Chaplain’s servant leadership path leads to Air National Guard service

The date Aug. 7, 1998 will forever be a day that Maj. Nathan Mestler, Arizona National Guard’s 162nd Wing chaplain, will remember as the first formative event for his move into chaplaincy.

On that day, bombs exploded outside two different U.S. embassies in Africa, killing 224 people and injuring more than 4,500.

Mestler was born in Albuquerque, N.M., but at 8 years old, his family moved as missionaries to Nairobi, Kenya, just four miles from the site of one of the embassy attacks. During the aftermath of the attacks, Mestler volunteered at crisis counseling sessions for members of his community who were impacted by the tragic events.

“My best friend’s sister and I had a children’s ministry at the time,” said Mestler. “We would go down to those survivor meetings and minister to the kids,” he said. “I was 17 years old, I was doing ministry with the survivors of that trauma and the children of the parents who had been killed,” said Mestler.

Soon after answering the call to serve his community during this time of crisis, he returned to the United States. He received his degree in theology from the International Baptist College and Seminary (IBCS) in Chandler, Ariz., and followed it up with a master’s in divinity from Calvary Baptist Seminary.

With full intentions to return to Nairobi, those plans were inadvertently put on hold. Instead, the chairman of the board for IBCS and the chaplain for the 161st Air Refueling Wing in Phoenix convinced Mestler to join the Arizona Air National Guard in 2011.

“From the first day on base, I felt immediately welcomed and received awesome mentoring from Chaplain [retired Lt. Col.] Mike Martinez,” said Mestler. “Over the years, this place has felt like home and its members like family. I count it as a privilege and joy to be part of it.”

In 2019, Mestler took on the full-time civilian role as the fifth president of the IBCS, expanding his commitment to serving the Arizona community by helping to develop the next generation of Christian leaders. At the Wing, Mestler continues to work as a drill-status Guardsman alongside a team of individuals who are ready to serve Airmen no matter what the need.

“Our office is here to help. I don’t want anyone to ever think that they are bothering us or to hesitate to reach out,” said Mestler. “If you’re thinking about talking to a chaplain, just do it! People always leave our office glad they came and when you do, you will always find a listening ear — that’s a promise.”

Do you want to learn more about Chaplain Mestler? Checkout the Q&A below:

Q: What is something we might not know about you?

A: One of the cool things that I have had an opportunity to do in ministry is to work with Major League Baseball players. I had the idea of having a prayer breakfast where players could come down and talk to us about faith and prayer. I just googled Diamondbacks chaplain and contacted him out of the blue. He arranged for some players to come down and we have become very good friends since.

Q: Can you tell me about your family?

A: I have been married to my wife Bethany for 18 years, and we have four children: 16, 14, 12, and 8 years old.

Q: Do you speak any languages other than English?

A: Yes. I also speak Swahili.

Q: What is your favorite band?

A: I love classical music, so I will have to say Two Cellos.

Q: What song do you play to get you pumped up?

A: To be honest, when I exercise and stuff, I don’t listen to music. I listen to audio books. Music doesn’t distract me from the pain of exercise, books do. If I need music to pump me up, I will have to go with big, epic movie scores like Pirates of the Caribbean.

Q: What is the best movie to watch on a rainy day?

A: So, I think Nacho Libre is the best movie ever made, but maybe not on a rainy day. I think Inception or any Christopher Nolan movie.

Q: What is your favorite Tucson restaurant?

A: I love Ethiopian food and my favorite is called Zemam’s Ethiopian Cuisine. There are two of them here in Tucson.

Q: Do you have a parable or motto you live by?

A: If you don’t live for something bigger than yourself, you will only live for yourself.

Q: What hobbies do you have?

A: I read a ton. I read 96 books last year. I also do a lot of board games. I have about 200 games in my collection.

Q: Outside of the Bible, what book has had the biggest impact on you?

A: Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot.

Q: Who is a historical figure you want to meet, dead or alive? Also, what would be the one question you would want to ask them?

A: I am going to go with Ulysses S. Grant, and I would ask him, “What is it that sustained you through the war?”

Q: Do you have any pet peeves?

A: Toast crumbs in the butter tub, people that don’t accelerate to match the speed of traffic while merging onto the freeway, and the Department of Motor Vehicle. The DMV is my proof that we have never been to the moon. A society that stills endures this has not been to the moon.

Q: What podcast do you like to listen to?

A: I listen to a lot of the Jordan B. Peterson Podcast.

Q: iPhone or Android

A: Android

Q: Chevrolet or Ford?

A: Chevrolet

Q: Cats or dogs?

A: Dogs

Q: Chocolate or Vanilla?

A: Vanilla

Q: Phone call or text message?

A: Text message

Q: Cake or pie?

A: Pie

Q: Nice car or nice house?

A: Nice house

Q: Sneakers or sandals?

A: Sneakers

Q: Beach or forest?

A: Forest

Q: Online or in-store shopping?

A: Online

Q: Ability to fly or read minds?

A: Read minds

Q: Coke or Pepsi?

A: Coke

Q: Musical theater or concert?

A: Musical theater

Q: Iced coffee or hot coffee?

A: Iced

Q: Singing or dancing?

A: Singing

Q: Snow or Sunshine?

A: Sunshine

Q: Repair the car or buy a new one?

A: Buy a new one

Q: Veggies or meat?

A: Meat

Q: Sweet or savory?

A: Savory

Q: Do you wear socks to bed?

A: Oooof … no.

Q: What do you order on your pizza?

A: Supreme pizza. I do like a mix of vegetables. Not pineapple.

Q: Is Bigfoot real?

A: Oh, he’s real. Yeah, because I want him to be real. The world’s a better place if we don’t know for sure, but I would rather think of the world where Bigfoot exists.

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