When Noah built his Ark, it was at a time when humanity was helplessly lost in the materialism of the world. A time when humanity could not understand the preciousness of what G‑d had given them. And so, G‑d destroyed the world. He flooded every person, every creation. Everything except for Noah, his family and all living things that took refuge in his Ark.
From Noah stemmed our forefathers. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And the rest of the world. The beauty we see before us today is because Noah kept the hope of G‑d alive in his Ark.
Today, the world is in a different state. After Noah planted the seed of our world, it went on to become what it is today. Beautiful. Glowing with G‑d’s potential light. But still hidden and dark.
Now, instead of destroying the world, G‑d has given us the charge of bringing light to the world. Whether we are Jewish, Christian, Muslim or anything else.
This is a lesson that Johan Huibers, a born again Christian from Amsterdam, has taken upon himself ever since he started on his path towards reaching G‑d.
When he began teaching the youth, he decided he should become more involved. “So I had to read Bible every day,” Johan says. “And it made me cry. I would cry every day.”
When Johan realized the importance of bringing G‑d into the world, of creating an Ark in which people could find G‑dliness, he immediately devoted his life to the venture.
Using his skills as a carpenter and house builder, he worked in Honduras and Ethiopia and all over the world. He did emergency work, rebuilding houses after wars and disasters.
Johan was already changing the world. He was already doing G‑d’s will and creating a better world. But even while doing that, something told him he was meant to do more.
It all started in 1992. “There was a heavy storm,” Johan recalls. “I went to the shore with my son and I watched the waves. That night I dreamed that all of Holland was flooded.”
The dream was so vivid and real that Johan was convinced it had to mean something. What it meant, he did not know. It was only during a seemingly innocuous moment at a bookstore that he saw what he was meant to do.
“I came upon a book about Noah’s Ark in a bookstore and decided immediately to build [Noah’s] Ark.”
Johan had gone from creating spiritual Arks throughout the world to deciding on building a real Ark. An Ark to teach people about G‑d and through them to help bring G‑d into the world.
“The people aren’t coming to you. You have to go to them.”
Like most good men, Johan had a strong woman supporting him. And watching him. “She insisted I wait till it made sense [financially].”
And so, for thirteen years, Johan kept his ambition afloat. He continued doing his work, continued to bring G‑d into the world, but still envisioned his dream coming to life.
Thirteen years later, he was finally ready. With the blessing of his wife and family he began building the Ark. “I started in December 2005 and the opening was April 2007. It took only sixteen months.”
Despite the relatively small amount of time it took him, those sixteen months were a painstaking and intense process.
Johan didn’t want to simply rebuild Noah’s Ark. He wanted to recreate the process. He wanted to truly bring it to life. So, he chopped down the wood from a forest near his home himself. He carved everything with as few modern tools as possible. The only thing he was really missing was gopher wood. But he made do with American cedar and Norwegian pine.
Johan had grand plans. His plan was not only to have an Ark a fifth the size of the original, but to keep it stocked with a petting zoo for children. To have an educational area for children. He planned a drawbridge as an entrance. The entrance would be on the second of three floors, where all the animals would be.
Sixteen months and 1.2 million dollars in debt later, the dream was real. Johan had sacrificed much, but here he was, with his vision complete. An ark that looked as close to Noah’s as had ever existed since.
Despite this monumental feat, Johan was more concerned about whether the people would come. Whether he would be able to reach his audience.
There was no need to worry. The response was enormous. Within no time, Johan’s Ark was a sensation. He was attracting tourists, people from all over the world. News crews began pouring in and people from all walks of life started to take notice.
Today, Johan’s enterprise has grown into a full-fledged operation. The ark constantly bustles with the sound of visitors. Children flood the ark to play with the animals. Students come for classes about religion. Adults come to reconnect with their soul or simply to see the magnificent work that Johan created.
When Noah was alive, he had to create an Ark to escape the people of the world. Today, the people are flocking to see Johan’s Ark. When Noah lived, the Ark brought a single seed of humanity’s hope to the world. Today, Johan is planting a seed of G‑d in each person that visits his Ark.
When someone came to thank him for helping raising their awareness of G‑d, Johan simply replied, “I am not doing anything… all I can do is plant the seed.”
With this simple message, Johan has conveyed the message of our generation.
Johan’s seed was planted when he first picked up a Bible. He went on to water his seed until it grew into the beautiful plant that is his life and all that he has created. With those creations, he has helped plant seeds in an innumerable amount of people throughout the globe. And now, each of those people has the choice of letting those seeds rot in the ground or sowing them until creations as beautiful and unique as Johan’s Ark are created.
Recently three television crews from different countries came to cover Johan’s story. They happened to all be there on the same day. “There were some Muslims from Turkey and Jewish people from Israel and people from Dutch television and they were all talking to each other.
“I was so glad that they talked with each other. It was a dream.”
Because of Johan, and because of the wonderful people that have come to visit his Ark, that dream is becoming real.