I’m 25 years old, and originally from Stittsville. Last year, I left my secure job as an officer in the Canadian Army to move to El Salvador as a missionary with Youth For Christ.
My entire family is military, and I joined part-time when I was only 16. I finished high school and transferred to full-time military, attending Royal Military College in Kingston. I thought that I would be in the military for my whole career, but in 2012 I had an opportunity to travel to El Salvador on a short-term missions trip with Youth For Christ Canada.
It was only two weeks, but it completely changed my life. From the very first moment I travelled to El Salvador, the country captured my heart. Even though it was a completely foreign country, a different language, and a new culture, I felt like I was home. I knew that I was meant to live there someday as a missionary.
I returned to El Salvador with YFC Canada for the next three summers, two weeks each summer. Each trip my passion for El Salvador and missionary work grew stronger and stronger. I wanted to dedicate my life to helping people. Finally in 2016, I knew that it was time to leave the military and move to El Salvador as a full-time missionary.
It was a huge sacrifice. I left my secure job, my family, my friends, and my country, and moved by myself to El Salvador. As a missionary, I must fundraise my entire budget and living expenses. I spend a time period in Canada each year travelling to different churches, speaking with people, and collecting one-time donations or monthly sponsors. I must completely rely on my faith to keep going and continue helping the people I love in El Salvador.
The country is extremely dangerous, one of the most dangerous in the world. There is a huge gang problem, and youth are recruited into the gangs at a young age. I work primarily with youth and build meaningful relationships with them. I try to show them that they are not alone and that they have a choice.
I share my story of “military to missionary” with many people in El Salvador, and I also share about female empowerment and being a woman in the combat arms, to young women and girls. I play guitar and sing in Spanish, and I believe in the power of music to reach people and break down walls. I also teach English and work with youth both in the capital of San Salvador and in the third-world communities.
I helped start the chapter of Youth For Christ El Salvador, and I will be taking on the leadership role for the time-being, responsible for strengthening the ministry in El Salvador and across Central America. If you would like to know more, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m currently looking for more monthly sponsors and one-time donations, or speaking opportunities in Canada. You can donate online at https://yfccanada.org/vanessa-banks.php. All donations will receive a tax receipt.