01 August 2014
A Legacy of Impact in Latin America
In 1937, a British executive working as a missionary stopped in a small village in the Buenos Aires province called Ingenrio-Maschwitz. The village was small and unassuming, with only one small church that was rarely occupied. Yet, it held great promise for his efforts.
Among his first acquaintances was a woman named Matilde Palau. She was captivated by the missionary’s words about Jesus Christ and gave her life to the Lord. She convinced her husband Luis, a well-respected businessman in the community, to come listen to the missionary with her. Luis followed reluctantly, but when he heard the Gospel for the first time, he was convinced and gave his life to Jesus as well.
Little did the missionary know that when he counted Matilde and Luis Palau Sr. among his first converts that he had also planted the early seeds of the Gospel in their son Luis.
Some of Luis Palau’s first evangelistic efforts took place in his small hometown alongside his father Luis Sr., who was determined to share the Good News across the country. A young Luis rode in the back of his father’s truck into neighboring towns with folded evangelistic tracts to pass around, and they shared the Good News on the street corners with anyone who was willing to listen.
When Luis Sr. passed away, Luis took on his father’s dream and devoted his life to spreading the Gospel in Argentina and around the world.
Years later, Luis’ first official Latin American campaign (and the first for his ministry) took place in Bogata, Colombia in 1966. Twenty thousand people gathered in Bolivar Square, many of them holding banners and signs with the words “Jesus Saves” emblazoned across the front. Luis later called it a “historic moment for . . . all of Latin America.”
Yet, it was only the beginning of what has become a legacy of impact in Latin America. Luis Palau is a household name throughout the region. He has shared the Gospel—and continues to share—with millions of people throughout the Spanish-speaking world through festivals, crusades, and media campaigns. His Spanish radio programs are heard daily on stations in more than 40 countries.
Yet, the most powerful testimony of Luis’ impact across the Spanish-speaking world is not in the numbers, but in the stories.
Stories like that of Paul Goring, who recalls a young woman, depressed over the recent death of a younger sibling, and her older brother coming to faith at the Luis Palau crusade in 1968 in Colombia. In the following years, more than 40 members of their extended family received Jesus Christ, several of whom became leaders in their respective congregations and in various Christian ministries.
Stories like that of Raul Vargas, who preaches each Sunday at a church called Iglesia Oasis de Experanza in Costa Rica. More than 10,000 people flood the doors each week to hear him teach. He spent the first two decades of his life apart from Jesus, growing up in a home of poverty, sadness, and problems. While walking home from work, he read an advertisement: “Come and hear Luis Palau today!” It was at Luis Palau’s crusade in 1972 that Vargas gave his life to the Lord, going on to lead not only his entire extended family to Christ but also thousands across Costa Rica through his ministry.
Stories like that of Santiago Hidalgo, whose journey to faith took a pivotal turn three years after Raul Vargas’ conversion and several thousand miles south. He was finishing up his compulsory military service as part of the Air Force of Peru when he heard the Gospel for the first time across the radio air waves through “Cruzada con Luis Palau.” He accepted the Lord on the spot in 1975. Years later, in 1991, he would go on to pastor his own church and preach the Gospel in Peru.
Stories like that of Jose Henriquez, who requested biblical audio messages from Luis Palau while trapped 2,300 feet below the earth’s surface in the 2010 Chilean mining accident. He was known as “the pastor” to 33 men who were trapped for 69 days, and led 22 men to Christ throughout the ordeal. He joined Luis and shared his testimony at the 2010 Chile campaign, helping to lead thousands to Christ at the festival.
Stories of young children gathered around their grandmother’s transistor radio to hear one of Luis’ radio programs, some of them hearing the Gospel for the very first time. Stories of fathers and mothers accepting the Lord and subsequently leading entire families to Christ. Stories of reconciliation and redemption that are a direct result of the transformative power of the Gospel.
These stories are a testament to Luis Palau’s legacy of impact in Latin America, which only continues to multiply with each new generation of believers that finds its way to faith in Jesus through the ministry.
These stories are of even greater testimony to the captivating nature of the Good News, and its capacity to transform broken lives and instill hope into those who have found little to believe in.