me to do? God had my full attention. 

I laughed when I heard people speak in tongues. I just didn’t think it was real

The Bible says that he “has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” [2 Peter 1:3, NKJV]. However, the key is “seek ye first the kingdom of God” [Matthew 6:33, KJV]. I was seeking the world, seeking riches, but even when I had them, I was still incomplete because God was not present. 

When I reflect back on the cancer, I was burnt out, I was stressed. And that’s what happens when we chase. But when I started going into God’s word, the things that I was chasing started coming to me!  

I decided to transition into coaching work because I really wanted to serve people, to help them in their own transformation process. 

Most of my clients are also searching. God has given me the opportunity to minister to them, and there is an added dimension [to the work that I do] which can only come from the Holy Spirit. The whole process of coaching is about helping people to know that they are good enough. Sometimes we doubt ourselves, but it’s only the love of God that allows you to look at yourself and say: “I’m enough, because God said I am good enough to accomplish his purposes.” I’ve been called to bring that hope to people.

People say: “How did you overcome that adversity?” and I am able to tell them: “Well, I couldn’t have done it without the Lord Jesus Christ.”  

Joy Ogeh-Hutfield was speaking to Emma Fowle. Find out more at