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Some could call it an “evolution” of a vision. This month, we celebrate its one-year anniversary. The vision started over 30 years ago, when—as a public school science teacher in Australia—I took my students to a local natural history museum.
Throughout, there were signs about millions of years and references to evolution—all presented as fact. As I watched my own students and hundreds of other young people there, I realized this same situation was playing out daily in cities around the world. That’s where a “fire in my bones” started. I thought that a creation museum could reach generations of young people with the truth of God’s infallible Word and refute evolutionary teaching.
Not long after, what was to become the leading creation ministry in Australia started in our home. One of the founding board members, John Thallon, and I talked about my burden to build a major creation-based museum. At one point, both of us knelt down on some land in Australia and prayed that the Lord would one day provide a place to build such a museum.
Despite our burden, nothing seemed to happen in answer to this prayer at first. However, the Australian ministry grew, and soon I was invited to do speaking tours in America. In 1987, our family moved to the U.S. to become “missionaries to America” where I worked with the Institute for Creation Research (founded by Dr. Henry Morris). The goal was to call the church in the U.S. back to the authority of the Word of God.
After seven amazing years at ICR, instead of returning to Australia, I saw the Lord opening the way for the Answers in Genesis ministry to be founded—and for the Creation Museum to be built—here in America. The Lord brought two very special men into my life while working with ICR. Mark Looy had worked in Christian radio in San Diego and had also helped ICR organize the major Back to Genesis conferences. Mike Zovath, who had just retired from the military, came to ICR to work with Mark as a seminar coordinator. In retirement, Mike wanted to do something significant for the Lord. Both of these men worked with me on various speaking events.
Knowing my burden to build a major creation museum, Mark and Mike told me that they shared the same museum burden. The three of us, through a series of circumstances that could have only been orchestrated by the God of miracles, moved our families to northern Kentucky (near Cincinnati, Ohio) to begin this new adventure. That was 14 years ago.
The Museum’s Media Coverage Begins Early
We set up office in a small strip mall in Florence, Kentucky (just south of Cincinnati), and started to tell people that the Lord had called us to start a biblical creation ministry and build a creation museum. When the secular press got wind of our vision, I remember one of them interviewing me and asking: “Where are you going to get the money for such a thing?” I answered, “We’re Christians, and because we’re sure the God of creation has called us to do this, He will provide the money through His people.”
I could see the reporter was not convinced. Her face suggested a scoffing attitude.
But, we stepped out in faith. With no money, and no idea how it could happen, we moved ahead. AiG looked for land. We even signed a contract on a piece of property, only to lose it in a rezoning battle because the local secular humanist group stirred up intense opposition. The three of us couldn’t believe how emotional a rezoning battle could become. AiG was often front-page news for days on end as people lashed out at a ministry that wanted to build a creation museum! This was becoming a real spiritual struggle.
Yes, we were somewhat downcast at losing the rezoning battle, but God renewed our spirits, and we began looking for land again. Soon the ministry found a beautiful piece of property a few miles west of the Cincinnati Airport—right at an exit and fronting Interstate 275. It was too good to be true. Yes, we had no money, but God had called us to do this. So, under the guidance of the godly AiG board we approached the owners about buying the property interest-free over a few years and, by what I would call a miracle, they agreed!
We had more rezoning battles as the museum was opposed by the same secular humanists—there was even a court case—but the Lord had the right people in the right places at the right time, and this time the rezoning (after many stressful events) went through! AiG now had a superior property in a superior location, and so the board decided to build a much bigger museum. The vision was growing. And truly, as AiG received opposition, we realized the promise of Genesis 50:20, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.”
Getting It Built
We hired a local architectural firm (who gave us a special discount), and soon God’s people were supporting this vision. Little by little the funds started to come in. Also, talented people who wanted to use their skills for the Lord began contacting us. Special mention should be made of Patrick Marsh, our museum’s director of design. Patrick had worked for Universal Studios–Florida and was an exhibit designer for its King Kong and Jaws attractions; he had also designed theme parks in Japan and other Asian countries. He was a huge answer to our prayers.
I remember when we opened the Creation Museum one year ago, a reporter asked me: “Where did you find such talent?” That talent was just exuding from the museum. I replied, “It’s the result of a miracle. Just as God brought the animals to Noah on the Ark, so God brought these talented people to us!”
Yes, there were seemingly impossible difficulties to overcome. Donation issues were always keeping us on our toes (and more importantly, on our knees!). But just as God told the Israelites about conquering the Promised Land, we were reminded that “Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land” (Exodus 23:30).
Even though there were some significant financial gifts, in the end, around 75% of the financial support came from people who gave on average about $130! We praise the Lord for the broad base of financial, and prayer, support.
At the Gates
On the museum’s opening day last May, the same humanist group, who had opposed us on the first piece of property, helped organize a demonstration outside the museum property. A reporter asked me, “What do you think of the demonstrators at the gates?” I responded something like this, “Well, last time they opposed us, we ended up getting a far-better piece of property, and a far bigger vision to build a far bigger museum than we ever thought possible. I can’t wait to see how the Lord uses their opposition this time!”
Well, we got a lot of international press coverage that weekend, and again God used the “opposition” to help accomplish His plan!
A TV reporter on opening day asked me, “So, what is your ultimate motivation in seeing the museum built—what are you ultimately aiming to do?” I responded, “Our ultimate motivation is to stand upon the authority of the Word of God, to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, to see people saved and won to the Lord and thus be in heaven with us!”
The reporter admitted that it was “refreshing” to hear Christians be so up front about what they believed and not be ashamed to share that their ultimate motivation is to see people become Christians. Over the past twelve months, I’ve had pastors and others tell me that because the Creation Museum makes such a bold statement concerning God’s Word and the gospel, and because we don’t hide that, this has enthused them to be more bold about the Christian faith.
I am constantly reminded of the verse: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
As I look back on the past 30 years, and as I think about all the opposition AiG has faced, I can truly say that what was meant as evil, God meant for good, in order (as the rest of Genesis 50:20 says) “to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”
Yes, God is using the Creation Museum to save many people. As of the date of writing this article (less than 11 months after the museum opening), about 400,000 guests—many of them non-Christians—have toured the museum, and many thousands have been deeply impacted by the message that the Bible is true—absolutely trustworthy. A vision that goes back thirty years, with God’s miraculous gathering of several key people and tens of thousands of supporters, has shown—again—that God’s ways are higher than our ways. All praise be to God!