International Evangelist Luis Palau Dies at 86

Evangelist Luis Palau preaches during the DC Festival on the National Mall in Washington in 2005. (Kevin Wolf / Associated Press )

Luis Palau, an evangelical pastor who was born in Argentina and went on to work with Billy Graham before establishing his own powerhouse international ministry, has died at his home in Portland, Oregon.

The Luis Palau Assn. said he died Thursday at age 86. He had announced in January 2018 that he had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

“It is with a mixture of sadness and joy that we share with you that Dad passed away early this morning. He died suddenly and very peacefully, just as he had hoped,” his family said in a statement. “This is hard news, but Luis is experiencing the beauty of the Lord face to face.”

Born to an affluent family in Buenos Aires, Palau rose from obscurity to become one of the most well-known international Christian evangelists. Over a career that spanned more than half a century, he authored 50 books and addressed more than 30 million people in 75 countries at evangelical “festivals” that were his modern-day take on the more traditional crusades that boosted his mentor and idol, Graham, to fame.

“In many ways, I feel the Lord has much more in store for me. Yet whatever tomorrow holds — I’m completely at peace. Both Patricia and I are,” he wrote to his followers after the diagnosis. “As we look back, we praise the Lord. Fifty-seven years of marriage. How many places we’ve been. How many people we’ve reached with the Gospel.”

His radio programs, including the international Spanish-language “Luis Palau Responde,” are broadcast on 3,500 stations in 48 countries, and his Portland, Ore.-based Luis Palau Assn. organizes dozens of events each year on five continents.

The vastness of his evangelical empire, especially among Spanish-speaking faithful, long ago earned him the nickname the “Billy Graham of Latin America.” A decade ago, Palau began transferring day-to-day operations of that empire to three of his four sons, including one who is now an international evangelist in his own right.

“Everything is ready, so if the Lord wants to take me home … I’m ready,” he said in a January 2018 video to his followers. “I’ve preached about heaven … and I’ve often preached about the second coming and the resurrection, and now, it’s reality for me.”

Condolences came in from other faith leaders as news of Palau’s death spread.

“Luis Palau was the Apostle Paul to the Spanish-speaking world. He was a leader whom God used him to usher in the great revival that swept South and Central America, and that was just the beginning,” said the Rev. Johnnie Moore, president of the Congress of Christian Leaders. “Today, we lost a giant in Christian history.”

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SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, Gillian Flaccus