Dante Salgado: ‘Will Work for Ministry’

By: Major Frank Duracher

We’ve all seen someone standing at an intersection holding a cardboard sign: “Will Work for Food.”

Far from that desperation, Dante Salgado spent some eight summers of his young adult life with one proposition for The Salvation Army: “Will Work For Ministry.”

And so, for nearly a decade, some lucky Texas divisional youth secretary did not have to worry about keeping the salary in the camp budget for at least one camp staff position. Salgado was willing to do it for free!

He could do it only because he worked all year at his regular job, saving his money so he could survive the summer months, before heading to Camp Hoblitzelle in Midlothian, Texas.

More admirable was the fact that he had to find a new job each autumn. It’s hard to keep a job that would allow him to be absent for three months a year.

His first volunteer effort was on the Music Conservatory staff, then as a cabin counselor, followed by three years as head male counselor for the conservatory campers, The last few summers, he’s been head counselor for boys attending the larger divisional camps.

“The Army’s camping program is that important to me!” Salgado said. “I volunteered because this is not a job—it’s a ministry. There’s nothing like seeing the faces of campers whose lives have been touched by Jesus Christ during the week or so they’ve been with us.”

Back then, Salgado soldiered at the Houston Temple Corps. He attended the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston in pursuit of a degree in education with a concentration in math studies. But he switched to a business major in the hopes he would eventually be accepted as a cadet at the Evangeline Booth College.

He changed majors because he reasoned a business degree would serve a Salvation Army officer better than a teaching certificate in mathematics. Salgado is also an accomplished musician—something else he offers as a lifelong Salvationist.

“I wanted to play football in high school as a sophomore, but my parents didn’t want me getting hurt, so I joined the marching band,” he said.

Even then, God was at work preparing Salgado’s life for a career of service. Next to music, working at camp is closest to his heart.

“There is nothing like seeing the faces of campers who have had an encounter with Jesus Christ during their time at camp,” Salgado said. “By the time they leave to go home, you can see a definite difference in them over when they arrived.”

Salgado has many great memories of his childhood days as a camper. He finally gave his heart to Christ at a Youth Councils in the Texas Division, and he soon realized God calling him to full-time ministry.

“I was saved when I was 16 at camp Hoblitzelle during Youth Councils in 2002 and received my call to officership in 2003 on the way back from Youth Councils. I learned more about what being saved meant during my two summers at the Texas music conservatory,” he said.

After graduating from high school, Salgado aged out of camp, but he wanted to go back.

“I wanted to minister to others the way Phillip Burn and Nick Simmons-Smith did to me. Unfortunately, I was unable to work due to being brought illegally to this country when I was a child.”

At the time, Philip was divisional music director. Salgado said he asked to volunteer, “and he said, absolutely. He was a bit shocked I would volunteer for a job he would normally have a hard time filling with a paid employee. After the first summer, I knew this was where God wanted me, and I was reassured by the support of my corps officers when camp season began.”

Sticking close to his plan, Cadet Dante Salgado began his two-year training period at the EBC as a member of the Messengers of Light Session (2014- 2016).

“I knew I would eventually end up at the EBC. I had to wait 10 years due to my immigration situation. Being able to minister to campers and staff was a reassurance of God’s faithfulness. I knew full-time ministry was where my life was leading, but during those years, my ministry was summer camp.

“It was not an easy journey. I worked alongside different accepted candidates during my summers. Many had a similar story: ‘I ran from my calling. I wanted to do something else, but God did not let me go.’”

Ironically, here Dante was, willing to go to training and couldn’t because he was born in a different country. At one point, he even investigated going to the training college in Mexico.

“Thankfully, I listen to God. I knew what he had stored for me was way better than what I could imagine,” Salgado said. “The summers I spent as a volunteer on staff at camp helped prepare me for officership. Without the experience I gained from camp, I would have failed during my time at the EBC.”

Now that he’s a commissioned and ordained Salvation Army officer, Lieutenant Dante Salgado still focuses like a laser on camp ministry. Today, he and his wife Lieutenant Tiffany Salgado are corps officers at San Antonio Citadel.

“I have seen time after time, how God uses camp to transform lives. I had a teen years ago tell me how he was ready to give up on God. But then camp happened, and everything changed.”

Lieutenant Dante has come a long way. Now, early in his Salvation Army officer career, he still has a very long way to go. But the plan God has for him is clear.

“Now that I’ve surrendered to God’s will for me, I’m learning more every day what his plans for me are,” he said. “Camp Hoblitzelle truly is a place where people can encounter God. I was saved, received my calling to officership, and met my wife there. I cannot wait for my daughter to be of age to attend camp!”

Major Frank Duracher, a former staff writer for The War Cry and the Southern Spirit, is a retired Salvation Army officer living in North Carolina.