Luis Palau, the ‘Billy Graham of Latin America,’ Dies at 86

Luis Palau, the ‘Billy Graham of Latin America,’ Dies at 86
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Luis Palau, the ‘Billy Graham of Latin America,’ Dies at 86

Luis Palau, the ‘Billy Graham of Latin America,’ Dies at 86

Luis Palau, who rose from preaching on avenue corners in Argentina to turn into one of the most vital evangelical leaders in the technology following his mentor, Billy Graham, died on Thursday at his dwelling in Portland, Ore. He was 86.

His loss of life, from lung most cancers, was confirmed by the Luis Palau Affiliation, the ministry he based in 1978 with $100,000 in seed cash from Mr. Graham.

Although his headquarters have been in Oregon, Mr. Palau was typically referred to as “the Billy Graham of Latin America.” He addressed that area’s 120 million evangelicals by three each day radio exhibits (two in Spanish, one in English), cabinets of Spanish-language books and scores of revival crusades, through which he may spend every week, and thousands and thousands of {dollars}, preaching in a single metropolis. The Luis Palau Affiliation estimates that he preached to 30 million folks in 75 international locations.

“I don’t suppose it’s hyperbole to say that he was the premier evangelical in the Spanish-speaking world, perhaps in the complete world, second solely to Billy Graham,” the Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the Nationwide Latino Evangelical Coalition, mentioned in a cellphone interview.

But when Mr. Palau adopted in Mr. Graham’s footsteps, he didn’t copy them. As a substitute he charted a course between the conservative evangelism of his mentor and a extra socially acutely aware Christianity that discovered deep roots in communities of colour, each abroad and in the United States.

And whereas Mr. Graham’s occasions have been formal affairs, with choirs and lengthy sermons, Mr. Palau’s have been informal family-oriented festivals, with pop music and excessive sports activities demonstrations — he was a pioneer in welcoming Christian rock bands to his stage. In March 2001, he attracted 300,000 folks to BeachFest, a two-day pageant in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., aimed at college students on spring break.

Talking to the trustworthy, he might be chatty and self-deprecatingly humorous — one other distinction with the extra dignified Mr. Graham, and a departure from the stereotypical picture of an evangelical preacher — and people qualities helped him attain past his flock to transform thousands and thousands extra.

“He remained theologically orthodox with out being obnoxious, which isn’t one thing we evangelicals at all times do nicely,” Ed Stetzer, the govt director of the Wheaton Faculty Billy Graham Middle, mentioned in an interview.

Mr. Palau was particularly conscious of the widespread assumption that evangelicals are rabid right-wingers — one purpose, he mentioned, that he typically held his festivals in bastions of liberalism like New York Metropolis, the Pacific Northwest and New England. In 2001 he held a $2.5 million weeklong marketing campaign throughout Connecticut.

“In New England, whenever you say ‘Christian,’ they suppose ‘these maniacs on the proper,’” he informed The New York Occasions in 2001. “I really feel a problem in Connecticut. I need to present that we’re not maniacs however that we’re nicely educated. It is a rational religion, however a religion that fires you up.”

Luis Palau Jr. was born on Nov. 27, 1934, in Ingeniero Maschwitz, Argentina, a city about 30 miles north of Buenos Aires. His household spoke English and Spanish at dwelling. His father, a businessman, was the baby of Spanish immigrants; his mom, Matilde Balfour de Palau, got here from Scottish and French inventory.

His father died when Luis was 10, not lengthy after his mother and father had transformed to evangelical Christianity, and the household slid into poverty. Mr. Palau remembered his mom reducing items of bread and steak eight methods — one morsel apiece for her, him and every of his six siblings.

Luis transformed to the religion in 1947, after a summer-camp counselor had taken him beneath his wing. He was 18 when he heard Mr. Graham for the first time, on a shortwave radio, and the expertise impressed him to take up preaching.

After highschool he acquired a job at a financial institution in Córdoba, in western Argentina, and in his off hours he began sermonizing on avenue corners. He finally persuaded a neighborhood radio station to place him on the air.

At a Bible examine group he met Ray Stedman, a author and pastor from Palo Alto, Calif., who persuaded him to return to America to attend a seminary. In 1960 he enrolled in a one-year program at Multnomah College of the Bible (now Multnomah College) in Portland, Ore.

There he met Patricia Scofield, a former instructor and fellow scholar. They married in 1961. She survives him, together with their 4 sons, Andrew, Kevin, Keith and Stephen; his sisters, Matilde, Martha, Catalina, Margarita and Ruth; his brother, Jorge; and 12 grandchildren.

Returning to the Bay Space, Mr. Palau met Mr. Graham, who was making ready for a campaign in Fresno. Mr. Palau interned with him for six months, translating Mr. Graham’s sermons when he addressed Spanish-speaking audiences. Mr. Palau was ordained in 1963.

He continued to work as an interpreter for Mr. Graham for the subsequent 20 years, even after he turned a minister with Abroad Crusades (now referred to as OC Worldwide), a missionary group. Over the subsequent decade he and his household moved round Latin America, establishing church buildings and holding citywide campaigns much like Mr. Graham’s in the United States.

The Palaus returned to Portland in 1972, and he served as president of Abroad Crusades from 1976 till he based his personal ministry two years later.

Partly in deference to Mr. Graham’s dominant maintain on American evangelicals, Mr. Palau spent the first 20 years of his ministry centered abroad. Together with crusades in Latin America, he ventured to Europe and the Center East and was one of the few Western non secular figures allowed to evangelise in the Soviet Union.

Like Mr. Graham, he saved his crusades apolitical, in phrases of each his message and the folks he was prepared to work with. He befriended a liberal Argentine priest named Jorge Bergoglio lengthy earlier than he turned Pope Francis. However he additionally drew criticism for collaborating on a 1982 campaign in Guatemala with the dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, who had lately taken energy in a coup.

As Mr. Graham moved into semiretirement in the late Nineties, Mr. Palau turned to the United States. He additionally moved away from the Graham mannequin of crusades: He shortened his occasions to just some days and referred to as them festivals. Held in metropolis parks, they could characteristic skateboarding, household actions and Christian hip-hop; every night time he would preach for about 45 minutes, proper earlier than the predominant act.

Mr. Palau was extra than simply Mr. Graham’s successor in the United States. As a Latino, and with a extra socially engaged ministry, he was extra profitable in reaching the nation’s rising quantity of Latinos, who in the present day make up about 11 % of America’s evangelical inhabitants.

“His ministry was in a position to bridge gaps between whites and Latinos in a manner that suburban white ministers couldn’t, particularly in the Eighties and ’90s,” mentioned Darren Dochuk, a historian at the College of Notre Dame.

In 2015, Mr. Palau organized an occasion in New York referred to as CityFest. In preparation, he moved to the metropolis for 2 months, visiting church buildings, assembly with Mayor Invoice de Blasio and establishing community-service initiatives.

The pageant drew 60,000 folks to Central Park, the authorized restrict, and about 120,000 extra to occasions in locations like Occasions Sq., Radio Metropolis Music Corridor and Flushing Meadows in Queens.

“The world thinks, and I used to suppose, that New York is all secular,” Mr. Palau informed The Occasions. “There’s a starvation and a need to speak about religious issues, which stunned me about New York.”

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