When the men who end up at Revolution Ministries in Tolleson, Arizona, hear from Assemblies of God pastor Raul O. Salgado, they’re getting a message from someone who’s been in their shoes.
Salgado, 42, is a former gang member and recovering alcoholic who began drinking at age 13. His rough life in the Grand Canyon State could have led him to an early grave. God intervened instead.
Although he came from a Christian family, Salgado says many of his cousins lived as alcoholic gang members.
“I was brought into that atmosphere, so I was involved with the gangs at a very young age,” he says. “For about seven years, I was a severe alcoholic.”
The death of his grandmother in 2000 prompted Salgado to re-evaluate his life. He went to a church outreach and had an encounter with Christ.
“God put a burden in my heart to reach men,” Salgado says. “I started going to prisons, working in the projects, rescuing men from the street.”
Escaping gang life proved to be a challenge, but Salgado had an advantage many others didn’t.
“I was able to break out because most of the gang members were my relatives,” Salgado says. “It was just God’s grace.”
He said Revolution’s men’s rehabilitation program has helped over 300 men in the past six years. Men who come through the program’s doors quickly realize Salgado really understands their situation.
“We’ve had the same weaknesses,” Salgado says of his former life and his program’s current clients. “I know the way they think, the way they act, because I was there.”
Salgado says his salvation testimony serves as a bridge.
“They know I do this out of a grateful heart for what God did with me,” he says.
Working with men in recovery requires patience and the love of Christ, according to Salgado. He says there have been dramatic healings, including one man who experienced a reversal of an AIDS diagnosis.
“The Lord healed him in one of our services, delivered him from homosexuality, and delivered him from being HIV-positive,” Salgado says. Two and one-half years later, the man still tests negative for the virus.
Salgado owned and operated an air conditioning business for 17 years. He worked as a bivocational pastor during the first 18 months of Revolution’s operations, but sold the business and now is in ministry full time. His wife, Nora, 45, has her own cleaning business, but also participates in the ministry.
Daughter Martha, 24, is part of the church’s worship team and is a translator for the services, in which Raul preaches in Spanish. Son Thomas, 19, is worship director. Ruby, 22, attends services at Revolution, while 23-year-old Ruth, who attends Green City College, worships at a campus church there.
Salgado and his team are renovating a 25,000-square-foot worship center that will seat 800 and also house the men’s ministry.