After more than 15 years, Dr. Jerry Putman has lost count of how many new lives he has helped bring into the world. Dr. Putman's OB/GYN practice had and was growing. He even admits to being happier in his work than at anytime in his career, but a couple of years ago God began to work on his life.
"Missions was never on the radar screen for us until about two years ago," remembers Dr. Putman. "I got involved in a Bible study with a group of guys and we were challenged to read through the scriptures and write down the things that we learned. And I was just amazed at how much the Bible says about those of us who have been given so much. Our responsibility to people that suffer injustice, the poor, the needy. And that's really what it is all about. Its really not all about us its about what we can do."
Through his practice and church, Dr. Putman and his wife Marty were familiar with the ministry at Mercy Ships. Then last year Jerry learned about a growing epidemic and opportunity in the African country of Sierra Leone. Thousands of women who could not get a needed c-section during birth, who would suffer days of labor, the baby would die and passed through the mother. But the tragedy did not end there.
"The pressure from so many days in labor pushes the baby's head against the birth canal and the tissue dies and it leaves a big hole in the bladder," says Dr. Putman, "and these ladies become totally incontinent. Because of that women have few rights there and they are discarded by their husbands so they don't have a place to live. They'll go back to their families, but they can't live there either because the odor is so bad. So they basically become social outcasts and live in solitary confinement the rest of their lives."
Dr. Putman was offered the chance to run a clinic in Sierra Leone that treated this problem often referred to as V-V-F. Jerry was not trained to perform the surgery. The only place in the world that had that training was in Ethiopia and the Putmans were told it would not be until 2009 that an American doctor could get into the program.
"We prayed about it and said God if this is something you want us to do we need some very clear direction," remembers Dr. Putman. "And the next day I got an e-mail from Ethiopia that asked me if I could come in June. And from there the ball just got rolling."
That was just one of many signs the Putmans say made it clear that leaving the comforts of their home for the mission field was their calling. The family just returned from a month in Serria Leone. They'll go back next month where Jerry will run a clinic designed to help thousands of women have a life again.
They know it will not be easy leaving for Africa with their 11 year old daughter. But for now they have seen enough to know the power of prayer works and how God is working in their lives.
"I feel like in the last year I have been living a miracle," says wife Marty Putman. "Because this is such a desire for me. And to watch how God has worked in Jerry's heart. For him to give up everything he had ever worked for makes me real excited."
"I've never loved what I do more," says Jerry, "but the needs are so overwhelming and the opportunity to change peoples lives is so radical its just clear that's where we need to be."
Clint Yeatts Reporting.
The Putman's, like most missionaries, are responsible for their own finical support. If you would like to help in their ministry in Sierra Leone contact Mercy Ships. Their headquarters are in Lindale. You can find them on the web at www.mercyships.org . Their phone number is 1-800-424-SHIP (7447) or 903-939-7000.