One man and a vision
Frans Gunnink chats with Johan Huibers, Dutch ‘Ark’-builder
Johan Huibers is now well-known as the self-employed Dutch carpenter who has built a working ‘Ark’ nearly half as long as Noah’s original.
Since opening for public viewing in mid-2007 in the Netherlands, many thousands of visitors have ‘flooded’ into the ‘Ark’. They’ve seen the cages inside with life-size animal models made of polyester, and watched videos illustrating Noah’s mission. They’ve enjoyed the displays which include a ‘flood demonstration’ for children, and such things as the walls of Jericho, a Galilean fishing boat (inset, opposite page), and the empty tomb of the Lord Jesus, to put the whole biblical picture in perspective for the visitors. Guides are available to answer questions.
International media covered the opening extensively,1 and the website2 attracts a lot of visitors. The Netherlands is a favourite tourist area for foreign visitors, and Johan’s ‘Ark’ provides the small country with yet another tourist drawcard. But unlike most others, this tourist ‘attraction’ conveys a powerful message. Visitors to Johan Huiber’s ‘Ark’ are fully confronted with the Bible’s truths, just as Johan intended. He says:
‘The people in the Netherlands have to be reached by the Gospel. That is the aim of the “Ark”. In the past most people went to church and heard the Word on Sundays. Now they don’t go to church anymore, so to reach them, God uses other means.’
Long active in his church’s various ‘evangelization’ activities, Johan was keen to reach even more people. ‘If they don’t come to church anymore, we bring the people the Gospel in their own environment. John the Baptist baptized in the Jordan, near the “highway” so-to-speak, where the river crossing was. We also want to travel with the “Ark” to different cities and villages—even to other countries. People in Cologne, Germany, have asked us to come.’
That is why, compared to the real (Noah’s) Ark (see ‘A Question of Size’) Johan had to downsize his ‘Ark’ so it could traverse the inland waterways under bridges and the like.
Why an ‘Ark’?
How did Johan get the idea for such a project? ‘We live very near the sea, and about 14 years ago, I was watching the waves hammering the local dike during an impressive storm. That night I dreamt about it. During that week, I was renovating the interior of a bookshop and saw a book about Noah’s Ark by Dutch artist Rien Poortvliet.
‘It was while reading that book that I realized: “I am going to build an ‘Ark’!” So I started gathering information. I had to find out about building regulations, shipping regulations, the dimensions of our waterways. I kept on thinking about it and talking about it—the conviction the “Ark” was going to be built stayed with me, all those years. I can now see that I really needed those years of preparation.’
A Question of SizeJohan’s ‘Ark’ is 70 m (230 ft) long, 13 m (43 ft) wide and
Johan has repeatedly experienced God’s providence in this project.
‘For example,’ he says, ‘I needed a tree saw and looked for a secondhand one. But I did not have the money, it cost more than 50,000 euro, and my wife had misgivings. Then suddenly, the company selling the saw went bankrupt, and this very machine ended up on an open-air storage yard next door to me!
‘After the saw had been outside for one winter, I was able to buy it for scrap iron price, per kilo. It was as if God said: “This one’s too expensive for you. I’ll make it cheaper and bring it nearer!”
‘However, an electric motor specialist, who looked at it, said I would have to install new motors and that the wiring was not completely right. Despite that, I tried the machine anyway … and it ran! I felt this was like a ‘wink’ from the Lord: “Continue, you’re on the right track.”’
Johan can testify of many similar occurrences, during the two years that he took to build the ‘Ark’.
In all, he used around 1,200 trees (American cedar and Norwegian pine), for which 20 trucks were needed. It took about 20 weeks to saw them into planks.
If they don’t come to church anymore, we bring the people the Gospel in their own environment.
Why was Johan so touched by the history of the Ark? ‘This much-loved story, with its animal and message of salvation, easily attracts people. Everyone has some notion of it. And if you can show how the Ark must have looked, it brings the whole Bible closer. I tell people: “I’m not expecting another Flood, but I am expecting the return of our Lord Jesus. Maybe it will take 50 years, or 100, nobody knows.”
‘And I point out, at the same time, that it’s clear to all that things are not going well with society today. Things need to change, just as in the days of Noah. I don’t want to end up fear-mongering, but the message should be: “Choose to follow Jesus, while it is still possible.”’
A refreshing change
Johan is very encouraged by the increased commitment of believers in the Netherlands that he’s observed in recent years.
‘There is a cleansing going on among the Christians. A preacher once said: “The darker it becomes, the better you can see the stars.”3 God requires us to become pure, and not lukewarm. He vomits from lukewarmness (Revelation 3:16). He would rather have that one is dead cold, than lukewarm.
‘God wants people who are prepared to follow Him wholeheartedly. It is not only the unbelievers who have to be reached; the believers, too, have to be helped to see things clearly, because the attacks on the Bible come from all sides.’
Johan mentions his recent conversation with a sincere Christian, who runs a successful IT business. ‘This man had a true fear of God, and takes the Bible seriously. But he asked me: “Johan, why do you give so much weight to the six days? What does it matter if it could have taken millions of years?” But I have found that once you start questioning such Christians about Adam and Eve, the Fall and the inconsistencies with trying to combine Scripture with millions of years and evolution,4 you will see that their eyes open. Suddenly they realize the importance of the issue and are helped.’
What has been the most unexpected experience of Johan Huibers, since his ‘Ark’ opened to the public? ‘That there has been sowing and reaping at the same time,’ he says. ‘I have been using the “Ark” to “sow” the seed of the Gospel in people’s lives, but I thought I would be a “sour old man” of 75 before I would see any fruit, if at all. But we’ve already seen people come to the Lord! Last weekend, for example, I attended a baptism service of someone who said they came to Christ as a result of seeing our “Ark”.’
Johan’s next project: A full-size ‘Ark’!
Johan Huibers’ downsized ‘Ark’ has now been plying Dutch waterways
for more than a year. He is already busy with his next project, his original
dream: a full-size ‘Ark’ 150 m (492 ft) long and 25 m
Unlike the smaller version, the new ‘Ark’ will have a lower deck with the structure of honeycomb—the most sturdy construction per unit weight, says Johan. ‘In Genesis 6:14 the Lord speaks about making “rooms” in the Ark. But He mentions this in the general description of the structure. The Hebrew word can also be translated “cells” or “nests”. Therefore I think it has to do with the way the structure was built.’
Each cell of the ‘honeycomb’ will have walls 3 m (10 ft) long and 6 m (20 ft) high, and able to be used for storage. Because each cell can be sealed (i.e. watertight), Johan explains that if his ‘Ark’ bumps into something, it won’t be flooded, as only one compartment would be affected. (The Titanic was supposed to have this safety feature, but failed to make the compartments watertight.)
After the new ‘Ark’ is ready, Johan is intending to take it out to sea—he would even like to take it to Asia and Australia!1. See Hong, S.W. et al., Safety investigation of Noah’s Ark in a seaway, Journal of Creation 8(1):26–36, 1994; <creation.com/arksafety>.
Photos courtesy of Peter and Frans Zoutman and Jacky Baken.
References and notes
- E.g., Dutchman builds modern Noah’s Ark, BBC News, <news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4853890.stm>, 28 March 2006. Return to text.
- Ark van Noach (Ark of Noah)—current schedule and other information; see www.arkvannoach.com—available in both Dutch and English. Return to text.
- Cf. Daniel 12:3. Return to text.
- E.g. putting death before sin—see Sarfati, J., The Fall—a cosmic catastrophe, Journal of Creation 19(3):60–64, 2005; <creation.com/plant_death>. Return to text.