By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
WASHINGTON, USA (BosNewsLife)– “The end seems near” for international evangelist Luis Palau after a decision to stop all treatment for his incurable lung cancer and start hospice care, his family said.
The 86-year-old Palau, who preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to more than 1 billion people through media and evangelistic events, returned to his adopted U.S. home in Portland to spend his last days with family.
“As you know, Dad has been fighting lung cancer for more than three years,” his four sons, Kevin, Keith, Andrew, and Steve Palau, said in a statement obtained by Worthy News.
“For most of that time, he has felt great. It has been a blessing. Sadly, at the beginning of the year, that changed, and Dad took a turn for the worse”, they wrote on behalf of the “entire Palau family.”
He spent two weeks in the hospital in January, dealing with heart and lung issues, they explained. “Although the doctors thought they had stabilized his condition and we’re happy to send him home, he returned to the hospital last Friday.”
After meeting with doctors, “the decision was made to stop all treatment and start on hospice care,” the sons confirmed. “All the medications and treatments were proving to be too much for his body to handle. On Tuesday, Dad returned home where he can rest, be more comfortable, and spend time with family.”
The four men stressed that they “don’t know exactly how much time we have left with Dad, but the end seems near.” However, “He is in good spirits and not in pain, which is a blessing. His final wish is to be able to spend one-on-one time with each one of his grandchildren. That time has definitely been sweet.”
They also told supporters that “this is probably hard for you to hear. Please know that the entire family is so thankful for your encouragement, prayers, and friendship.”
Palau’s struggle with stage 4 lung cancer adds a final chapter to his life story – rising out of poverty to influence presidents and popes while evangelizing to one billion people. The Argentina-born Palau, who emigrated as a twenty-something to the United States, would eventually offer the benediction at the official prayer service for President Bill Clinton’s second inauguration in 1997.
He also prayed regularly with fellow Argentine priest Jorge Mario Bergoglio before he became Pope Francis. He reportedly called the pontiff a real friend of evangelical Christians when Bergoglio was elected pope in 2013.
Palau has spoken in person to 30 million people in 75 countries, including also China, Vietnam, the former Soviet Union, and even back in his birthplace in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Among them a then young reporter of what would become Worthy News. Palau met the teenager at the busy temporary newsroom of Amsterdam ‘86, the International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists called by then-evangelist Billy Graham.
Sitting on a desk with a jacket nonchalant over his shoulders between typewriters as if he were action hero Zorro, Palau seemed genuinely interested in individuals. However, the humble evangelist defended the sometimes criticized mass evangelism. “Here, I can speak with you about Christ in person. But there I can speak to many about Him at the same time,” he stressed.
Luis Palau festivals produced some of the largest audiences ever recorded in South Florida cities to South America. According to the Luis Palau Association, there were more than 1 million registered decisions for Jesus Christ during Palau’s events.
His largest single-day gathering was in Guatemala City in 1982, where an estimated 700,000 people came to hear him speak. He preached at what was billed his last evangelistic event in Madrid, Spain, in June 2019.
Millions heard his radio broadcasts in both English and Spanish on 3,500 radio outlets in 48 countries, his organization said. He also authored nearly 50 books, contributed articles on faith issues to countless publications, and counseled business leaders, political leaders, and heads of state worldwide.
Additionally, Palau authorized a biopic about his life, “Palau the Movie,” in April 2019. Soon after, he published a spiritual memoir called “Palau: A Life on Fire.” It serves as an homage to the people who poured into his spiritual wellbeing, including his parents; his wife, Pat; his sons; and his friend and mentor, Billy Graham.
“I’ve always honored them publicly,” he explained to broadcaster CBN News. “But to do it in writing so that other believers will say, ‘God could use me in the life of a young fellow or young girl who feels called to evangelize.’ I could be a blessing to this person.”
He recently made clear that after 50 years of proclaiming the Gospel worldwide, he has few regrets. “The only sad thing is leaving my wife and my kids and the team and a few of my best friends,” he explained around his 85th birthday. “But really, I’m ready to go. I have the peace of the Lord.”
He also said it was time to step aside and allow his sons to take up the “ministry mantles without “relinquishing love and caring for my sons.”
Palau added: “You got to make room for the next generation to freely minister – freely do. “Although you think, ‘Ok, we’ve transitioned.’ Kevin is the president [and] Andrew is the better-known evangelist. But are you still in the way? And I’ve come to realize I am somewhat in the way.”
That wasn’t what his sons seemed to think when they distributed Friday’s emotionally charged statement. “We’re taking as much time as possible with Dad each day to read the emails and notes we receive,” they wrote. “Thank you for your love and prayers. We are all at peace. We serve a good God who loves us beyond compare.”