Home // Stories // How I Got My Job at LMC
about this story

The story of how I ended up working for Lutheran Memorial Camp is, in my opinion, one of the more interesting and "weird coincidences" stories in my life.

During my fifth year in college at Valparaiso University ('92-'93), I was struggling with the idea of what I wanted to do after I was done with college.  I really didn't have any concrete ideas of what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go.  Much to the chagrin of my mother, I figured I'd just "go with the flow" and see what happened.  I probably should have been worried, but for some reason, it wasn't a huge deal.  Heck, I just wanted to get done with college first, and then deal with the rest of life.

In the early part of 1993, I sent in an application to Lutheran Youth Encounter -- a music ministry service of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.  LYE consisted of several "teams" of people who toured the U.S. and the world doing concerts, leading church services, doing ministry, etc., for a period of about nine months to a year.

During my last year of school, five of us from Valparaiso University applied to be a part of LYE.  Like the rest of them, I had met with an LYE staffer and had had an extensive interview on my personal background, religious faith, musical abilities, etc.  At the time, I had thought the interview went well, but looking back on it, there were probably a lot of red flags that said I wouldn't be good for LYE - but I digress. 

early may 1993

As graduation got closer, I was in a quandary.  If I was going to go on LYE, I had planned on moving all of my belongings back to my hometown, and then going on an LYE tour, which would have started in the summer after I graduated in May 1993.  If I wasn't going to be on an LYE team, then I was planning on staying in Valparaiso for at least the summer, live in my fraternity house, and start some sort of job hunt during the summer.

Graduation came and went, and I still didn't know if I was going to be on an LYE team.  So I decided to move into my fraternity house anyway until I received news of a decision from LYE.  

Living in my fraternity house was just fine.  There were a few other brothers that were also there for the summer, so I wasn't totally by myself.  The situation was kind of funny actually.  All throughout my tenure at Valpo I had said I never wanted to live in the house because of the conditions there and that I more enjoyed living in the dorms.  Now, I found myself living in the very place I had always said I'd never live.

While I lived in the house, I had enough money to keep me going for a while, but not so much that I could go on indefinitely without a job.  I was using up most of the money I had received for graduation.  Without university meal plan I had to forage for myself - either eating out or attempting to use what was in the house kitchen to fix meals.

As the end of May approached, my money started to get a bit tighter, and I was getting anxious as to what I would be doing.  Every time I had called LYE in the previous couple months, I was told that they were really busy, and that they hadn't reached a decision yet on my application.  Again, in retrospect, that was probably another bad sign.

friday, 28 may 1993

On Friday the 28th, I finally decided to call LYE again and see if I could get any information out of them.  I spoke with one of the LYE people I had talked to several times before.  He was finally able to tell me that I had not been accepted.  He said that normally they didn't like to tell people that on the phone, but because of my situation, and that my need for answer was getting urgent, he told me anyways.  I thanked him for "going out on a limb" for me.   (In the end, I did still receive a formal letter with their decision.)

Needless to say, I was disappointed.  I had really wanted to go on an LYE team for a year -- not to mention I was the only person of the five from Valparaiso who applied that didn't get in, which only added fuel to the fire of many feelings I had during college of being left out of things, but that itself is a whole other story.

So now I knew that I'd need to find a job for the summer and to get on with my life.  However, before I could do that, I had a wedding to go to that weekend.

saturday, 29 may 1993

Steve, who was my freshman year roommate and then my RA for three years, was getting married to the girl he'd met on his second day at Valpo (again, that's another story).  The wedding was in a suburb of Chicago, and several of my friends and fraternity brothers were going to be at the wedding.  So Friday afternoon I made the trip up to Illinois for the weekend.  I stayed with my fraternity brother Sean at his parent's place.

Even though Steve and I started at Valpo at the same time, he had graduated the year before me in May 1992.  I had taken an extra year at Valpo to complete my degree programs.

Many of the people at the wedding were from Valpo, and since I had just graduated, a lot of people were asking me what I was going to be doing next.  Some of them knew about my LYE application, and I was at least able to now tell them I wasn't going.  The usual follow up question was what was I going to do now, and of course, since I had just found out about LYE, I didn't really have much of an answer.  The best answer I could give was that I would probably stay in Valpo for the summer to figure it out and go from there.

Then again, I wasn't 100% sure if I was going to stay in Valpo for the summer either.  Should I just pack it up and go back to North East and look for work there, or should I try my luck in the Valpo and Chicago area?  I really hadn't had a lot of time to think about what I was going to do going forward.

sunday, 30 may 1993

The following day, Sunday, I went to church with Sean.  Sometime after the service, Sean and I were discussing my whole job and life situation.  At some point I flippantly made the remark, "Geez, if I had known that I was going to be rejected by LYE sooner, I could have at least applied at a summer camp or something".

At little bit of back history here - as a kid, I went to Camp Pioneer every summer, a Lutheran camp in Angola, NY.  It was always the highlight of my summers, and I could tell many, many stories of my experiences there.  Every summer I couldn't wait to go to Camp Pioneer for a week.  During those years, I had always hoped that some day I would be able to work at Camp Pioneer as a counselor.

However, once I was finally old enough to be a camp counselor (college age) I was faced with the reality that in order to be able to afford many of my college expenses, I needed to work at a job that made a lot better money than being a summer camp counselor, and that meant working at the McDonald's in my home town.  So my dream of working at Camp Pioneer never became a reality. 

Well that comment to Sean on that Sunday morning got a ball rolling of sorts.  Sean had worked at a camp in Illinois (where Steve had also worked) for a couple summers prior to then, but that summer he was going somewhere else that I hadn't heard of.  Sean said that he thought his old camp might need a couple of people, so he said he'd make a call up there, talk to one of the Valpo people that were there, and see what he could do.  I said sure... go ahead... let's see what happens -- not really thinking that anything would come of it.

I returned to Valpo on Sunday afternoon and started to come up with a game plan for my future.  I figured that since Monday was going to be a holiday (Memorial Day) I would start to go job hunting on Tuesday.

monday, 31 may 1993

Sometime Monday morning-ish, Sean stopped by Valpo and the fraternity house for a while to say goodbye.  He was on his way to his camp job for the summer, and Valpo happened to be on the way.  Even though Sean and I had talked about this other camp he'd be working at, all I really remembered was that he was going to some place in Ohio to be a camp counselor.

Sean had also wanted to stop by to tell me that based on our conversation the previous day, he had talked to one of our fellow fraternity brothers named Mark, who worked at his old camp in Illinois, about possible jobs for the summer.

Later that evening I talked to Mark.  I don't remember if I called him or he called me.  At that point, Mark wasn't sure if there were any positions available at his camp, but he said he would see what he could find out and call me back in a day or so.

Still... I didn't have a lot of hope about a camp job.  I knew that most camps would be starting their seasons soon, and I thought it was a little unreal to expect something to happen at the last minute.

tuesday, 1 june 1993

Tuesday morning I woke up rather late.  Hey, what did I care?  I didn't have any real responsibilities to worry about.  I was probably up late the night before watching TV or playing on my computer or something.  I had heard the fraternity house phone ring a few times that morning, but I had ignored it since I knew there were other people up and wandering about, and that the calls probably weren't for me.

After I woke up, got my shower, got dressed, etc., I wandered downstairs.  As I walked by the bulletin board by the house phone, I noticed a piece of paper there with a message for me.  The note read:

"Skip -- call Dean Nelson about a camp job. (419) 864-xxxx."

First off, it was hard to read the message because it was scribbled in blue marker, so I had a heck of a time just trying to decipher it.  Next -- "Dean Nelson"?  The name sounded like something academic, like the dean of a college.  And that area code... 419?  Where the heck was that??

So I trotted back up to my trusty computer and fired up an area-code lookup program I had (please... no comments about using my computer to look up an area code... have you ever tried to find a phone book in a fraternity house?? I rest my case...).  I punched in "419" and the program came up with "Toledo; Sandusky; northwestern Ohio".  Hmmm...... Ohio..... Ohio..... why would a camp in Ohio be calling me?

I'm not sure how long it took, but at some point the Clue Train finally ran me over.  Ohio.... camp.... Ohio... camp... SEAN!  I finally remembered that Sean had gone to some camp in Ohio.  He must have given them my name and they had called me.

So I placed the call to Dean.

Dean (which was his first name, not his title) was the assistant director of Lutheran Memorial Camp, located just north of Columbus, OH.  He had been given my name by Sean.  They were in need of male counselors for the summer season, and he wanted to know if I was interested.  He asked a lot of things about my background, different experiences in my life, how I felt about working at a camp - it was basically a mini-interview via phone.  We talked on the phone for almost an hour.

The big catch was that training for counselors would be starting that Friday -- only three days away -- which would be not much time for me to prepare, if I was to accept a job offer.  Dean said he'd give me a day to think about it all, and that he'd call me back Wednesday morning.

My mind raced like crazy.  I couldn't believe this was happening, and from just one flippant remark I had made two days before!  There was so much to consider -- Where would I all put my stuff?  What would I need?  What about the plans I had made for the summer already?  How would I let people know?  Was I really qualified for this kind of job?  But the more I thought about it, the more I knew I wanted to do it.  It just felt right -- it HAD to be right.

wednesday, 2 june 1993

Wednesday morning came and I was ready with my answer.  Yes.  I would do it.  Dean had said that he would call me around 11:30 AM.  At 10:30 the phone rang and it was Dean.  I was a bit confused as to why he was calling me early, but we quickly remembered that he was in the Eastern time zone and I was in the Central time zone.

So I gave Dean my answer of "yes!", and upped the ante a bit -- I would get there a day early (Thursday) so that I could fill out my application and paperwork, and so that I could get familiar with the camp.  Dean said that would be great.  I then asked Dean to have Sean call me because quite honestly, I had no idea how to pack and prepare for an entire summer at camp.

Once I got Sean on the phone I had to harass him.  Jokingly of course.  I had never thought he would take me at my word of wanting to work at a camp.  Sean gave me the run-down of the place, and advised me on the types of things I should bring to camp for the summer.

The rest of that Wednesday turned into a day from hell.  I spent most of the day packing up and storing my stuff in the fraternity house, making a ton of phone calls, shopping for things I needed, and packing what I would need for the summer at camp.  It was a pretty crazy day, but I was excited about the whole prospect of being a camp counselor for the summer.

Later that night, Mark finally called me back.  His camp had some jobs available, and he wanted to know if I was interested!  I had to laugh -- now I had TWO camps that wanted me.  Well, I had to turn Mark down.  He seemed kind of miffed that I accepted another job, but I told him I really didn't have a choice.  LMC had called me and made a job offer already, and I couldn't wait to find out if Mark would have a job to offer me or not.

thursday, 3 june 1993

Thursday I continued to pack up, and I hit the road shortly after lunch time.  I had no idea how long it would really take me to get to LMC.  I had never been there before, and certainly didn't know the route I had been given.

Later that evening I arrived at LMC and thus began my adventure as a camp counselor.

Even more ironic -- while I had arrived at LMC "early" so that I could fill out paperwork and the like, I never completely filled out and turned in my application until the END of the summer.  It had become a running joke that I had never applied to work there, and it just kinda went from there.

To this day, I'm still amazed at this whole story and chain of events.  It led to one of the most exciting chapters in my life -- my two summers as a counselor at Lutheran Memorial Camp.