The Ark Encounter, a life-sized Noah's ark replica located in Williamstown, Kentucky, has made international headlines ever since it opened in 2016. A stunning architectural achievement, the ark brings a key biblical account to life in a truly unprecedented way.
But while the structure is certainly intriguing, so is the personal history of its founder, Answers in Genesis CEO Ken Ham.
Ham — who is set to host the PureFlix.com sponsored Answering Atheist conference this Easter at the Ark Encounter attraction — recently revealed his journey from his native Australia to the U.S., and how his innate passion for helping people understand the Gospel led him with many others who came alongside to create the Ark Encounter as well as the popular Creation Museum located in Petersburg, Kentucky.
"I had parents who believed God's Word — who stood on God's Word," Ham recently told "The Pure Flix Insider," noting that his father was "always looking at what the liberal critics were saying," because he wanted to make sure he had well-thought out answers.
Despite growing up in Australia — a country Ham described as "very secular" — the apologist had an upbringing that was firmly rooted in the Christian Gospel.
"My father and mother would teach us God's Word," he said. "But not just teach us what it said, but also give us answers to what the skeptics, what the critics were saying that would undermine God's Word."
Ham said he felt a calling to Christian ministry at a very young age. In fact, it all started when he was 10 years old and a missionary arrived with a challenge for him and fellow children.
That missionary asked if the kids would want to commit to go wherever God wanted them — a prospect Ham willingly accepted, knowing from that point on that he would devote his life to spreading biblical truth.
"I was committing to be a missionary for the Lord," he said. "I meant that 100 percent."
As time went on and Ham grew up, he became a science teacher and started to work in Australian schools. But a key moment in his journey came after two students made some comments about the Bible — critiques that left Ham truly feeling compelled to right some educational wrongs.
"One of the students said, 'How can you be a Christian when you know the Bible's not true?'" Ham recounted. "I said, 'How do you know the Bible isn't true?'"
The student responded by noting that their textbooks make it clear that evolution is the truth and, thus, the Bible cannot be valid. Then, another student said the Bible couldn't possibly be true, as it seemed implausible that Noah could have fit all the animals on the ark.
This all deeply disturbed Ham.
"I had a real burden that I believe came from the Lord, a fire in my bones," he said, noting that he began to wonder, "Why can't we have a creation museum, one that teaches about creation, not evolution?"
Ham soon began to teach all over Australia and then throughout the U.S. in the 1980s. It was in 1987 that he and his wife came to America as missionaries, assuming they'd eventually return to Australia within a few years.
Flashforward more than 30 years and Ham is still in America and has become one of the most prominent creationist voices in the nation. His Ark Encounter and Creation Museum are two of the biggest Christian-themed attractions in the world; he has strategically placed them in a key location aimed at maximizing visitor attendance.
"We looked for a destination location," Ham said of the decision to place these attractions in Kentucky. "We didn't want to compete with the Disneys or others."
Ham said one of the most frequently asked questions he has contended with is: "How can Noah fit the animals on the ark?" Through the Ark Encounter he's responding to that curiosity, showing audiences why he believes the biblical account is entirely accurate.
"It is the biggest timber frame structure in the world," he said. "[And it was built] according to the dimensions of the Bible."
Ham said he often finds himself in awe when he is at either the Creation Museum or Ark Encounter, as he is overwhelmed by gratitude when he hears stories of how these attractions have spiritually impacted visitors.
"It's very humbling, because you sit back and say to yourself, 'It's amazing to think that God would even allow us that privilege and opportunity of sharing the gospel in this way and hearing this feedback,'" he said. "We just thank Him."
Ham is set to host a powerful event from April 17-21 at the Ark Encounter. The Answering Atheists conference, sponsored by PureFlix.com, will center around Easter and will include well-known speakers like Ham and apologist Ray Comfort.
"Not only do we need to reach atheists, but we need to equip people to know how to reach atheists," Ham said. "They need to know how to talk to people. They need to have answers."