Andrew Palau
Handout photo
Andrew Palau

The prodigal Palau


The current issue of WORLD magazine features a Q&A with evangelist Luis Palau and his sons Kevin and Andrew. We didn’t have space in the print version of our interview for Andrew Palau to tell his story, so here are some of his comments.

Andrew, you’re known as the prodigal: Why did you rebel against your family? The Bible tells us we’re all without excuse, but maybe me more than most, because my parents were faithful to me and my brothers, and we had a great church. I didn’t see a lot of hypocrisy. Despite those blessings, from the youngest age I had a rebellious heart. I loved to party and turn my back on the way of my family and the things of God.

But you and your parents stayed in contact … I didn’t go through the stereotypical “I hate God. I hate religion; you can’t shove it down my throat” confrontation with my parents. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite, but I didn’t want to cause trouble either. So at church and in the family I tried to fly under the radar while becoming a very selfish, self-centered, punk kid.

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Lots of drugs? Alcohol first, early, then drugs. Marijuana’s the number one cash crop in the state of Oregon, and we could get a bag of dope anywhere. Sneaking out of the house—I didn’t want to cause trouble, didn’t want to trouble my parents, but I was determined to do exactly and only what I wanted to do. I went to Biola [University] first and ended up at the University of Oregon, where I went downhill fast, with all the other drugs and the relationships that go along with that lifestyle. I was going into this pit.

Then five years in Boston. Five years sort working my way up the corporate ladder. Slowed down partying a little bit, not for spiritual reasons but because I had to get up and go to work in the morning. Nothing had changed in my heart, except for that growing sense that “this is just not working out.”

Your parents kept praying for you … They loved me and tried various ways. Dad sent me letters and ultimately, when I was 27, in 1993, they invited me to Kingston, Jamaica, where they were having a festival. I didn’t really want to go—been to a few festivals before, not my idea of a holiday— but I knew I could get some sun, some beer, and some marlin fishing. I knew how to handle this Christian thing and I loved to be with my family: They were so genuinely kind to me, and I loved them.

What happened? I went there and heard the Good News and the testimony of some other young people who had recently radically been transformed by the gospel. It shook me up. One guy in particular, who’s now my brother-in-law—I ended up marrying a Jamaican woman—took me fishing. He had recently come to faith, and he was just like me, a partying fool, but something had happened. I was listening to him testifying, for the first time in some cases, to some family members, and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if that was possible for me? Wouldn’t that be amazing?” The Holy Spirit began to get—I got into that dark night of the soul for a week. On the last night I heard the gospel presented, and I responded to say, “Yes, this is the direction I want to go.” It was the beginning of change.”

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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