My family spent a lot of our time living overseas traveling across the countries we lived in. At first it was because my dad was invited to other churches across the country to preach to the youth groups. Then, we began to travel a lot more when my mom joined the Peruvian Christian rock band Corban.
After becoming a singer with Corban, they began having concerts throughout the country of Peru. Since Mom did not want to travel without her family, she dragged us along to most of their concerts. The band even let us kids get up on stage and help them sing one of their songs.
On one of these trips, Corban traveled to the middle of the Peruvian jungle. I was about eight at the time.
After the long bus ride to get to the jungle, the pastor of the church Corban was performing at and his wife met us and said they would show us to the hotel where we were going to be staying.
My family was really excited. We had all been used to sleeping on the floor in other people’s homes when we traveled, so it would be a great change to get to stay in a nice hotel.
Or so we thought.
When we arrived at the hotel, it definitely stood out, but not in a good way. Though my siblings and I ignored our surroundings because we were so excited, my parents immediately had red flags popping up in their heads.
“The ‘hotel’ was dark and cave-like — unfinished walls and an entrance that was below street level,” Mom told us later. “There was a long narrow hall with rooms on either side. The rooms all had openings like windows with no glass on them.”
We seemed to pass by a lot of women as we were shown to our room, where there was only one bed for all of us to share. Of course, my siblings and I began jumping on the bed as soon as we saw it. However, my parents pulled us off and told us not to touch anything.
“The beds were just mattresses with no sheets,” Mom said. “The walls had porn hanging up, and there was dirty toilet paper on the dirt floor. The bed had fleas.”
When my siblings and I began complaining about having to go to the bathroom (we had not gotten the chance to go after the bus ride), my parents begged us to try to hold it in until we could at least get outside, which was at the very least cleaner than the bathroom in the “hotel.”
“Everyone had to share a bathroom at the end of the hall,” Mom said. “The bathroom had only a toilet with no seat and no door, just a curtain you could hold in place as you sat on the pot.”
When the pastor, whose name was Inocente (meaning “innocent” in Spanish) and his wife realized the hotel was actually a brothel, they immediately apologized and set out to find another hotel for us to stay in. But at that point, we would have been happy to sleep on anyone’s floor!
The pastor was able to find another hotel for us to stay in and we were finally able to sleep. The next day, as my parents got ready for the concert that night, my siblings and I watched “Sleeping Beauty” for the first time … in Spanish. To this day, I can still remember the song “Once Upon a Dream” better in Spanish than English.
That night, the Corban concert was completely sold out. People came from as far as Cuba and paid 3 soles, about $1 American, for admission. However, when Pastor Inocente saw how many people showed up to the concert, he immediately pulled Mom aside.
“You owe me more money for the sound system,” Inocente said.
Though the pastor had agreed in the contract he signed to let Corban play to cover the costs for the sound system, Mom decided it would not be worth arguing over.
“How much do we owe you?” Mom asked.
“Count up the money you made, then I will tell you,” Inocente replied.
Mom refused. She made him tell her how much they owed before they counted up the money.
Though they ended up having to pay a little more than they thought to cover the concert, Corban was able to witness something worth more than money. When Dad preached and made an altar call at the end of his sermon, many people went forward and accepted the Lord as their Savior, including someone completely unexpected – the brothel owner! He had decided to attend the concert and gave his life to Christ after the message. He also declared that he would stop his business.
So in the same trip, we encountered a hypocritical pastor and a repenting brothel owner. God definitely works in mysterious ways.