Mark Coe, a staff muralist at the Creation Museum, studies an area of a mural he is working on in the museum's Utah raptor section. The museum has permanent staffers sign a Statement of Faith that says they believe that dinosaurs and man once co-existed. / The Enquirer/Patrick Reddy
If you go
What: The Creation Museum, site of the Answers in Genesis Ministry
Where: 2800 Bullittsburg Church Road, Petersburg
Opening: May 28
Web site: www.answersingenesis.org
Prices: $19.95 for adults, $14.95 for seniors and $9.95 for children 5 and older
Attendance: Expected to be 300,000 yearly.
Facilities: 5,000-square-foot museum, planetarium, nature trails, restaurant
By the numbers
20-25: Average number of local volunteers working on a given day. (On average, those volunteers work about two days a week.)
100: Additional staffers needed before the museum opens.
217: Number of staff members in the ministry, about a third of whom work in the museum.
240: Estimated number of out-of-town volunteers who have helped in the past eight months.
$27 million: Cost of construction, debt-free and built on donations
42: Acres of museum grounds, including lake and nature trails
Q & A
What is Answers in Genesis?
An independent, nonprofit, international ministry organization based in Petersburg. Ken Ham, president of the ministry, developed his ideas in Australia and moved to the U.S. in 1987. After studying a similar ministry in San Diego, he decided to start his own ministry in a more central location which brought him and others to Boone County.
What does the ministry believe?
Those in the Answers in Genesis ministry believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible: that God created the world in six, 24-hour days on a planet just 6,000 years old (according to Biblical genealogies). This interpretation runs counter to accepted scientific theory, which says Earth and its life forms evolved over billions of years. Ham's views of history and science are based on a literal reading of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament. Some of their beliefs include: that the Grand Canyon was formed not by erosion over millions of years, but by floodwaters (of the Great Flood) in a matter of days or weeks; that dinosaurs and man once co-existed; and that dozens of creatures - including T. rex - were passengers on Noah's Ark.
Statement of faith
Before a person is hired in the Answers in Genesis ministry (or the Creation Museum), he must sign a Statement of Faith. According to the Answers in Genesis Web site (www.answersingenesis.org), the worker agrees that he believes, among other things: that "Scripture teaches a recent origin for man and the whole creation," and "the only legitimate marriage is the joining of one man and one woman." Other beliefs include: "the great Flood of Genesis was an actual historic event" and "no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record." Temporary workers do not have to sign the Statement of Faith.
Nathan Beier (from left), fabrication supervisor at the museum, talks with Chuck Steinmetz, exhibit fabricator, and Tim Lovett, the Noah's Ark specialist. Each day at the museum begins with a prayer. / The Enquirer/Patrick Reddy
Jeremy Huff is sawing, measuring and shaping the planks that will make up part of Noah's Ark.
He is a carpenter. He is also a Christian. And he never thought this would happen to him.
He never thought that one day, he would find the church again. Or that one day, he would read the Bible to his children, and together, they would discuss its meaning.
He most certainly did not expect that he would be "saved" on the job.
But there is a feeling here, in this place. Amid the construction and painting, workers at the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum in Petersburg say they are completing something special.
They say God's work is being carried out on a daily basis.
For Jeremy Huff , it was personal.
"I've been working here for a few months, and being around everybody, I've started to get closer to the Lord," says Huff, a 28-year-old father of two from Union. "I guess I was always on my way. I used to go to church, but I got away from it and I wanted to accept the Lord into my heart, but I didn't really have anyone to help me. Now I think God put me here for a reason, and I'm working for God."
That help came around six weeks ago. Huff, who is part of a crew building the Ark exhibit, was asked by a co-worker if he'd devoted his life to the Lord.
"I really didn't know what he meant," Huff says. "But together, we prayed and I officially got saved at that time. I'm a different person now."
Statement of faith
Huff says he owes his transformation to working at the Creation Museum, the $27 million project in Boone County which is to open May 28. The museum will incorporate science into the literal history of the Bible, and serve as the headquarters for the global Answers in Genesis ministry.
Seemingly to a person, the employees at the museum say they feel as if they are working for the Lord. Each day begins with a morning prayer. Each permanent employee must sign a statement saying he believes the teachings of the ministry. Each must write out his beliefs and turn that in with his résumé and references.
It's a nonprofit organization, funded entirely with private money, so it's legal. But the requirements are not mandatory for temporary workers like Huff. He found the Lord on his own, he said, because of the environment in which he was working.
"I didn't know enough before I came here," he says. "I realized I needed more, and I've learned a lot, and I think a lot of other people are going to learn, too."
Of the 217 staff members in the Answers in Genesis ministry, all believe the Bible is a literal truth.
They believe God created the world in six, 24-hour days on a planet just 6,000 years old - even though accepted scientific theory says Earth and its life forms evolved over billions of years. They believe the Grand Canyon was formed not by erosion over millions of years, but by floodwaters from the biblical Great Flood in a matter of days or weeks. They believe dinosaurs and man once co-existed, and that dozens of dinosaurs were passengers on Noah's Ark.
Of course, they must believe these things in order to work in the ministry. The Statement of Faith, according to the ministry's Web site, asks applicants to "supply a written statement of their testimony, a statement of what they believe regarding creation and a statement that they have read and can support the AiG statement of faith."
By signing it, the worker agrees that he believes, among other things: that "the great Flood of Genesis was an actual historic event," "the only legitimate marriage is the joining of one man and one woman," and "no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record."
'A greater importance'
Throughout the museum where the more than 80 animatronic dinosaurs will roar, in the room that houses Noah's Ark, in rooms evoking Babylon and Eden, everyone is ready and willing to discuss how their beliefs and their jobs have changed their lives.
There's 20-year-old Travis Wilson, originally from a small town about 45 minutes north of Detroit.
Wilson was home-schooled, and a bit of an art prodigy, who while trying to find ways to spend his free time at home, became a sculptor.
After listening to an Answers in Genesis speaker at a local church, he became interested in the literal Bible. When he heard through the church that the ministry was looking for artists to work on the Creation Museum, he decided to move to Kentucky. Now he lives in Burlington and has been working as a sculptor at the museum for two years.
"I came to faith and the Christian world at 15," Wilson says. "Creationism started it. I learned about Creationism and I thought, 'This is it.' Now I feel like there's a greater importance to my life and what I do."
There's Tim Lovett, a 44-year-old mechanical engineer and Noah's Ark expert. Lovett moved his wife and six children from their home in Sydney, Australia, to Hebron, where he works at the museum designing exhibits.
"This is a mix of both of my interests," Lovett says. "It fits like a glove to me. It's the best job I've ever had."
There's Jason Lisle, an astrophysicist in charge of making sure the museum's theories are scientifically accurate.
"Growing up, I always thought the Bible represented science," says the 32-year-old Lisle, from Cambridge, Ohio. "I was a teacher, but I didn't feel comfortable knowing that there were other beliefs besides evolution, and that I could not teach those beliefs."
There's LeRoy LaMontagne, a 51-year-old native of Knoxville, Tenn., who felt drawn to the Lord and wanted to do more with his life. So he and his wife moved his fabrication business from Knoxville to Petersburg, where he set up shop in the museum. Now he manages more than 70 temporary workers and electricians at the museum.
"Life is about Christ, not about me," he says. "God has sent all of these people here."
Like 60-year-old Patrick Marsh, the museum's design director. A Los Angeles native, Marsh is a former designer for theme parks like Universal Studios, and he has been charged with making the museum fun. But he also has a deep-rooted faith in Creationism.
"A friend told me about the plans for the museum, and I immediately wanted to be involved, so I wrote a letter to them," Marsh says. "I'd always known about Answers in Genesis, and I was always excited about what they were doing. Now I can create a fun space for people here, but it will be something that will have a lasting impact."
'I enjoy coming to work'
But the museum would not be finished without the help from countless volunteers, says Mark Looy, the museum's vice president of outreach.
Looy says that on any given day, there are 20 to 25 local volunteers at work, while he estimates more than 240 out-of-town volunteers have been helping over the past eight months.
Gene Earnest, a 72-year-old volunteer from Colerain Township, has been volunteering for Answers in Genesis since 1995, when he first heard of the ministry. At the time, Earnest was still senior manager of public safety at Procter and Gamble.
"I'm a cabinet-maker, just for a hobby," he says. "I wanted to help in any way I could."
Now, after retiring, he volunteers three days a week in the winter, two days a week in the summer.
"Each day is different," he says. "They give me something to build and I do it. This is a ministry I believe in."
While volunteers will always be needed - even after the museum opens - some workers, like Lovett, have contracts that will expire at the end of the year. Others say they have been told they will be retained after May 28. But all say they have been affected by their work.
Maybe none more so than the carpenter, Jeremy Huff.
"My life has definitely improved over the past year, since I came to work here and accepted the Lord," he says. "This is the first job I've had where I really enjoy coming to work."