Died: Luis Palau, Who Preached the Gospel from Portland to Latin America and Beyond

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The Argentine-born evangelist rose from Billy Graham translator to lead millions from more than 80 countries to make decisions to follow Jesus.

Evangelist Luis Palau has died at age 86 of lung cancer. An immigrant from Argentina who made his home in the United States, Palau became one of Billy Graham’s most prominent successors and shared the gospel in more than 80 countries around the world. His ministry led millions of individuals to make personal decisions to follow Jesus.

Palau preached the gospel to heads of state in Latin America and as the Iron Curtain fell in the USSR, his crusades bringing together a diverse array of Christians, including Protestants, Orthodox, and Catholics. As a young man, Palau interpreted for Graham, who later helped fund Palau’s evangelism organization when it officially started in 1978.

Palau began evangelizing during a historic moment for Latin American evangelicalism. Pentecostalism had first arrived in the region in the early 1900s. By the 1960s and ’70s, Ecuador’s Rene Padilla and Peru’s Samuel Escobar began arguing for misión integral (comprehensive mission), challenging an evangelicalism that they believed too narrowly focused on individual personal salvation at the expense of larger social concerns. Palau did not follow this trajectory. His writings in Spanish critiqued liberation theology, and his ministry focused on conversions. Much of his later work, however, sought to actively engage the community, especially in his home city of Portland, Oregon.

“Palau had a great way of preaching the gospel in an accessible manner and planting spiritual priorities aimed toward personal salvation in Christ, but he also had a certain social awareness,” said Notre Dame history professor Darren Dochuk. “If not a full-fledged social gospel, a message nevertheless that was aware of social …

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