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Pilots for Christ South Dakota chapter launched

By: Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC

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More than 100 children receive free helicopter rides at Potato Days and launch of Pilots for Christ in Clark, South Dakota. Photos courtesy of Mark Tracy.

The South Dakota chapter of Pilots for Christ recently launched during Potato Days in Clark, South Dakota. “This is a ministry for pilots and non-pilots who want to transport someone who needs a flight. It brings the gospel of hope to those who may not see it,” says Rev. Mark Tracy, who serves the congregations of Clark, Garden City, Henry, and Kellerton in South Dakota.

Tracy, the organizer of the South Dakota chapter, has been trying to get the ministry started since 2012. His efforts were fueled by his family. Pastor Mark has a brother in Washington who is a pilot and member of Pilots for Christ in the state of Washington. Another brother in North Dakota is a pilot and member of that chapter.

Pilots for Christ International is a membership organization that
hosts public requests for consideration by member pilots and non-pilots who volunteer their flight and ground transportation for individuals who have an urgent need to travel. The organization also offers services for mission trips, education, and awareness events.

At Potato Days, a fly-in was conducted with pilots and members from all over the country. More than 100 children received free helicopter rides. “It was a way for us to make people aware of what Pilots for Christ is, and for people to experience God’s creation,” says Tracy.

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Members of the North Dakota chapter of Pilots for Christ were part of the fly-in at the Potato Days in Clark.

It takes members and startup funds to launch a state chapter. The North Dakota chapter of Pilots for Christ donated $5,000 to the South Dakota start-up. “We are grateful to the North Dakota chapter to help us get started,” says Tracy.

There are currently ten pilots from the Clark, South Dakota area who are members of Pilots for Christ. “It is kind of a God thing,” says Tracy. “We have people that are crop dusters, commercial pilots, individuals who just like flying. So, Clark is kind of the headquarters.”

South Dakota pilots for Christ will be located all over the state but headquartered out of Clark, South Dakota. When a request comes in it will be routed to Clark and then pilots from all over the state will be contacted to see if they can assist. A pilot who assists with a mission offers their services free of charge. There may be some assistance with fuel as funds are available.

“All of the funds, 100% of what we raise goes to the mission of the flight for fuel,” says Tracy, who serves as the secretary and chaplain for the new chapter.

Just last month Pilots for Christ was called on to help a South Dakota girl. Sanford Health needed to get a young girl, who is suffering from an immunological disorder, to a world-renowned specialist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“We got a call from the social worker at the hospital about the girl who needed to get to Cincinnati and could not fly commercial because of her risk of infection. We were able to get a pilot to take the girl to Tri-Cities. A pilot from Cincinnati picked her up and got her the rest of the way. That is just one example of how Pilots for Christ can assist,” says Tracy.

The South Dakota chapter of Pilots of Christ is not intended to replace the transportation services that are in place by the medical community. It is a small-scale organization assisting a local and regional need where gaps exist.

Listen to a radio interview here. View a television news story here.



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