International evangelical pastor Luis Palau dies at 86

FILE - In this March 20, 2003 file photo Argentinian evangelist Luis Palau, left, discusses preparation's for BeachFest, his multi-media Christian revival, with assistant Fred Conklin as they stroll Fort Lauderdale Beach, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Palau, an evangelical pastor who was born in Argentina and went on to work as Billy Graham's Spanish interpreter before establishing his own international ministry, died Thursday, March 11, 2021, in Portland, Ore. He was 86. (AP Photo/Marianne Armshaw, File)
FILE - In this March 20, 2003 file photo Argentinian evangelist Luis Palau, left, discusses preparation's for BeachFest, his multi-media Christian revival, with assistant Fred Conklin as they stroll Fort Lauderdale Beach, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Palau, an evangelical pastor who was born in Argentina and went on to work as Billy Graham's Spanish interpreter before establishing his own international ministry, died Thursday, March 11, 2021, in Portland, Ore. He was 86. (AP Photo/Marianne Armshaw, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

PORTLAND, Ore. – Luis Palau, an evangelical pastor who was born in Argentina and went on to work with Billy Graham before establishing his own powerhouse international ministry, died Thursday. He was 86.

The Luis Palau Association said he died at his home in Portland, Oregon. He had announced in January 2018 that he had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

“It is with a mixture of sadness and joy that we share with you that Dad passed away early this morning. He died suddenly and very peacefully, just as he had hoped,” his family said in a statement Thursday. “This is hard news, but Luis is experiencing the beauty of the Lord face to face.”

Born to an affluent family in Buenos Aires, Palau rose from obscurity to become one of the most well-known international Christian evangelists. Over a career that spanned more than half a century, he authored 50 books and addressed 30 million people in 75 countries at evangelical “festivals” that were his modern-day take on the more traditional crusades that boosted his mentor and idol, Graham, to fame.

“In many ways, I feel the Lord has much more in store for me. Yet whatever tomorrow holds — I’m completely at peace. Both Patricia and I are," he wrote to his followers after the diagnosis. “As we look back, we praise the Lord. Fifty-seven years of marriage. How many places we’ve been. How many people we’ve reached with the Gospel.”

His radio programs, including the international Spanish-language “Luis Palau Responde,” are broadcast on 3,500 stations in 48 countries, and his Portland-based Luis Palau Association organizes dozens of events each year on five continents.

The vastness of his evangelical empire, especially among Spanish-speaking faithful, long ago earned him the nickname the “Billy Graham of Latin America.” A decade ago, Palau began transferring day-to-day operations of that empire to three of his four sons, including one who is now an international evangelist in his own right.

“Everything is ready, so if the Lord wants to take me home ... I’m ready,” he said in a January 2018 video to his followers. “I’ve preached about heaven ... and I’ve often preached about the second coming and the resurrection, and now, it’s reality for me.”