By Leanna Foreman
The earth is corrupt. God’s eyes wander to and fro looking for any of His creations that are not a distorted lie of what He created them to be. Noah finds grace in the sight of God, builds an ark and is saved from a devastating flood.
This is one of the most famous accounts found in the Bible. It’s recounting is known by those who read the word of God and those who do not. But hearing or reading about this event often leaves the audience somewhat stunned, not able to fully grasp the magnitude of the task God gave to Noah.
Approximately 4,000 years later, in 1992, there is another great storm. This time it is in the Netherlands, and God gives a similar task to Johan Huiber. It is not to save his life, but to spread the gospel and share the love of God with others.
“We hope to invite people from all countries and religions into the Ark. For a lot of people it is very hard to enter a church, sometimes because of their past or their disappointment in the church. With the Ark, we would love to welcome them to ‘step into the story’ of Noah and his family and experience how to have a relationship with God,” says Deborah Venema-Huibers, Johan’s daughter and full-time employee for the Ark project.
That’s right. Johan Huibers built a historically accurate, to-scale Ark for the public to experience. The project took a lot of research, Huiber selling his business and 13 years.
Venema-Huibers mentions, “Johan is a carpenter so the construction questions popped up immediately. Johan had to raise the money to build the Ark as well. He sold his business and prepared to build the Ark by finding the perfect type of wood and arranging a wood-sawing machine.”
As Venema-Huibers says, though, the purpose of the Ark is for visitors to experience the story of Noah and his family, so information and resources can be found inside for visitors who are interested in learning more about what happened and why.
“We have made scenes from Noah building, preparing, bringing in the animals, on board of the Ark, during the rain, and finally, getting out of the Ark. There is a big science part as well. Here we explain that the flood is real, via scientific facts. We also explain the creation of the world—that God created us and the world in six days,” Venema-Huibers says.
Besides the scenes displayed and resources handed out, the Ark project has also been on television and is reaching more than just the Netherlands.
“There is a large stage on the television! We have had the Chinese state television and Russian network with over 80 million views each!” Venema-Huibers explains excitedly.
You may recall that Noah and the Ark he was building were not received well by those who saw it. This has not been the case for Huiber; God has blessed the project by softening the public’s hearts to the physical ark, as well as the account behind it.
“At first they were surprised! An ark? For what purpose? And so on. But as soon as they enter the ship they are in awe. Not just because of the construction, but also about the story,” says Venema-Huiber.
The Ark is doing exactly what Huiber hoped it would do when he obeyed God and began building the Ark. The Huiber family has seen many people come to Christ through their experience on the Ark.
“We are expecting that God is doing great things in every visitor’s life! We do not hear all the stories of the people afterwards. But that is not our goal. Johan is doing what he can with the ark, but only God is able to change people’s lives,” Venema-Huibers says.
This journey has greatly affected Huiber’s life; he draws strength from Joshua 1:9 and God. He often says, “I am not able for this job, but I am available for God, and God makes you able.”
Huiber continues to be available for God by continuing work on the Ark, and beginning the process of God’s next project: raising the level of water in the Dead Sea, as mentioned in Ezekiel. The people of Israel weigh heavily on Huiber’s heart, and he asks that the church continue to pray for them.
Huiber says he does not find it easier to “hear” God, despite this faith growing experience.
“God always wants to talk to people. You read His Word and He is talking to YOU! Don’t be scared for the things He is asking you. But be as Joshua 1:9,” he encourages.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.