The evangelist modeled his parenting on what he learned from his own parents.
By Mary May Larmoyeux
Editor’s Note: Evangelist Luis Palau and his son, Andrew, were interviewed when they were in Little Rock, Ark., for the October 2009 Central Arkansas CityFest. Luis talked about some parenting principles he applied in his family.
Luis Palau, world-renowned evangelist, was only 10 years old when his 34-year-old father died after a brief illness. Luis arrived at his dad’s bedside minutes after his father said, “I am going to be with Jesus which is better by far,” and took his last breath.
“You’re just a kid enjoying all of the good stuff,” Luis recalls, “and then suddenly your father is gone.”
Despite the great loss, Luis’ parents had given him a priceless gift during his first decade of life. They had modeled godliness in both their marriage and parenting. After Luis and his wife, Pat, had children, he told her, “I’m going to do what they did with me.”
He and Pat tried their best to follow Christ in all aspects of their lives. They raised their four sons according to the following principles:
Parental unity is paramount. Luis recalls his parents as unified. “I never saw one [of his parents] as pulling one way, and one the other.”
His mother and father complemented each another in their roles. Luis describes his mom as “the soft mother,” and his father as the one who disciplined the children. Luis’ dad gave him a few spankings, “and it did me a lot of good” he says.
When his own children were growing up, Luis traveled a great deal. He hoped that, even when he was away, his boys would recognize their parents had matching parenting principles. He wanted his children to see them in the same way he had seen his mom and dad—trying to work together, even when they were apart.
Children must individually decide if they will follow Christ. Although the first ten years of Luis’ life were molded by dedicated, Christian parents, he did not decide to follow Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior until he was 12. He and his wife raised their four boys with the expectation that they would all surrender to Christ, while realizing it was their children’s decision.
As the Palau children grew older, it became obvious that their son Andrew was not converted. “He was the nicest guy,” Luis says, “but he loved the world.” When Luis stood in front of a crowd, inviting people to follow Jesus Christ, he would silently pray, “Lord, when is Andrew coming home?”
Spend time in Scripture. “The family treated the Word of God with absolute reverence,” Luis says about his childhood home, “as you should, because the Word of God is the mind of God.”
He and his siblings memorized a lot of Scripture. Luis still has some small cards that were given to him more than 65 years ago in Sunday school, each with a small picture and a Bible verse. When he sees them tucked into various books he recalls how he would memorize verses as a boy to get a prize.
The Palaus adapted family devotions to their children’s unique temperaments. At first Luis tried to do devotions before school with all four of their boys. However, because their second oldest son, Andrew, functioned best in the evening, they made some changes. “I gave it a try for a few years,” Luis says, “but I knew Andrew’s mind was on the pillow while he sat waiting to catch the bus.”
Going to church is important. Church has always been important to the Palau family. Luis’ father and a British missionary planted nine churches in nine Argentina towns over nine summers. He remembers standing on street corners as a young boy, passing out literature about the new churches.
After his father’s death, Luis’ mother taught the children that people have imperfections, even at church. If he and his siblings started gossiping about some weakness in the church, Luis recalls his mother as saying, “We put our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. We don’t look to man, we look to Jesus Christ.”
When he and Pat had children, they went to church every Sunday, but, he says “We didn’t make a fetish of going to church.” There were times when Andrew did not want to go. “We did not make a big deal or an extreme fuss, because we realized his heart wasn’t in it.”
Luis is quick to add that the power for life is not in going to church. Instead, he says, the “power is in Jesus Christ who lives in you.”
Transparently model Christ. As a young child, Luis watched his parents not only proclaim Christ, but also follow His ways. After his father died, his mother never complained. “She trusted the Lord, and always had us pray.”
There were times when there was little food for the family. “And yet, we would always kneel down by the breakfast table and thank the Lord for what we had.” Sometimes there was one loaf of bread and one piece of meat to divide between seven hungry children. Luis says that his mother “just believed in the Lord. She believed the Word.”
God honored Luis’ mother’s faith by putting key people in his life. People like Ray Steadman, who brought him to the United States and encouraged him to go to seminary. Because of Steadman, Luis eventually was introduced to Billy Graham and became Graham’s Spanish interpreter.
When Luis began his own evangelistic team, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association gave him $100,000, “which would be like a purchasing power of probably a million dollars today,” Luis says. “And that helped us a lot, and we’ve always stayed in touch.”
Luis often traveled as an evangelist when his sons were young. “I thought if I am a reasonably decent example of what we preach and teach and believe and talk about, then they [his children] will not see duplicity or hypocrisy.”
The four Palau boys watched their parents live transparent lives and admit their weaknesses. Andrew says that was evidence to him of their humility.”They lived a faithful and godly life,” Andrew says, “and that example was always before me.”
Major on the majors. Luis and Pat’s hearts were grieved when they saw Andrew live a worldly life. Despite their disappointment, Luis says, “we showed him as much love I think as parents can ever show a guy.”
They knew it was important to stay in touch with Andrew but didn’t want to “hammer home the secondary things. The important things, Luis says, “are Jesus Christ and holiness and the Bible.”
They tried to love Andrew, Luis says, as God loves us: He never gives up.
Finally, like his three brothers, Andrew decided to follow Jesus Christ when he was 27 years. “He was converted at one of our festivals, [in 1993]” Luis says, “in Kingston, Jamaica.”
Today Andrew is married, has three children, and is following in his father’s footsteps … as a world evangelist.
When Luis Palau was just ten years old, he learned that life is short. Losing his young father at an early age caused him to focus on what really matters in life.
And to Luis and Pat Palau, following Jesus Christ is what matters most.