Denver, Colo., May 19, 2013 / 15:01 pm
Hovering 500 feet above the ground, a ride in the Prayer One helicopter offers community leaders the opportunity to join in fellowship – and prayer – above their beloved Mile-High City.
What was born from a conversation during a "boys' boondoggle in the Bahamas" some nine years ago has now turned into a unique way for Denver's faith leaders to join in prayer and camaraderie in the skies.
When Jeff Puckett – a Colorado-native and private pilot – was asked by his friend, Pastor Tom Melton of Greenwood Community Church, what he would pray for if he could pray for anything, Puckett wasn't sure he should say what he was really thinking.
"Most people said they'd pray for world peace," he told CNA May 15, "I said, 'Can you pray for a helicopter?'"
Although he could afford one, Puckett was unsure of whether or not it would be "good stewardship of money."
"I didn't have a reason to have it business-wise," he explained.
However, his friend assured him that just as a father would never get angry with his son for asking a question, God would not be offended by such a prayer.
"I think our God is the same way; He delights in answering our prayers," the pilot said. "Sometimes the answer is 'no' and it bums us out, but a lot of times the answer is 'yes' and He delights in seeing us happy with the answer."
Puckett purchased his first helicopter shortly after that trip, but had not used it much until just before Christmas when many of his friends were facing serious difficulties in their lives.
One friend had just lost his wife in a tragic snowmobiling accident while another friend's wife had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. "It was just a crazy time for everyone," he said.
Puckett suggested that his friends let him take them on a helicopter ride over the city to take a break. Although it was just a short flight, the friends came back feeling rejuvenated.
It just so happened that the next day Melton was meeting with then-Mayor John Hickenlooper to talk about new visions for the city while Puckett was set to have dinner with Tom Forston of Promise Keepers, a Christian group that hosts and organizes men's conferences.
Puckett shared that he was thinking about giving people involved in ministry the opportunity to see their city from a new perspective with free rides in his helicopter.
Promise Keepers gave support by helping schedule groups to come in on Monday mornings, since those in ministry typically work on Sundays. Now the group Confluence Ministries handles scheduling and sends groups over other week or once a month.
So far, he has taken some 6,000 people for prayer rides over Denver. Puckett does not charge for his helicopter rides and says Prayer One has "no agenda." All he asks is that people "have a nice break."
The name comes from one of the early trips when a passenger asked if he could share a prayer over the headset. From then-on, Puckett has began his flights with a prayer and allowed others to join in if they wish. Before and after each trip, the groups of passengers meet to mingle and "debrief."
Puckett said each time he takes passengers up; he comes down with a different perspective. In one trip, a passenger was a young woman who had been rescued from sex-trafficking in Denver but had moved to Colorado Springs to escape what she called "the darkness" of that city.
"This was her first time back (in Denver) and being in a helicopter," he said. The young lady told him being up in the helicopter was as if God were saying "Let there be light."
"All of a sudden," she told Puckett, "it was like a curtain opened up and I could see Denver the way it was supposed to be again."
"That's obviously a perspective I've never had," he said.
Recently, he started bringing kids from rival gangs up on Saturdays to allow them to see their city without boundaries.
"They come in here and they're kind of that cocky teenager," he said. However, "when they get into that helicopter, boom, they're kids again."
Puckett likens the bond that takes place during the helicopter ride as going into battle with another soldier.
"You don't know the guy next to you in the foxhole, but all of a sudden, he becomes your brother because you've gone through this stress together; the same thing happens in a silly helicopter."
What this ministry has taught Puckett is that everyone has something to give and God can use whatever it is someone is passionate about.
"There's a lot of people that would love to give back to their communities and to do things for others. A lot of times they get stifled because they think, well what can I do for somebody?"
Whether that's knitting, cooking or making shoes God can use it so long as we are willing to do the unexpected. As Puckett puts it, "What's your helicopter?"
"The helicopter happens to be my thing," he explained, "I'd love to sing in a choir, but I can't sing. All I can do is kind of live my life and hopefully it's good in God's eyes."
Ultimately, the pilot said the ministry he does is "not about me" and "not about a silly yellow helicopter."
"It's about Him," Puckett said.