Vanessa Banks is a missionary in El Salvador

LETTER: Why I moved from Stittsville to El Salvador

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.

Vanessa Banks is a missionary in El Salvador

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 I’m currently looking for more monthly sponsors and one-time donations, or speaking opportunities in Canada. You can donate online at All donations will receive a tax receipt.

Vanessa Banks
El Savador

Vanessa Banks is a missionary in El Salvador

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