Salvation Stories: Peter Zein

September 3, 2021
Peter Zein

I grew up in a Christian home on a farm near Stratford, Ontario. There I regularly attended a denominational church but I never remember hearing the gospel. During my high school years, I began to use mild drugs and alcohol, and later at a Toronto college my usage increased. While at college, my father was diagnosed with cancer and I came home to care for him the last two weeks of his life before he passed away in January 1982. During the summer of 1982, while visiting a college friend in Huntsville, Ontario, I dove into shallow water and broke my neck. I became a quadriplegic, and spent a year in rehab before settling in Toronto. I played competitive wheelchair sports but much of that was “play hard, party hard.” 

After my mother was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in 1987, I received an inheritance and purchased a house in Toronto. Despite having many friends, the pressures of school, finances, and loneliness overwhelmed me. In 1989, my circumstances led me to pray more fervently. I always prayed before sleep every night, but only as a habit, having memorized a prayer my mother taught me as a child. As things became more difficult my prayers changed. Financial stress, worry, and loneliness caused me to lose sleep and increase my addictions. Instead of just reciting the memorized prayer I had learned, I began to add to it at the end of it every night asking God to intervene in my situation and help me! My situation became worse when I invited friends to become boarders to offset the costs. Now my life became even more difficult. I became tired of my lifestyle, which I believe resulted from praying relatives and friends who were saved. I wanted a change and due to some traumatic circumstances—resulting from my sinful life—I needed to get a dog for protection. One of my boarders, my best friend looked in the newspaper for a protection dog, and found a house that was accessible. 

My two sisters had both received Christ at a small Bible study in Tavistock and began attending the Bible chapel there. That Easter Sunday on March 23rd, 1989, I visited my oldest sister and attended the meeting at the chapel. About a year earlier, she had visited me when I lived in Scarborough to tell me the Gospel. I claimed I was already a Christian, but she said, “if you’re a Christian, you wouldn’t be living like this.” She told me that if I knew Jesus Christ as my Savior, I would be telling others about Him. I knew in my heart she was right but I did not tell her.

It wasn’t the typical meeting for Easter. The text was from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. While the preacher spoke, I recognized that the message was not from the man or from my sister telling him about me. There were too many things said that no one else knew about me and the condition of my heart. I knew it was God speaking through him. I did not understand how at the time, I just knew it was God. I heard the Easter story all my life but this time the Lord impressed upon me to be saved. At the end of the message, the preacher told everyone how we can be saved and that if anyone did not know Christ to speak to Him now. That moment, I trusted in Christ as my personal Savior. Before, I knew He was Savior but had never made it personal. Joy filled my heart! I never told anyone at the meeting that I had received Christ but I was changed dramatically. Months later, my sister later told me that she knew I had become saved. I was clearly changed. 

Since that moment, all addictions left and I dedicated my life to serving my Lord. He provided me with a wife and a son. After a period of time, I raised my son as a single dad from a wheelchair. Throughout those years the Lord always provided me with love and support from local assemblies, especially in Tavistock, Ontario where I now fellowship. Now a grandfather, He has truly blessed me with family and a beautiful place to live in Stratford, Ontario.

Throughout the years I have attended Bible studies taught by older, godly men whom I believe God brought to me and I have really appreciated them. It was also very important to me that I was in a New Testament patterned church that preached the truth of the gospel. 

I wanted to share the Truth of the Word and for 15 years I taught a Bible study at my old secular high school in Stratford until the school board finally shut us down. The idea for the study originated while living in St. Catharines when I began handing out tracts to students on the sidewalk. Because most adults were not interested, I focused on high school students who showed great interest in what the Bible said. I set up close to the school where there was a high traffic of students going home. Later, when I moved from St. Catharines to Stratford, I began giving out tracts outside the high school where I graduated.

After a couple of years of handing out tracts and New Testament Bibles, I wanted to get in the school and begin a study. I asked Gary Weeks what to do. He who told me to “give them Pizza.” Judy Williams from the Tavistock Assembly and I approached the principal about the idea of having a video series on the Gospel of John. To our surprise, she said “yes.” The assembly provided money for pizza and we expected 5 or 6 Christian students to start. The very first day we had 15 students, 90% of whom were not believers. The video machine never worked so I just taught out of the Bible. We went every Wednesday at lunchtime, averaging from 20-25 students. Sometimes we had over 30 and there was not enough room. God used the study amazingly and often the students who graduated would stop me and ask if I was the “Bible study guy” and they would tell me their story and why they came. The Lord is amazing providing us the opportunity to share God’s Word in a place we were told “you can’t go into schools.” 

I love Bible study outreaches. Along with other men from the assembly I enjoyed youth prison ministry in the youth detention centre in Goderich for about 15 years until the government closed the detention centre down. I taught neighbourhood Bible studies as an outreach and I had the joy of seeing many neighbours come to Christ both in St. Catharines and the Stratford area. Wherever anyone would have me, I would try to work out a way despite the accessibility issues. As long as I am in the body, my desire is to teach the gospel with Bible studies, preaching, street evangelism, or open-air Drive-in meetings. Now sixty years old and getting a little worn out, I want to devote the rest of my time telling others about Christ, learning and teaching the Word with joy.