After a three-year battle with stage-4 lung cancer, Luis Palau died on March 11 at home in Portland, Ore. Palau, commonly referred to as “the Billy Graham of Latin America,” served as an interpreter for Graham’s events before launching his own international evangelism ministry. He is survived by his wife and four sons, as well as 12 grandchildren.
Palau’s ministry extended to Wheaton as well after sons, Kevin ‘85 and Stephen ‘92, attended for their undergraduate education. Palau founded the “Say Yes, Chicago” crusades in South Side neighborhoods to train white and Black pastors, focusing on unity and diversity. Palau also frequently partnered with the Billy Graham Center. He spoke at the Amplify Evangelism Conference hosted by the BGC multiple times over the past decade, highlighting the importance of apologetics and cross-cultural ministry.
Palau’s passion for preaching started after hearing one of Graham’s radio sermons. After finishing a biblical studies degree at Multnomah College in Ore., Palau volunteered as a Spanish translator for Graham’s crusades in Calif. He finally met his hero at a team breakfast in July 1962 where Graham asked, “What are you going to do with your life?” Palau shared his own vision to take Graham’s own evangelistic method to Latin America. Graham invited him to join the crusade as a Spanish translator. Throughout the 1960s, Palau partnered with Graham, and then in the 1970s, he branched out to form his own ministry with regular gospel broadcasts over radio and crusades in Latin America.
“I have no regret in pouring out my years, from the time I was a boy, for the sake of the Good News,” Palau wrote in his 2019 autobiography. “If I was given a thousand lifetimes, I would dedicate them all to the same calling.”
His ministry lasted for 65 years and reached over 1 billion people in more than 80 countries. In 1978, he founded the Luis Palau Association, through which he led over 500 evangelistic campaigns throughout South America and eventually throughout the world, with headquarters in Portland, Ore., as well as London and Buenos Aires. He also wrote numerous books about prayer, sharing the gospel and apologetics.
“Luis emphasized that every Christian should represent Christ in their workplaces, families and communities,” said Ed Stetzer, Director of the Billy Graham Center on Palau’s life and legacy. “He loved liberal arts context, knowing that everyday people will be the ones who share the gospel best.”