We felt this blog wouldn’t be complete without sharing a little bit of our life story- and giving glory to God for getting us to where we are today!
Willy, originally from Peru, was born in a city at the foot of the Andes Mountains called Arequipa. As a teenager, he enjoyed reading autobiographies of missionary doctors and dreamed of one day operating in a remote jungle setting. Growing up in a family with limited resources, this goal seemed unattainable. Thankfully, Willy’s dad inspired him to have faith and believe for what seemed impossible.
Willy’s father (Willy Sr.), came from a rural village near Cuzco and sadly became orphaned at the age of 12. Following the death of his parents, he traveled to the capital city of Lima to live with an uncle, but struggled with loneliness and depression. One night, as he was on the verge of taking his own life, Willy’s father was approached by a man who told him about Jesus and he became a Christian. His uncle, angered by the news of his conversion, kicked him out of his house. Undaunted, Willy’s father continued to attend church while living on the streets in an abandoned car. One particularly cold evening in Lima, he looked at his worn out sneakers and prayed for new shoes. The next morning, he awoke to find a new pair of shoes placed just outside the car door. As his faith in God grew, he attended seminary and eventually became a pastor. God placed a burden on Willy’s father’s heart for the impoverished children of Arequipa, giving him a vision to build a church and a Christian school.
Enter baby Jessee! She had moved to Peru at the age of 6 months with her family who were serving as missionaries with Habitat for Humanity. Willy and Jessee were 5 and 3 years old when their families met one fateful day in 1989 in Arequipa. As people would say in Spanish- Willy was a “roba-cunas” or a cradle robber! Together, their parents started a Christian school called El Pionero (or “The Pioneer”). This was during a tumultuous time in Peru when the Shining Path terrorist group was wreaking havoc in the country. Despite the adversity, plans for the school moved forward. The very first students wrote their lessons on cement bags while sitting on cinder blocks. Through nearly three decades of faith and persistence, El Pionero Schools have grown to welcome 800 students, offering free Christian education to impoverished children in Arequipa.
After living in Peru for 3 years, Jessee’s family went on to serve with Habitat for Humanity in Mexico. One of the Kramer family’s assignments took them to Hidalgo, a tropical state on the Yucatan Peninsula. As a 5 year old, Jessee enjoyed swimming with her siblings in muddy rivers, helping at the Habitat construction sites, and “living off the land” in their backyard. Hidalgo was a lush paradise but nightmarish in terms of tropical infections. Often, people would come to the Kramer’s home with machete injuries or illnesses seeking medical assistance. Unfortunately, there was no doctor nearby and the Kramers would transport patients for several hours over bumpy dirt roads to access medical care. Watching her parents pour out their lives to serve their Mexican neighbors planted a desire in Jessee to some day follow in their steps.
Willy and Jessee re-met in 2001 when Jessee visited Peru on a mission trip. As if that didn’t shake up their world enough, they were caught in the middle of an earthquake in 2001 that measured 8.4 on the Richter Scale- globally the largest quake at that time since 1965. Jessee had the opportunity to serve with the Peruvian Red Cross, visiting coastal villages that had been decimated by the earthquake and a subsequent tsunami. During that trip, God spoke to her about becoming a medical missionary, something that He had already been confirming in Willy’s heart.
In 2002, they began college together at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma- Willy studying pre-med and Jessee as a nursing major. The following year, Willy had the opportunity to participate in eye surgeries at Hospital Misión Tarahumara in Mexico. During a delicate cataract surgery, the equipment that controlled intra-ocular pressure malfunctioned. The surgeon struggled to finish the procedure and thankfully the patient had a good outcome. Through that experience, Willy was impacted by the need for biomedical technicians on the mission field and changed his major to biomedical engineering. A few years later while visiting Mexico again, Willy asked Jessee’s parents for her hand in marriage (which was also preceded by a good-natured mud slinging fight with Jessee’s mom in the river!)
Following graduation in 2006, Willy and Jessee got married and began working in Tulsa- Jessee as a Pediatric ICU nurse and Willy as a biomedical technician repairing hospital equipment. With the call to medical missions fresh in their minds, both sensed a desire for additional medical training.
In 2009, God opened doors for the Bustinzas to attend medical school together at the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Tulsa (Go Pokes!) 4 years of late night study sessions, subsisting on leftovers served on disposable dishes, and donning scrubs as both PJ’s and work clothes flew by. They kept life exciting by traveling as often as possible, adopting two dachshunds, and celebrating their anniversary monthly (163 so far!) After graduating in 2013, Jessee continued on to complete her pediatric residency with the University of Oklahoma- Tulsa, and Willy tackled the 5 year general surgery residency program at Oklahoma State. Old habits die hard though, and somehow the Bustinzas have struggled to purge their home of disposable dishes (oh well- you can’t win them all!)
In October 2017, Willy and Jessee welcomed baby Lucia Anne into the family, Lucia meaning “Bearer of Light” as they felt God would use her life to shine His light in dark places. Another blessing that year was their acceptance into the Samaritan’s Purse World Medical Mission Post-Residency Program- a goal they had shared for nearly 15 years. The Bustinzas felt honored to be assigned to Hospital Misión Tarahumara in Mexico and began their term in August 2018. During that time, they established a pediatric malnutrition program and developed a medical education department for the hospital. For the Bustinzas, being back in Latin America was like a homecoming. A special blessing was that their ministry at the hospital intersected with Jessee’s parents’ outreach among the Tarahumara people. The Kramers had served the Tarahumara for more than 16 years, were fluent in Tarahumara, are were involved with Bible translation, evangelism, and the equipping of local leaders.
In December 2019, the Bustinzas welcomed baby Caroline Grace into the family. Caroline means “joy, song of happiness” and “strong woman,” which reminds the Bustinzas of Nehemiah 8:10 that says “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”
The Bustinzas are excited to continue to serve God in Mexico as a part of the Christian Health Service Corps family. Through medical care, their desire is to introduce the Tarahumara people to the Creator God who is not distant, but rather who loves and cares for them. The Bustinzas are grateful to the many friends and family who have supported them in their journey and look forward to following the footsteps of the Great Physician wherever He leads.