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Dutchman Rebuilds Noah's Ark to Spread His Faith

He dreamed about it for fourteen years and when he finally started it took Dutch contractor Johan Huibers only 16 months to rebuild Noah's Ark.

Huibers, a jovial man with a smile for everyone, said he got the idea to build his ark after having a dream that the Netherlands was flooded.

"It was a feeling that compelled me to build it and I like to talk about God and tell the story," Huibers told AFP on his finished ark.

He stressed, he does not believe the Netherlands will flood but believes the dream was God's way of telling him to build an ark to spread his faith.

"I want to show people what the ark looked like to make the story more tangible. When people don't believe in God see the ark, they have many questions. It is wonderful to talk to these people," he said.

At 70 metres (231 feet) long the ship is only half the length of the ark described in the Bible. Taking into account the adjusted height and width, Huibers says the biblical ark would have been 14 times bigger, in terms of volume, than his replica.

"When I went inside I thought to myself: that's the way it happened, two and two they went into the ark," said visitor Diny Lagerweij, quoting the Bible.

Inside the enormous shipped is filled with wooden animals -- elephants, giraffes, apes -- to give people an idea of what it would have been like, and visitors were in awe.

"The Bible story starts to become alive for you. I actually said 'thank you Lord' when I was inside," said 59-year-old Marga Weil, who came to see the ark with her son.

Not everyone is convinced. Tannes, a 51-year-old doctor's assistant, who described herself as Christian, said she found it hard to believe the Bible story of Noah.

"It is difficult to imagine that all the animals that lived on the Earth were able to stay in this kind of space, that they lived here and were cared for, that they had enough to eat and drink," she said.

Many of the visitors are Christians but Huibers said he also gets a lot of visits from (nondenominational) state schools.

With some 30,000 visitors since the opening April 30th this year the ark is proving popular, perhaps somewhat surprisingly in the Netherlands where only one in five people say they attend church regularly.

"I have already touched do many people that it is already a success for me," Huibers said.

He wants to spread his message further with a tour of the Netherlands. He is sailing to Rotterdam where he will moor in the harbour in August. On the way he hopes to be allowed to open the boat to visitors in Amsterdam. After Rotterdam there are plans to go to the eastern Netherlands to Arnhem and then on to Germany via the Rhine.

The small entrance fee visitors pay is helping Huibers realise his next goal: a bigger ark the actual size of the ship described in the Bible.

"That's my dream and I'm looking forward to it but it depends on the visitors," he said.

He calculated he would need five million euros (6.71 million dollars) to build such an ark.

"If things continue to go this well I could start within a year," he said, smiling.

With the bigger ark come bigger plans.

"It will be built to navigate European waters," Huibers says, dreaming of sailing that ark to Barcelona and beyond.

Already the ark in Schagen draws visitors from all over the world. On a weekday morning two American sisters said took a few days out from their holiday in Sweden to travel over a 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) the Netherlands especially to see Huibers' ark.

"The idea that a man could make an ark, I wanted to see it," Donna Hiesew from Pennsylvannia explained.

She said the visit had reinforced her faith.

"I can't explain how it makes you feel on the inside, how it makes me feel. Like maybe I could be a part of it."


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