By Ellen Nimmo
Online mortgage companies didn’t exist twenty-five years ago and I think it’s fair to say they never existed, in my head, at least not in the way VUHL has managed to exist – for real.
Let me explain. I came to work at Veterans United as a skeptic. A cynic. A scoffer, to put it lightly. Nevertheless, I came. I wanted to see for myself what all the fuss was about.
After nearly eight years and a lot of different stories and memories, I have come to the conclusion that I work at a place that tries (and fails and tries again) to live out what they claim to value. We value passion and fun, we value results and integrity, and, underneath and above it all, we value the call and opportunity to enhance lives. Make no mistake, sometimes we get it wrong and it can be uncomfortable too. But what eight years here has shown me is that – more often than not – we genuinely care and want to do our best, inside and outside of work.
One resounding voice in favor of this conclusion, for me, has been VU’s Service Trips. Recently, with twenty-five other employees (and one resilient spouse) I traveled to Harmons, Jamaica for such a trip. The warm Caribbean air, lush green leaves, and brilliant shining sun showered us like petals upon the bride and groom, arm and arm – and smiling. There’s something special, mysterious even, that happens when folks take intentional time out of their normal days and grind to go do something different, to go do something for others, to go learn, to go be shown, to go and see. I won’t be able to explain it all here and there’s so much to be said. Sometimes the best thing to do is simply encourage the other person (you, dear reader) to simply go see for yourself. But you don’t have to take my word alone for it . . . read on to hear from some of my fellow travelers, these partakers in the mystic:
The first thing I tell people when they ask me about Jamaica is that it is impossible to describe and something you just can’t quite put words to. Then, if uninterrupted, I will go on and on jumping between moments from the trip that stood out in an attempt to convey everything it meant to me. But with the number of significant events that happened in a single week I seem to just ramble! This trip, and more importantly the community you visit in Harmon’s, feels like one of the most impactful things I have experienced in my life. I forged friendships with locals and with the co-workers I journeyed with alike. We laughed in Harmons and we cried in Harmons. It was an opportunity to take a step back from our daily lives and gain some perspective. It was a chance to realize and confront our priorities. This trip is one step in my journey that I will cherish always, and I cannot wait to go back. – Tanner Smith
My husband, Brad, and I went on the VU Service Trip to Jamaica. It was an amazing experience that I still can’t quite put into words. We spent a week in Harmons, a little rural village in Jamaica. It was through an organization called Won By One to Jamaica. There were 27 of us travelers and with the Won by One staff, who live in the community and work alongside the Jamaicans, we built and repaired homes as well as relationships. We visited an infirmary and an orphanage in nearby towns and interacted with these communities, their people old and young. The people of Harmons were incredibly kind, friendly, welcoming, hard-working and extremely grateful for what they had; despite being materially poor – our newfound friends were spiritually-rich and full of Faith that God provided. They had a heavy focus on their family and taking care of each other. It was an honor to spend a week in their community and get to develop relationships with them. Brad is not a VU employee but felt very welcomed by our VU family. He and I are extremely grateful for the experience and the wonderful friendships that were made with my fellow co-workers, who are amazing! –Kimberly Earnest
On January 19th 2020 I got on a flight with co-workers I had never really met. We spent 7 days getting sweaty and dirty. We spent seven days creating relationships with the people of Harmons Jamaica. Seven days making lifelong friends with co-workers. Seven days of seeing the people of Harmons have more faith than anyone in my entire life. My life was completely changed by this service trip. I was completely out of my comfort zone but I have never experienced so much personal growth in such a short amount of time. It is still very difficult to put my feelings into words. All I can do is repeat that my life was completely changed! – Erin Swan
Harmons is a trip that breaks your heart wide open and then grows it three sizes. I took two-minute ice-cold showers. I stayed up late playing dominoes. I exhausted my muscles passing bags of rocks in assembly lines. I played with adorable kiddos that were more interested in attention than ‘sweeties’ [candy] by the handful. I looked into the faces of those forgotten to the world. I danced like it was a family wedding. I prayed alongside strangers. I challenged my own perceptions and broadened my perspective. I joined the service trip with coworkers but left with friends. – Josie Zimmerman
What’d I tell ya?! Did you hear it? Did you notice?
There’s a Jamaican proverb in Patois that says “you caa plant kawn an expec peas fi grow”. Which is pretty closely translated as, “You reap what you sow”. My wish for you and my wish for me is that we all would plant and harvest with the values we hold so dear.
Fact is, whether you ever go on a trip like the one we took with Won by One to Jamaica is mostly irrelevant, but what I hope we all hear, what I hope we can strive to remember, is what value we can bring, share, and gain when we give of our time for someone else’s benefit, to enhance their life. Even if it is uncomfortable, for a time. It is a strange truth, a paradox of reality and hope.