Evangelist Luis Palau, who played an influential role in Christian evangelism for 65 years, died early Thursday following a three-year battle with lung cancer.
A statement released by the Luis Palau Association said he died peacefully at his home in Portland, Oregon, at the age of 86.
He spent the early years of his Christian ministry as an intern with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, serving as a translator for Graham, who later helped Palau begin his own organization.
Palau had a special concern for his home country of Argentina and Latin America. He had two daily radio programs in Spanish, “Cruzada con Luis Palau” and “Luis Palau Responde.”
His message spread far beyond, however, and he held more than 500 evangelistic campaigns, festivals and rallies in more than 80 nations, including New York City, Buenos Aires, London, Madrid, Singapore, Hong Kong and Cairo.
Palau’s family also issued a statement.
“He died suddenly and very peacefully, just as he had hoped. Mom and the family are doing well,” the family said. “It’s too early for details on a memorial service but we plan to have a small, private service here in Portland that will be streamed online to honor Dad’s life and the Lord. We’ll be sure to share details soon.”
During the 1970s and 1980s, Palau was one of the few foreign preachers allowed to hold religious events in the Soviet Union. When the Iron Curtain came down, he was among the first to hold open-air stadium campaigns there.
Other efforts included a training program, extensive television outreaches and a digital evangelism program.
He published dozens of books and booklets throughout his lifetime. His most well-known include “God is Relevant,” “¿Con quién me casaré?” (“Whom Shall I Marry?”), “Where is God When Bad Things Happen?” and “Say Yes!”
His “Starting Point Study Bible” was a 2003 Gold Medallion finalist for best Bible of the year.
He served as president of OC International and on the boards of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Dallas Theological Seminary and Multnomah University.
He held honorary doctorates from Wheaton College and the Talbot School of Theology.
In 2019, Palau published “Palau: A Life on Fire,” a biography beginning with his life on the streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
For the past several years, Palau’s sons have run the day-to-day operations of the ministry.
“I have no regret in pouring out my years, from the time I was a boy, for the sake of the Good News. If I was given a thousand lifetimes, I would dedicate them all to the same calling,” he once said.
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