PARAGOULD (AP) — Arkansas Pilots for Christ, based in Paragould, is available to help primarily medical patients in need of transportation get to areas within 300 miles of Paragould’s general aviation airport, according to Pilots for Christ President Lance Winn.
“Our basic ministry is providing transport for folks,” Winn said. “It’s typically people with medical needs, but it’s not limited to that. But many times it turns out to be cancer patients.”
Winn said patients and families in need of transport out of the 300 mile radius could receive assistance, as well.
“A lot of times we are able to work with other chapters of Pilots for Christ and expand our reach,” he said.
The group is staffed by volunteers who are pilots and owners of airplanes, such as pilot Joey Massey of Walcott.
“Almost everyone who knows me knows that I’m associated with Pilots for Christ,” Massey said.
Massey said while the organization was focused primarily on medical missions, he had recently flown members of the Outside Baptist Association to New York to assist in Superstorm Sandy recovery.
“They called me and said they need to be there and commercial flights did not fit their schedule,” Massey said. “They also needed to exchange team leaders.”
Massey took a small group from Arkansas to New York using his six-seat aircraft.
“I was available at that time to do that,” he said. “I was flying the (mission) director, team leader and a videographer up there so it would fit their schedule.”
While on trips, he and other pilots find ways to spread the word of God.
“I helped some with devotional time and moved some trucks around while I was there,” Massey said.
Winn said he and other pilots would also hand out New Testaments while on trips.
“We distribute Bibles at general aviation airports, at this airport and any airport we fly,” Winn said. “If we fly to Dallas, Texas, we will leave Bibles at that airport with their permission, of course.”
Winn said flying patients, families and ministers was an expensive endeavor, though.
He said most trips incurred fuel costs anywhere from $400 to $700 per trip.
“But that just represents about half of the cost,” Winn said. “The aircraft owners are absorbing the costs of their airplane upkeep, tires and oil and all of that. It all adds up to a pretty hefty sum.”
The organization received a donation of a plane earlier this year, though, which Winn said would help keep costs down for some of the pilots.
“It is a very nice Cessna 210 and it’s been a great blessing to us and we’ve been able to utilize that plane on several missions already,” Winn said.
Winn, who said he became involved in the organization seven years ago, said membership in the organization was large.
“The last time I checked it was around 45,” Winn said. “Not all are pilots, but most are. We have about a dozen who do the flying for our chapter. That’s not because we limit the others, it’s just because it works out that way.”
It’s a mission and a calling Massey said was sent from God.
“God gave me an airplane and an ability to fly and a way for people to know God and to minister to people that way,” Massey said. “God’s been good to me, not just materially but spiritually, and I just want to be able to share God and how good He is.”
While Massey said he had not personally seen an individual come to know Christ since starting work with the ministry, he knew the work he did had made a difference.
“We know by the thanks we get from people that we are serving people’s needs,” Massey said. “Personally I have not led anyone to Christ on a mission, but I know that those results have come as God has used our efforts.”