Blind pastor challenges perceptions, takes path less travelled

Ashley Thompson
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Sight or no sight, John Zinck is a man of vision.

Zinck lost his eyes to cancer before he turned two. Doctors felt the only way to prevent the congenital disease that caused tumours to grow on each eye from spreading would be to remove the affected organs.

The 38-year-old remembers adapting to vision loss fairly quickly, partly because he lost his sight at such a young age.

“Mom and Dad never really told me I couldn’t do things. They just let me learn how to do them,” he recalls.

He knew he’d never grow up to be a racecar driver, or brain surgeon. He accepts that.

“I wouldn’t want me operating on me — not a chance,” he jokes.

Even as a kid, Zinck made it his mission to focus on the things he can do. He learned to read braille, and figured out how to get around relying on hearing and touch.Later in life, he taught himself to play guitar by listening to cassette tapes and strumming along with the band.

He recalls visiting what was formally known as the School for the Blind, where he met his future wife in their teen years, and wowing his advisors by cutting his own fingernails.

“’I’m thinking, ‘Fingernails? Everybody cuts their fingernails.’”

Refusing to rely on can openers and microwaves for a meal, he started cooking.

“Cooking,” he laughs. “They were probably horrified at some of my methods but I had learned how to cook by the time I was a teenager — I liked to eat.”

Zinck didn’t live the life of an eligible bachelor with unique cooking techniques for long. At 18, he married a girl his age he had been dating for about a year. Shannan, who is 95 per cent blind, has remained by his side for 20 years.

“I see that as he moves forward and as people look at him and see how much he’s accomplished, I’m a part of that because we are together,” she says.

 

Their path to parenthood

The early years of marriage weren’t easy. On top of being strapped for cash and dealing with the loss of loved ones, the young couple desperately wanted to have a baby. With Zinck unable to biologically father a child due to a medical condition, they opted to adopt.

The first opportunity for adoption ended in disappointment, with the biological mother losing the baby to a tubular pregnancy.

“We had our hearts set on that,” said Zinck.

Fourteen years passed, and the couple started to question if they would ever have a child. They were living in Moncton and working at an overnight shelter run by Harvest House Atlantic, a faith-based organization that helps people struggling with homelessness, addiction and hurt.

A pregnant client of the overnight shelter would soon present them with the answer to their prayers for a child. The woman had already had four children taken into the system, and was told she wouldn’t be keeping this one.

“This baby was due to be taken at birth and she wanted to have some say as to where this one would go,” Zinck explains.

That baby is now a five-year-old boy preparing for his first day of school in September, much to the delight of his adoring parents.

“One of the most awesome, wonderful things for us was bringing him home from the hospital,” said Zinck. “It was amazing.”

From that moment forward, Zinck’s family was complete.

“People say, “it must be just like he’s you’re son.’ I say, ‘No it’s not just like, he just is.’”

Hearing this, Zinck’s redheaded boy hops off of his mother’s lap, bounces across the room and puts a hand on his father’s knee.

“You help Dad all the time,” says Zinck, with a warm smile.

Myles blushes, and hurries back to his mother to continue reading books.

 

Making a difference

Zinck, associate pastor at the Oasis Community Church in Windsor, says faith is what keeps his family strong. Their relationship with Christ led them to where they are today.

“His mission was to make the ultimate difference — bring hope, make change, provide a way where there wasn’t one,” says Zinck, who strives to do the same.

Zinck, a volunteer at the Harvest House outreach centre in Windsor, says faith and family have carried him through the most challenging times in his life. In return, he plans to make the most of it.

“If I can do anything to encourage anybody, or to make a difference, I’m glad for that.”

 

Organizations: School for the Blind, Harvest House, Oasis Community Church

Geographic location: Windsor, Moncton

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  • Jim Crawford
    August 20, 2014 - 21:57

    John may not have sight in his physical eyes but he is blessed to be able to see things a lot of us cannot.