He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.'” Mark 16:15
Planting and growing is their legacy. Envoys Roberto and Marina Santos planted fifteen Salvation Army corps in the United States during their careers as Envoys. But beyond that, they grew leaders. Working together, the Santos’ ministry molded generations of young Latinos into Salvation Army officers. And it all began with their own children.
Roberto and Marina immigrated from the Dominican Republic with their five children in the 1960s. Landing in Manhattan, moving on to Brooklyn, and settling in Queens, the family thrived. Roberto, who was a pastor in Santo Domingo, continued his ministry in Queens and planted a new church. The children soon left home and began their own lives.
The oldest Santos daughter Lucy was the first to join The Salvation Army. After a family friend introduced them to the Army in 1985, Lucy and her husband were asked by leadership at the Greater New York Division to begin a Spanish ministry outpost in Queens. During that time, Lucy invited middle sister Edelweiss to help preach, teach, and lead. Both sisters entered the College for Officers Training within a year of each other. Eventually, all five Santos children became officers, and Marina became a “five-star” member of the Fellowship of the Silver Star, which recognized the mothers of Salvation Army officers.
Roberto and Marina began to take notice of the trend their children were following. They noticed the differences between his current pastorship and The Salvation Army. Drawn to the social and spiritual aspects, the Santos family joined the Army. Although their age prevented them from becoming officers, they became Salvation Army Envoys; an employed Salvationist who provided full-time spiritual, administrative and programmatic leadership to Salvation Army corps or programs.
Envoy Marina now had a role; she could exercise a pulpit ministry, an opportunity she never had before. They both embraced these new opportunities with the Army and began planting corps in Eastern and Southern Territories.
Asked to start Spanish ministries where none existed or reimagine one that was losing members, the Envoys Santos were very good at their job. As Envoys, they could focus all their energy on ministering to the community. Using his dynamic personality and preaching skills, Envoy Roberto could bring people into a commercial storefront corps or become part of an already established English-speaking corps. Together, he and Envoy Marina would embrace their congregation and make them family.
The Envoys Santos, so successful in planting corps, were asked to return to the Dominican Republic to reestablish the work there. They planted five corps.
Envoys Roberto and Marina were a good team. They complemented each other in their work. But now Envoy Roberto ministers alone. His beloved Marina was Promoted to Glory in February 2020. Their children, three of whom are still officers, embrace him and encourage him to continue his work. He is 90 years old and preaches one day a week, delivering his message on a new (and foreign) platform—social media.