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Streeter: From the Navy to the Ministry

Published: Friday, May 10, 2013 11:37 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, May 10, 2013 12:24 p.m. CDT

Those enlisted in the United States Navy have a saying: “Home is where the Navy sends you.”

For Rev. Richard D. Streeter of Colfax’s United Methodist Church, a veteran of the Vietnam War, that was certainly true. Now, the same saying could be applied to the church leadership for this man who has had seven appointments and served as the pastor of 10 different churches.

Streeter’s life has taken a unique path to bring him to where he is now. The pastor was  a self-described mischief maker in his youth, following the example of his father by selling  cigarettes, booze, and anything else he could make a quick return on to his peers.

While he wasn’t raised religiously, he found religion during his later years of high school when his friends and classmates would often talk about religious retreats or activities they’d done over the weekend. Curious, he started to attend a church near his east-side Des Moines home, and quickly became a member.

Streeter graduated from high school in June of ’61. Four months later and he was an enlisted seaman in the United States Navy.

At the time of his enlistment, the U.S. was becoming involved in the war, but President John F. Kennedy was still reluctant to send troops to the conflict. By 1963, the U.S.’s military presence had grown to 16,000 personnel.

Streeter, who had previously been serving in the Philippines, was reassigned to the U.S.S. Buck, aboard which he worked as a radioman. The Buck was responsible for search-and-destroy missions off the coast of Vietnam, mainly for disrupting the flow of arms to the North Vietnamese forces. It also served as an escort to aircraft carriers, a duty which mostly consisted of conducting rescue operations when an aircraft missed the landing platform.

He served 18 months aboard the U.S.S. Buck, broken into three cruises of six months each. The experience in the conflict hardened his resolve and the strength of his faith.

Streeter echoed an oft-repeated sentiment in the military, “You don’t find atheists in foxholes.”

Returning in March of 1966, Streeter was married seven months later. He settled down and worked a few jobs before landing in a retail position with Firestone. He kept this position in district sales for 10 years.

During his time at Firestone, Streeter worked as a layperson of the Easton Place United Methodist Church. He enjoyed his responsibilities there and began to feel that he had a religious calling.

One day after he spoke to the congregation, Streeter was approached by a member. The member told him that God had spoken to him, and told him that Streeter should become a minister.

Not long after, Streeter was injured and unable to work with Firestone. During his down-time, he looked into what he would have to do to enter the clergy.

With the support of the Methodist community, he was able to complete several months of seminary training in only a few weeks. Soon after, he received his first appointment in 1977 at the three churches in Allerton, Clio and Lineville.

Six appointments and nearly 35 years later, Streeter found himself in Jasper County at the United Methodist Church in Colfax. He believes that the structure and discipline that he gained during his military service has always been a valuable tool in his ministry, shaping the message that he brings to the congregation.

While Streeter envisions retirement in the not-so-distant future, he continues to live by the adage of home being where he is sent. If the Church needs him, he will continue his ministry wherever they call.

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