Stories of the “Inuits”

Rev. Deborah Streeter

During the gala dinner at the Annuitant Visitor Seminar in St. Louis, September 7-10, 2017, the Rev. Deborah Streeter of Carmel, California, an Annuitant Visitor for the Pension Boards-United Church of Christ (PBUCC), addressed the nearly 150 Annuitant Visitors, spouses/partners, and PBUCC staff, with her lessons learned from her Visitor experiences. She expressed her delight in hearing the stories of these “remarkable people.”

When I first became an Annuitant Visitor, I was telling my family about my new role and I kept saying the word “Annuitant.” My daughter (this is in the category of cute things your kids say, but she was 28 at the time!) got a puzzled look and finally asked, “Why do we keeping talking about "Inuits"? Who are these Inuits you are visiting?” After a good laugh, our family continues to lovingly and jokingly refer to PBUCC’s annuitants as "Deborah’s Inuits."

Each year, I look forward to visiting with “Dan” (not his real name). He is such a blessing to visit, because he has such a beautiful smile. I say to him, “How’s it going Dan?”

Dan has almost lost his sight. He has heart problems, and struggled for a year recovering from an infection from daily infusions. He depends greatly on his somewhat younger wife for care and keeping track of money, and he worries about her. The last time I saw him, he wasn’t a happy camper.

He said, “Sometimes when I wake up and I can’t see or hear very well, and I put on the news, I think, ‘Why bother?’ But then, I think about life’s blessings, and all the ministry I have done; the new friends that I am making here; the new computer with a bigger screen and fonts so I can do my writing. So, I get up and I’m blessed to have another day.”

Dan was involved in civil rights work in the Midwest in the 1950s-60s as a young pastor. Then he moved out West and served as a chaplain in alcohol and drug rehabilitation centers. He told me he took part in more than 7,000 Fifth Steps. [The Fifth Step of a 12-step recovery is “admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”]

I responded, “7,000 Fifth Steps! Such a profound ministry.”

“Well,” he said, with that beatific smile, “there was a lot of struggle, a lot of hardship, a lot of redemption, and salvation; and, a lot of new life.”

It’s those types of stories that keep me visiting people like Dan. I am touched by them and proud of the United Church of Christ for authorizing these remarkable people. It is an honor to visit with “Inuits” like Dan, hear their story, and thank them on behalf of a grateful church for their transforming ministries.

The Annuitant Visitor Program

The Annuitant Visitor Program, administered by the United Church Board for Ministerial Assistance (UCBMA), seeks to provide an annual visit to over 6,000 retired clergy, missionaries, and their spouses/partners in the United Church of Christ. Through these visits, Annuitant Visitors serve as ambassadors for the Pension Boards’ benefits, communicate appreciation for a lifetime of dedicated service, and offer collegial support. For more information about the Annuitant Visitor Program, visit: