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Staff Story: Steve "Mitsu" Bishey

Recently, to kick off our stories of camp, I sat down with a camp legend: Mr. Steve "Mitsu" Bishey! We gently joke that Steve has been at camp since the beginning of time and ask him questions such as: What did the Oak trees look like as seedlings? Do you remember when the camp got running water and electricity? What was it like when roads and cars first came to camp? But all jokes aside, Steve has been on staff with IOLBC for 40 years! He has seen thousands of campers and summer staff come through the doors of camp and it is rare to find a camper who doesn't have at least some passing memory of the short guy with the loud, contagious laugh who is trying to take their picture!

Steve first came to camp for a weekend retreat in his teens years at the invitation of his friend Sara in 1978. In the summer of 1979 he came back to serve on summer staff as a junior counselor and then in 1983, as he was finishing up with college, he came back again and hasn't left since! He served for three more summers as a senior counselor and then moved into support staff roles. For record, if you had Steve as a counselor in your younger days, yes we would love to hear from you! Today, Steve is most well known as the photo/video/craft/tie dye guy, a job he has been primarily doing since the mid-1990's.

Some of Steve's favorite moments at camp are simply campfires. While he was never much for getting into the lake itself, spending evenings on the water's edge while campers and staff gathered to sing and share how God's word with each other has always, and continues to hold a special place in his heart. In a similar, simple, straightforward manner, Steve's favorite verse is John 3:16, "For God so love the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him shall have everlasting life." "It is just clear, and simple, and makes sense," Steve told me as we explained why he picked that verse.

The Recharge Youth retreats are another highlight for Steve throughout his years on staff. While no one knows for sure how many Recharge retreats he has been apart of, we are sure the number is well over 200 at this point! There was one in particular where he remembers there being around 300 campers meaning there were people everywhere you looked! The IOLBC band "Dry Bones" was playing and the skit had a part, CLUE inspired motiff teaching about the Armor of God. Overall, while Steve has retired from being a Recharge counselor, he still remembers those times being "a hoot!"

While it took Steve a number of years to realize that God had called him to this place and this ministry, he has accumlated a great number of memories and connections with people over his time. When I asked him to name a few staff, or a few campers, who had a particularly memorable impact on his life, it was simply too overwhelming for him to try and come up with just a few names as there have been so many.

When I asked Steve about a memory that makes him laugh, he recounted a time when he was helping on....maintenance! I will have to admit, for as adament as Steve is that he doesn't work maintenance, this intrigued me! As the story goes, one summer he was put to work on a riding lawn mower to mow a section of grass. However, each time he would hit a bump he would bounce off the seat so far that the automatic kill switch would engage and shut off the mower! After the third or forth time of having to call the maintenance director to help him get the old mower going again, it was decided that perhaps a better task could be found for Steve to do! It was certainly a moment where you had to make a choice: laugh or cry! Steve chooses to laugh (and invites you to do so as well as you picture him bouncing along on a rider mower!)

To close our time together, I asked Steve is there was any advice he would offer to those who are thinking about ministry as a full time career in general, and camp ministry in particular. "It's fun," he said, "but you have to have a service mindset. You have to be willing to do your best for the campers and guests." In the midst of everythign that happens at camp, there is a power in the reality that Jesus matters for Steve, and because of that, he is always striving to give 100% to making sure those who come to camp have a great experience.

We love you Steve! Thank you for 40 years (and counting) of ministry at IOLBC!

Fun Facts:

  • Registrar Pastor Sara (that's me, the writer!) and Program Director Dan both have their birthdays on the same day in late June. Steve's first time at camp was the year Sara was born and Steve started on year round staff the year Dan was born!

  • Steve studied fine art in college and is a great artist in his own write. His banners are just the tip of the iceberg!

  • Steve has lived in a variety of housing onsite over the years...incluing the prop closet before it was a prop closet!

  • In addition to the visual arts, Steve can play some mean conga drums or cajon when the situation calls for it as well.

  • Steve's other jobs at camp have included housekeeping, maintenance, and kitchen assistant.

  • A couple of Steve's favorite treats are Dot's Pretzels and the mild salsa from our local Taco House restaurant.


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