At 5 feet 7 inches, Palau manages to be dashing -- wavy silvery-white hair, an elegant charcoal suit -- and moves like a prizefighter around his lectern. Back and forth, arms jabbing into the air. Bold pronouncements trail off into self-deprecating tangents, which he delivers in a gravelly continental accent shaped by his European grandparents, Argentine upbringing and British schoolmasters.

 

An insatiable reader, he salts the straight-ahead anecdotes in his sermons and 45 books with references to Tolstoy, Marx, Bob Dylan, the Wall Street Journal and the Bible. Reading is his only hobby.

 

"I will remember no more," he belts out, quoting the New Testament and drawing out the "more" as he arcs one arm through the air between him and the congregation. The verse, from Hebrews, refers to God's promise to wipe away sin and guilt. Then comes the take-home message, the heart of Palau's case.

 

"If you don't know (Jesus), you better hurry and give him your life quick, before something really bad happens to you," he says. "If you don't have the son of God living in you, then you don't have eternal life. Make a decision and settle it once and for all."

 

Everything for Palau is about life and death -- but he emphasizes life, what he calls the good news of Christianity. He downshifts a bit at home, a two-story of gray wood and faded brick in an affluent, hilly neighborhood near Portland.

 

Three of the Palaus' four grown sons live within four miles of their parents. At a recent family gathering, seven grandchildren scrambled across the pale hardwood floors. A hymnal rested on a piano, beside a copy of Hank Williams' "Cold, Cold Heart."

 

Out on the back deck, Palau is king. The meal is steak, preferably from the United States. Argentines are better cooks, he says, but U.S. cattle are better fed.

 

"Luis thinks chicken is an insult," says his wife, Pat, 66, half-joking. To the barbecue? "To the process, and to life in general."

 

Pat, raised in Beaverton, was a kindergarten teacher studying to become an overseas missionary when she met Palau at Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, now Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary.

 

After their marriage, the couple spent eight years as missionaries in Colombia and Mexico before they returned to Oregon to build Palau's ministry.

 

These days, three of his sons work for the Luis Palau Evangelical Association. The youngest teaches fourth grade in Beaverton.