Like all people, I had to decide for myself whether or not I was going to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My parents had hoped and prayed that I would make this decision as a child, but I did not. It took 27 years for me to finally decide for myself.
I grew up in a great Christian home. Mom and Dad loved me and were truly gentle parents. We went to a great church. Regardless of the tremendous blessings in my life, I wanted what the world had to offer. Although my father, international evangelist Luis Palau, preached to millions, he had no words that could humanly change my heart.
When I was about 12 or 13 years old, a friend’s older siblings introduced me to stuff that even the wilder kids weren’t doing. As time went on I began building a reputation of being the wildest and craziest kid around. I just loved to party … and drink … and smoke marijuana, which some say is the biggest cash crop in my home state of Oregon.
When my parents learned what I was doing, they couldn’t believe it. They were wise because they sought biblical counsel, and they understood that they could not convince me to live a godly lifestyle. They decided that the only thing they could do was to trust the Lord, model faith in the midst of trying circumstances, and do their best to live lives filled with the joy of the Lord.
It was very convicting as I watched them release me to God. “It’s not our responsibility,” they told me. “We love you. We’ve done our best, but we trust the Lord. … The Holy Spirit is the One who convicts of sin and unrighteousness.”
Dad and Mom kept praying for me; I kept partying.
Something was missing
By the time I attended the University of Oregon, I blended right in with my fraternity buddies. On the outside it seemed like I was a happy guy and could juggle classes, work, and the party life. But on the inside I was miserable.
I felt guilty about so many of the poor choices I had made because they were diametrically opposed to the way that I had been brought up. It seemed like there was a void in my life—that something was missing. Something that relationships, and drugs, and wild parties just couldn’t fill.
A sense of emptiness continued, even after I graduated from college and began working in Boston. I kept partying, felt no peace, and drank to hide the pain inside. I felt like I was sinking into the depths of despair. I would look into a mirror and ask myself, What really matters? Where can I go?
At that point, it was as though God tapped me on the shoulder and said, Andrew, look at your parents’ example. What does your dad care about most?
I couldn’t get away from the answer. The center of Dad’s life is the gospel. He had preached about it around the world, and had written dozens of books. Books I had never read, even though I was an English literature major.
Finally, not knowing where to turn, I pulled Dad’s book Say Yes! How to Renew Your Spiritual Passion off of the shelf and actually read it. Although I was convinced that what Dad wrote about Jesus Christ was true, my heart was still not convicted.
Profession of faith
Six months after I read Say Yes! Dad invited me to a Palau outreach in Jamaica. While I had absolutely no interest in going to an evangelistic gathering, I reasoned, I love my folks. I love to travel. And I love to fish. And, then, to make the invitation even more enticing, it was freezing at the time where I lived (Boston). The thought of traveling to warm Jamaica was quite appealing.
I was 27 years old when I listened to Dad tell the Jamaican crowd about the difference that Jesus Christ makes in a life. I had heard that message hundreds of times before, but for the first time I sincerely wanted that difference. I made a profession of faith that day.
Despite my profession of faith and getting involved in Bible study, I did not feel a real sense of intimacy with the Lord. I’d ask Him, Why is this not working for me? I’m really sincere.
And then the Lord mercifully opened up my eyes to see what was keeping me from Him in an intimate way. I had never verbally confessed my sin. I just wanted it to go away. I finally apologized to my parents for the many ways that I had gone against not only their teaching, but also the Lord’s. It was a radical, 180-degree turnaround for me—a transformational moment.
Working all things for good
What has happened in the last 14 years can only be attributed to the Lord’s amazing grace. I am following in Dad’s footsteps as a world evangelist and teacher. Me, the kid who once wanted the world much more than Jesus Christ.
In my life, I’ve seen God work out His promise of Romans 8:28, that He causes “all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” For example, I went to a lot performances of the rock band Grateful Dead before I followed Christ. Their model was festival and open air, and free flowing multi-generational. When the Palau Association wanted to reach large cities for Christ, I remembered my Grateful Dead days. My brother Kevin and I imagined a gathering far different from the crusade model for evangelism. We dreamed of a party that would contain not only the gospel, but also Christian music. We told Dad, “Let’s go to a park, let’s go to a beach, let’s shut down the city streets … and proclaim Jesus Christ.”
In 1999, our dream came true. Our first two festivals were held in Portland, Oregon. Now our “CityFests”—with two full days of live concerts, a children’s area, live action sports demos, gospel presentations, and more—have been held in cities across America.
Today I present the gospel around the world, just like Dad. And God has used me to direct festivals in not only the United States, but also in Africa, Romania, Egypt, Mexico, India, and even Jamaica—the place where the Lord first opened my heart to His truth.
I was recently telling my personal story of salvation in Africa. The people were interested in the fact that Luis Palau’s son didn’t know the Lord. In reality, my story is not that unusual. Every generation has to be called to repentance and receive the Lord.
An eternal decision
Ever since I started walking with Christ, I’ve never tired of telling my story. I think one of the main things that every believer has to realize is: God rescued me. And that is so humbling.
Whether I look across a sea of a 100,000 faces, or peer into the eyes of one searching 12-year-old boy, I know that everybody has to individually decide: Will I follow Jesus Christ?
Foundationally, every single person has to be born again. There is no value in your culture, or your tribe, or your family in terms of eternity. It’s a personal decision that has to be made by all.
Even by the son of Luis Palau.
Used with permission. Copyright © 2010. All rights reserved.