Memorial Service: ‘Palau Called Home But Legacy Remains’
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
PORTLAND, USA (BosNewsLife)– An emotionally charged private memorial service was held Saturday, March 20, in honor of world-renowned evangelist Luis Palau. He passed away this month after losing his battle against lung cancer at age 86, leaving behind an evangelism legacy that impacted millions’ lives.
The service in Palau’s hometown of Portland in Oregon was live-streamed online and relatively small due to restrictions linked to the coronavirus pandemic. “Luis received the goal of his entire life, which was to see Jesus face to face,” said Rick McKinley, the lead pastor of the evangelical Imago del Community congregation in Portland. He told the audience that the memorial service was also a “celebration” of the life and work of Luis Palau. That celebration included a powerful performance by the Gospel choir from Salem Baptist Church of Chicago, who accompanied Palau in different countries.
Palau’s human remains were laid to rest in a smaller, separate ceremony. The evangelist, who preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to more than 1 billion people through media and evangelistic events, was a close friend of the late preacher, Billy Graham. Palau spoke in person to 30 million people in 75 countries. That included countries such as China, Vietnam, the former Soviet Union, where Christians were persecuted, and even back in his birthplace in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Singer and songwriter Matt Redman recalled how he came to faith in Jesus Christ through Luis Palau’s work. “It started in a London soccer stadium in 1984. I was a 10-year-old boy who lost his father a few years before. And I heard this Argentinian firebolt preacher. And
I heard him talking about the heart of the Gospel and a loving Father in heaven. For me, it resonated so strongly that I became a Christian that night.”
He added that some 15 years later, he met Palau and his family to be involved in evangelistic events. “I later remember him in Central Park and New York City, and I saw the same passion and the same love for his Savior.” Referring to Apostle Paul’s words in the Bible, Redman said that most things in the world fade away, but His grace and strength remain. Despite his cancer, Palau preached till the end. “This was the work of the Holy Spirit.”
Redman specially wrote a song about the Palau journey to “when we reach our Home at last,” with photos of the evangelist and his family and life superimposed on a video screen.
EVANGELISM IN HOSPITAL
Though frail, even in the hospital, Palau made it a point to evangelize and share his faith in Christ with others, recalled his oldest son Kevin Palau. “As Dad started to decline, he spent for the first time in his life 15 days in the hospital. Only Mum could see him because of COVID-19, but we kept hearing rumors of the impact he had.”
He said a surgeon recalled how he and another staff member saw a nurse on the floor crying. “When they asked her what is wrong, she said: ‘I had just an amazing conversation with a patient at room 838.’ She didn’t know who this guy was. The nurse said that “the patient” asked her all about her life. She said she found telling him everything about herself. Then he [Luis Palau] said: “I want you to go to heaven with me.” Kevin Palau wasn’t surprised about that story. “That was Dad.”
While facing imminent death on earth, he prepared writings on Heaven culminating in a freely available e-book “My Life in Seven Words” reflecting on the evangelist’s life and relationship with God.
Palau’s struggle with stage 4 lung cancer was a final chapter to his life story – rising out of poverty to influence presidents and popes while evangelizing worldwide. 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.
While known in the United States, Palau’s impact in Latin America and the Spanish world was even more significant. But he remained humble, recalled Rubén Proietti, Palau’s long-time festival director. “I had the privilege to work more than 43 years with him. Palau said: ‘What does it mean if they take a photo of me with the president, but I have not spoken to him about Christ? What am I going to say to the Lord?’.”
Luis Palau 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.
However, an emotional Andrew Palau said his father had mixed feelings about the memorial service: “He said: ‘Don’t make it a big deal. But if you do, point them to Jesus.’ He also made clear what he wanted on his headstone: “Here lies Luis Palau. He wasn’t perfect, but he sure loved Jesus.”