TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Life during a global pandemic and a period of racial upheaval is challenging, but Capt. Kevin Hostettler works to help others keep things in perspective.
As a chaplain with the 60th Air Mobility Wing’s Chapel at Travis AFB, California, Hostettler takes a wide view, recognizing that people always come to him in need.
Hostettler said treating everyone’s challenges with respect, regardless of scale, is important to him.
“It’s hard to compare one person’s earth-shattering perspective to another’s earth-shattering perspective,” he said. “Each person’s individual baggage is valid and needs the same level of concern. That’s something that any caregiver has to get right. I have to realize that is valid and provide the same level of care for that human soul as I would someone that is grieving the loss of a loved one.”
Uncertainty and anxiety are running high in 2020, Hostettler said.
“People are looking for hope,” he said. “People are looking for some semblance of stability.”
Travis’ chapel services team is finding a way to accommodate the emotional and spiritual needs of its community while following operational guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic. Among the solutions is moving services outdoors. Catholic and Protestant services take place outside of the base’s two chapels on Sunday mornings.
While these are unprecedented times, there are silver linings, said Nate Johnson, the coordinator for the Airman Ministry Center that runs The Peak, a chapel-affiliated space for Airmen to build community and character while boosting their spiritual development, service to others and leadership skills. One is that the closures have allowed The Peak to complete a planned renovation without a major shutdown of the facility.
Some folks have used the time for introspection and self-discovery. Others, such as volunteers of The Peak, have discovered a deeper level of camaraderie, Johnson said.
One-on-one counseling continues, too. Hostettler said the dawn of a new school year is bringing stressors for people whose children will return to brick-and-mortar locations, as well as those who will participate in distance learning.
“We’re seeing a larger increase in anxiety from folks about school districts,” Hostettler said. “I saw somebody today who was very much hurting – afraid, confused, asking, ‘How am I going to make this work with my job? With home? I’m not a teacher.’ It is real and it is alive and people are hurting.”
While Hostettler counsels people primarily on an individual basis, group-based functions provided by The Peak have changed, too.
Johnson said the facility has found new ways to provide the same services as before. Leadership courses take place in a digital space via video conferencing, for example.
Another change is a weekly meal, Taste at Home Tuesday, which provided off-site, home-cooked meals to Airmen, evolving into Taste at Home Takeaway on Wednesdays. Airmen are now welcome to grab a meal to-go since dining in is not allowed.
“It’s an opportunity to get out,” Johnson said. “It’s harder (to connect) with everyone wearing masks.”
Hostettler tries to remain circumspect about the difficulties. He referenced a quote by Charles Kettering, an inventor and businessman whose name may ring familiar from New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, one of the first institutes of its kind. Kettering said, “Problems are the price of progress. Don’t bring me anything but trouble. Good news weakens me.”
“I really like that,” Hostettler said. “We aren’t going to find a world without problems. We’ve got more than we can handle between the pandemic and race (issues). … If I let the news dictate my attitude, I’m going to be a sourpuss. If I look at those as opportunity to develop relationships around me and share hope that I have, that’s going to help me more than focusing on ‘wow, that sucks.’ It helps me grow if I allow it to.”
Hostettler said those in need of spiritual guidance can visit either of the two chapel facilities or call 707-424-3217.