Despite his Argentine roots, evangelist Luis Palau has not reached out explicitly to Latinos in the United States--until now. The Say Yes Chicago campaign marked a new stage in Palau's ministry of systematically reaching out to this country's Spanish-speaking population.
"I did not want people saying, 'Oh good, now the Latinos have their own evangelist,' " Palau says in explaining his self-imposed moratorium on Spanish-language U.S. crusades. Palau, who in preaching to 11 million people around the globe has struggled to shed the moniker of the "Latino Billy Graham," says that he wants to be "a 'Billy Graham' for the whole world."
Given that Latinos are a rapidly growing segment within evangelicalism, the bilingual and bicultural Palau seems well positioned.
In Chicago, the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association bought air time for 20 nights on a one-hour call-in show on a local Spanish television affiliate, held Spanish-language meetings in the suburbs, conducted four Spanish-language rallies at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) Pavilion, and made sure all literature was available in Spanish. A total of 166 Latino churches actively participated in the crusade.
"I really believe that God has brought the Latino to this country to bring revival to it," Palau told CT.
"Latinos are in the best position to get the gospel message out to this country because of our high commitment to the family and because Hispanics have a sense of abandon to the gospel," Palau says. "I just mention a Bible verse and they break into applause!" At the UIC Pavilion rallies, Palau threw out the first part of a Bible verse and the audience roared back the rest of it.
Palau also believes Latinos can bridge polarized white and black communities. "We have not isolated ourselves like the whites have from the city's problems, and we don't have the same historical hurts that the African-American community has," he says.
"The Latino surge into evangelicalism will also change the evangelical church itself," says Palau. "The mainstream evangelical church has become too comfortable in this culture. It has lost its fire, its sense of conviction of right and wrong."
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