More on our hotel adventure

More on our hotel adventure

More on the conferences in 2008


At the end of the first conference, some attendees left and others arrived for the next two conferences.  The difficulties with transportation continued. In addition, we found out that the hotel had overbooked and some of our people had no place to stay, so we put them up temporarily in nearby hotels.

On Friday evening, two days into the simultaneous running of the second and third conferences, the hotel owner called me to his office. “Your travel agent owes me money from a different deal and you will either pay the agent’s bill, or we will put you out on the street!” he said with a smile—but the intensity of his demand was clear from the sweat beads on his forehead.

I felt the heat of anger rising in my chest. After all that I’d done for the hotel to make these conferences a success, this threat was the opposite of what I wanted to hear. I managed, however, to keep my voice calm. “What my travel agent does with you in another deal has nothing to do with our conferences,” I said, “You have to work this out with him.”

The hotel owner frowned, sweat glistening on his forehead, “No, either you pay his bill to me, or I’ll put you out. I have my own bills to pay and I need that money now!” It was obvious that he was under great pressure and speaking out of fear.

I called my travel agent. He confirmed that he hadn’t paid his bill for other customers, explaining that it was because of all the complaints that he’d had from those he had sent there. His plan was to send a commission down to prove that the hotel was not up to three star standards and hoped that their findings would free him from his contract. “Just sit tight and nothing will happen,” he said.

Several of our leaders met with me.  We prayed about it and talked more with the hotel owner. He wouldn’t budge an inch on his demand and got even more angry and belligerent. It seems that he had already passed along the postdated check he had from the travel agent, and if that check bounced, he would be in big trouble. There was probably some mafia connection mixed in, a common factor in this business. That would certainly explain the fear he had which, in turn, displayed itself as anger towards us.

I, too, had fear, fear of everything going down, fear of what others would think of my organizational failures, fear of being taken for a lot of money. So, I turned to Psalm 37 which gave me perspective.

“Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!

For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.

He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.

For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.”

With this heavenly perspective I could then sleep, resting in God’s goodness and faithfulness

By Monday the hotel owner upped the pressure, taking all the possessions of some of our people out of their room and dumping them all in a pile in the middle of the lobby. Next, during the morning conference meetings, the security guard came in and told us we were being expelled from the meeting rooms.

We sent someone to appeal for help from the Gendarme, the local military police, but they did not respond. In such a small town all the locals work together behind the scenes, so we had no chance as outsiders to get any help to fix our problem. Anyway, in their eyes, we were rich Americans who could pay whatever was necessary.

During lunch the security guards came around again to tell us that all of our people had to stop eating and  go to their rooms. The air conditioning had been shut off and the hot afternoon sun soon had the rooms sweltering. Drinks were denied. Families with small children were especially feeling the pressure.

Our agent called several officials in the area and two of them, along with a representative of the hotel association and a reporter, came to talk with the hotel owner. By God’s grace I saw them come in and went uninvited into their meeting. The hotel owner, of course, gave his side of it, making us look like the guilty ones. I then gave our side of the story.

The group conferred and then said the only way to resolve the situation was for us to pay the bill for the agent. They, of course, were all in the same business and we were again the outsiders with no recourse.

What they were suggesting meant paying almost double the price we had originally agreed to. However, there were several factors that contributed to our leaning toward doing this.

First, we had already paid a large deposit, and if we paid the bill for the travel agent, he could and should pay that back to us.

Second, although the travel agent had found some other hotels that could take us, we knew nothing about them, and would certainly be scattered among several, making it very difficult to continue the conferences. There was no assurance we would have either meeting rooms or childcare rooms available to us.   In contrast, this hotel had more than an acre of grassy lawn enclosed with a good fence, which made it a great place for the hundred or so children of our group to play safely.

Third, our people had come from all over the world to attend these conferences; they had already spent a  great deal of money on transportation alone, which could potentially be wasted if we were to leave this place for an unknown and potentially unsatisfactory situation.

In the end we agreed to payA number of us pooled our credit cards to make this possible and the hotel owner gave us a signed and stamped paper describing the situation and his receipt of the money.  So the conferences were able to continue as planned.

In hindsight, it was clear that all these difficulties were used by God to make the conference one of the best ever. We were totally dependent on Him and He did a work in us. Our schedule was frequently disrupted, which caused us to be more flexible. This brought some great times of prayer along with some open, honest sharing, and spontaneous sessions that were very helpful to all of us.  By the end of the week we left, having been challenged, changed and cheered by the Lord’s work among us.


The whole hotel story did not have a happy ending. Although the travel agent sued the hotel, the signed statement we’d gotten from the owner validating the extra payment  we had made was worthless. It turned out he wasn’t the actual owner after all. He had built several legal layers into the hotel’s ownership to protect himself.  He then sued the travel agent for another bill, and in the end the small claims court took everything from the travel agent’s office which housed two other businesses, including a film making studio.

Interestingly, the travel agent viewed this debacle as being my fault! He believed that if I hadn’t given in to the hotel’s demands, his financial situation would not have degenerated so badly. This was the exact opposite of my understanding of it all.

We chose not to take legal action against anyone including the agent.  The result for me, personally, was that the Lord set me free from my desire to be right, from my “need” to win, and from my inclination to care too much what other people thought of the whole situation. This was certainly for me a step out into a wider place, one of greater freedom.

At the end of the whole saga, along with all I’ve already mentioned, there were three other positive outcomes.  First, the travel agent graciously forgave me and our relationship was able to continue.   Second, the hotel owner told the agent that if he paid his last bill, he could get back all his computers, cameras, software and furniture so he could continue his work.

Third, the travel agent came back to us and asked if we would help. Humanly speaking this was backwards: he caused us to lose a large amount of money, then wants us to give him more to help him out of his mistakes! However, this was a chance to turn the other cheek, to act against the wisdom of the world and to glorify God. So, against all natural logic, some of us gave him gifts out of our personal money and he was able to redeem all his goods.

The whole event had been one long experience of spiritual warfare, but I believe that the Lord–and therefore we–won in the long run. Not materially, but on a spiritual level, through giving praise in difficulty, doing the right thing when it cost us and by turning the other cheek.