‘Let me tell you what my mission in life is,’ Pastor Rick Saldivar says

CATHEDRAL CITY — In the late 1970s, a young, single mother fled an abusive relationship — and Mexicali, Mexico — with five children in tow. One of them was an impressionable 5-year-old Enrique “Rick” Saldivar.  The family relocated to an apartment on Van Fleet Street in Cathedral City. Saldivar, now 47, was granted immigration status in 1982. Today, he still calls Cathedral City home and is a man with an undeniable mission.

Despite a few warts, he remains undeterred. He speaks with a refreshing, blunt candor, not pretending to be someone he’s not.

Saldivar was never physically abused, but the psychological impacts of what he witnessed helped shape the trajectory of his life. The abuse made him sensitive to others’ issues and dysfunction, Saldivar said.

“If I was near somebody who was engaged in an argument or in a conversation where it was negative, it was a fear that I couldn’t understand. Does that make sense? They say that if I was just a bystander and somebody got into a confrontation, it was something that I couldn’t take it. You know what I’m saying? And now, I don’t know if that’s what it was, but I would get scared of my surroundings. And I remember being very vulnerable at a young age.”

His mother fled from her situation at the right time, Saldivar said. She made a conscious decision to save her life and those of her children. He said he and all of his siblings were “normal” kids.

“Did we live in poverty? Yeah. Did we suffer financial challenges? Yes. But other than that, we were happy kids,” Saldivar said.

“I just want to be fair to my father,” Saldivar told Uken Report, “He was a sick man. He had a disease, the disease of alcoholism, and he’s now since passed away. I got to do his funeral, so I think it was closure for me, being able to give him that final blessing. May he rest in peace.”

Saldivar did not speak a word of English when he arrived in Cathedral City, but he picked it up quickly and did well in elementary school despite being “mischievous” and the “class clown.”

In middle school, he gained popularity, grew a wider circle of friends, and his clowning became considered disruptive.

“I think what happened was that through all the adversity we had faced, it finally took a toll on us,” Saldivar said.

He graduated middle school without “a whole lot of trouble.”

High school presented a new season of challenges.

In his freshman or sophomore year, his family became homeless. They found refuge and their next meal in a shelter. The weight of being homeless led him to start acting out.

“I don’t know if I was angry. I don’t know if it was just sadness. I don’t know if it was just hurt that we didn’t have stability. We had suffered this for a very long time, moving from place to place, always financially challenged. I think that’s where my dysfunction started. ”

He was placed in a program called opportunity under the tutelage of a Marine Veteran. To hear Saldivar tell it, it was the last ray of hope before expulsion. The program consisted of like-minded kids, each with “little stories” to tell.

“It was the weirdest thing, we were all dysfunctional,” Saldivar said. So, you could see where it all started. You know what I’m saying? I think, first of all, just always being in communities that have high drugs, high crimes, being homeless. I think it finally weighed down on me. High crimes, addictions around and just bad neighborhoods. That’s where we had to live. And then we finally became homeless. I think that’s where my trouble started.

“And then you have to hide being homeless from everybody,” Saldivar said. “You hide it from your friends, you hide it from your girlfriend. You hide it from everybody. And that even weighs down on you. You don’t want nobody to know you’re homeless.”

He longed to be back in regular classes and after about a year of being homeless, he was. In his sophomore year, he became president of the Associated Student Body (ASB). It whetted his appetite for political office.

His single working Mom worked 12-hour days. The children would get themselves ready for school, make their own breakfast, get to the bus stop or walk to school. They would come home to an empty house. His mom would get home from her day job, change her uniform and head out to a second job.

All of the Saldivar children were playing dual roles of adults by morning and night, and students during the day.

“And a lot of kids live like that right now,” Saldivar said. “A lot of kids live like that. They play adult and then they play children. It’s double work. … That’s why I’m a big champion for families that struggle like that.”

“I’m going to share this, and I hope nobody gets offended if you decide to write it,” staring at me pointedly. “People don’t understand the influence people have on other people. So, I’m going to tell you when my true dysfunction happened. You’re still struggling with all kinds of stuff, and then drugs get in the way. You’re out partying, you’re out having fun, you’re a part of this outside group, and your mind tells you, you have to go to school, you have to hang out here, and stuff like that. Because of recreation, because it was the thing to do, because it was whatever, you do drugs to party a little harder or something like that. And you’re still young, you know what I’m saying? It’s just something to do. And then years later it’s a full-blown addiction.”

The community is in disbelief, the teachers distrust you. They think you’re not going to make it, and rightly so, he said. The ASB coordinator advised him not run the next year for ASB president. Saldivar dared to ask why. He was told in no uncertain terms that he was not college material and that another student needed the position for her college application.

“It was such a horrible time for me, now that I look back. I kind of convinced myself, ‘Yeah, Rick,’ you’re not going to go to college. Because, you know, you’re poor. You’re already dabbling with drugs. You hang out with the homeboys. And I believed it. And I let her run for ASB president. And she won because she ran unopposed. And I ran under the pretense of class president, 12th grade year, and I hated it. I hated it when we would sit on the council table and I was talking to her. And now, looking back somebody influenced me to take away my leadership. You know what I’m saying? It really hindered me.”

Then, he received an offer from UCR telling him that he could join a community college program called Puente, which was Bridge. It was designed for at-risk students. He did not blink. He accepted the offer. He failed and returned home.

It was the late 90s “really horrible for young kids in the low-income community, according to Saldivar.

“There was a lot of gangs and there was a lot of drugs,” he said. “Law enforcement, by their own admission, say that it was an us-against-them mentality. If you were walking with two or three kids in a neighborhood, and if you fit the description, you were classified part of the gang. Just because you were there and with three or more.”

He did time in a juvenile detention and jail in Lancaster on drug-related charges. He does not shy from his past, but he doesn’t dwell on it. He addresses it head on.

When he got out, he had a new mindset: “I’m going to get a job, I’m going to do real good. And I found my first real solid grown-up job. I will give credit to the Marriott Corporation for giving me a shot. I was with them for nine years and one of their top employees.” When the recession hit in 2008-2009, he was let go.

In 2007, he and his wife separated.  Saldivar refers to it as a “hard separation.”

“I mean, really ugly, dysfunctional,” Saldivar said. “We weren’t stable. I’ve never been part of church or anything. And it was during this time that we went and got restraining orders on each other. It was really bad. I mean, just with the kids, I couldn’t see them. Everything that a separation has, we had.”

But then his wife starts going to church. His cousin and sister were attending the same church: Destiny.

In 2007, my kids come to me, and I’m never going to forget this, Miss Cindy. My kids came to me and they were about 3 and 4 years old and they said, “Daddy, we’re going to sing at church and we want you to be there to see us sing.’ And it was an Easter Sunday. I was like, ‘Oh, Lord.’ I ain’t trying to go to church. Why am I going to go to church for?”

Services were held in a large tent because the church building had not yet been built. It was, of course, Resurrection Sunday.

Pastor Rick Saldivar: Man with a Mission

Pastor Rick Saldivar

“I see the church and I said, ‘What kind of church is this?’ Because I’m thinking, like a cross and I’m thinking the Padre and all that stuff. So, I get there and I’m like, ‘Oh, Lord.’ It was the most uncomfortable feeling ever, but the people were so welcoming. I mean, it was amazing. And, of course, the message was about the Resurrection Sunday, what Jesus did for us on the cross. How, if you come to him, he will forgive all your wrongdoings, restore your life, restore your marriage, restore your finances, restore everything that the enemy has taken away. And I’m sitting there, Miss Cindy, like, is this is for real what I’m listening to? Because I was tired, you know?”

He participated in the Altar Call and gave his life to Christ. He prayed to get his family back. And, a woman prayed with him.

He returned home. threw away his beer, his drug paraphernalia, and declared, “I’m done.”

After about a seven-month separation, he and his wife reunited.

The true story of Rick Saldivar is one of salvation and the empathy that God gifted me, he said. “Not sympathy, the empathy to really put my life in other people’s shoes and feel what they’re feeling and really find their true needs to fill them.”

His severance pay from Marriott had run out by that time and he needed a job.

Destiny offered him a part-time job. Today, 14 years later he works as an associate outreach pastor, helping feed the homeless and hungry and serving as a lifeline for troubled souls who need someone to listen to them.

“Let me tell you what my mission in life is,” Saldivar said. “My purpose is to give a voice to those that don’t have it. To help fill the needs of people that really have needs. … I have a heart and I have a calling for the migrant worker, for the immigrant here in the United States. I have a heart for them. I have a heart for the addicted person. I have a heart for those who get a second chance to come home from prison. I have a heart for the homeless. And none of them, none of them have anything to offer me that could enrich me materialistic.”

Saldivar, who refers to himself as a man of the people, ran for a seat on the City Council in 2018 but was unsuccessful. He plans to run again in 2022. Expect a formal announcement early next year. He believes it could help him expand his footprint in helping residents.

“I went to this meeting and I’m looking at my City Council. I’m looking at the discussions and I go, ‘I think I could add to that. I think I could add to that from a community view. I wonder if these guys get to talk to parents when their kids are murdered due to gangs.’ Because I do. I get to do some of their funerals. I’m the first line for Destiny. Whatever, I’m the first call. If I was on City Council, maybe I could have a bigger reach. A bigger reach and really feel the pulse of my community, and start some good programs.”

Pastor Rick Saldivar: Man with a Mission

Community Service Hero Award

In October, the Rotary Club of Cathedral City presented Saldivar with the Community Service Hero award.

Indio City Councilmember Glenn Miller and Saldivar have worked on many community projects together.

“He is a doer!” Miller said. “He is dedicated to his faith, family and community. He is always one of the first people to help reach out to support those in need of assistance. He helped coordinate over 30,000 plus meals for first responders, frontline workers and those essential works who needed a hot meal or just a protein snack bag. A good man….”

Nachhattar Singh Chandi. president of Chandi Group USA, told Uken Report that he had “the privilege” to know Pastor Rick Saldivar during the COVID-19 health crisis.

“When our communities were in despair and struggling with resources during the lockdown, Pastor Saldivar and Destiny Church helped the Gurdwara Sahib Indio distribute thousands for hot meals to those in need,” Chandi said. “As we prepared the meals on a daily basis, his team of volunteers were lined up and ready go. His leadership and dedication during this time of need really showed that he is a man of integrity and commitment. Not only was he passionate of helping others, but also shared words of wisdom to alleviate the fear and uncertainty in which our communities were in. I have nothing but respect and admiration for Rick. I can say with total confidence that few individuals have contributed to our communities in a way that Pastor Saldivar has.”

Saldivar and his wife, Christina, have three children: Alan Saldivar (18) United States Air Force; Enrique A. Saldivar (17) Rancho Mirage High School; and Aaron Saldivar (7) Landau Elementary.

Saldivar is a Cathedral City High School graduate, holds an Associate’s Degree in Christian Ministry Vision International, and is in his junior year at Grand Canyon University working on bachelor’s in government and legal studies


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