MONROEVILLE, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- One day Tommy Lee looked out the window and decided it was perfect plane-washing weather. He got the hose out and pulled the plane out of the hangar, but before he could do anything else, his phone rang.
A man in Florida needed an organ transplant and someone had called and said that the organ was available. He needed a flight to the city where it was.
Tommy Lee asked how fast the patient could get to his local airport -- 25 minutes.
He told them he would be there waiting for them with the plane.
Ready for takeoff
"I was only a 20-minute flight from them and God already had me out and the plane out," he said. "Thirty seconds after I got the call, I was in the air. You can't plan stuff like that. Only God can do it."
It's for moments like those that Tommy Lee and his wife, Lindy, dedicate their time to the work of Pilots for Christ, an organization that provides free flights for people in need. They started the Monroeville chapter of the national organization 24 years ago when another pilot handed Tommy Lee one of the ministry's brochures.
He read it and thought it seemed like a great way to invest his time. He had flown some in the Army, so he knew he could be the pilot. The only problem was he didn't have a plane.
But he called the number on the brochure anyway and asked what he needed to do.
"They told me I needed a plane, a pilot and 10 chapter members," said Tommy Lee, a member of First Baptist Church, Monroeville, in Bethlehem Baptist Association. "So I called the first 10 people I could think of and they all said yes. And one of them said we could use his plane too."
In less than a day, the Southeast had a Pilots for Christ chapter all set up and ready to go. And in the years since, they've flown about 2,500 families, all for free, thanks to financial supporters who give to the ministry. The plane flies almost every day. It is always ready to go.
Some flights are routine ones -- to take patients to places like Mayo Clinic, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and MD Anderson Cancer Center for regular treatments. Other flights are in response to urgent calls, like the man's organ transplant in Florida.
Never once has the plane flown without being covered in prayer. The Lees and their prayer team have prayed over families as they've been healed and as they've grieved.
Lindy Lee said to her it's an amazing privilege.
"The main thing we love to do is really pray for our people going through hard times and the people taking care of them," she said. "We try to form a relationship with people over time and that's a real blessing. It's just a joy to be a part of this ministry."
Micah Gandy, pastor of First, Monroeville, said the Lees' ministry is a "tremendous extension and example of the compassion and mercy of God."
"In a way, Pilots for Christ fulfills the command of Jesus to minister to the least of our brothers and sisters," Gandy said. "They literally care for others when they are at their least -- needy, sick, hurting, grieving, even dying."
Every Tuesday, local pastors from different denominations meet at the Pilots for Christ hangar to pray for the ministry. And every Thursday night, Lindy Lee leads a women's Bible study there at the building.
Living their life and ministry out at the airport makes sense, Tommy Lee said.
"My granddaddy started the airport here in Monroeville, so I've been in aviation my whole life," he said. "And Lindy's dad was a Methodist missionary who flew in Africa, so it's in her blood."
The ministry also recently got a new plane, something Lindy Lee says is a direct answer to prayer.
"The Lord has just taken care of everything and provided and we're so thankful," she said.
For more information about Pilots for Christ, visit pilotsforchrist.net.