If he’d followed the plan Fidel Castro’s government had for his life, Reinier Camejo Carmona would not be making pizzas for Union College students. The leaders of the Kansas-Nebraska Conference of Seventh-day Adventists also wish he wasn’t making pizza — but for very different reasons. We’ll try to explain.
Perhaps Camejo was destined to frustrate Castro even before he was born. The doctors in Cuba had informed his mother that they would have to take her baby very early because of her high blood pressure. “He probably won’t live,” they said. So moments before the c-section, his mother promised that if her boy survived, he would be dedicated to God’s service. After many months in an incubator, Camejo left the hospital and grew up to be a clever young man. He was smart enough to be tapped for one of the top prep schools in Cuba.
It was a boarding school, and a key part of the curriculum was communist indoctrination. Camejo’s parents didn’t want to send him away at age 11 to a place that was like the Lord of the Flies with Stalinist statues. But they trusted God would keep him.
Through it all, the pre-teen stayed true to his beliefs. He excelled in art classes and graduated on track to go to university.
But first, there was the mandatory military service. The Cuban army was not friendly to Adventist convictions. Every weekend, they threw Camejo into jail for not working on Sabbath. When they heard he had a Bible, they ransacked his living area. Thanks to a warning from a kind soldier, he was able to hide his Bible on that occasion and kept it during the rest of his time in the army.
Throughout his education, the Communist party made every effort to convince Camejo to pledge his first loyalty to Castro. But he wouldn’t even join the Young Communist League. He began teaching art classes and attending university. He had always wanted to be a pastor, but theology was not an option at the school he was allowed to attend. So he took law, and outside of class, he led a secret Bible study with students from many faiths.
A few months before his expected graduation in 2010, the pressure increased on him to join the Young Communist League. Their newest tactic was to move his university examinations to Saturday. That’s when Camejo had to walk away from his law degree.
He threw his energies into being a lay pastor and eventually was accepted at a newly accredited Adventist seminary on the island. Castro’s plans for him had failed. But God’s plans were working out. He began a long-distance romance with Yohanna Santana Treche, a childhood friend who had since moved to the U.S. Fast-forward to getting married and landing in Lincoln where Yohanna worked for Christian Record Services. Camejo saw a job opening at the Union Market and thought, “Yes!”
He specialized in making pizzas and in greeting students with cheerful enthusiasm. On weekends he answered the call to preach at local Spanish churches. As of now, he has been called to take a district of churches as a full-time pastor. But he told the Kansas-Nebraska Conference to wait. “I can’t leave during the school year. The kids need me. They need pizza.” So the administrators are left tapping their toes while Camejo makes some really good pizza. At least they know that their man will come on board in a week or two. As for Castro and the Communist Party, they gave up a long time ago. They were no match for the faith of this man and the providence of his God.