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Youths build ark, nail Noah’s storyBy ALICE CULP
Tribune Staff Writer
This summer, a group of children in kindergarten through fifth grade built an ark.
Of course, their ark does not follow the same dimensions as the biblical version. Noah’s ark, which was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high, was similar to the size of a modern-day cargo ship. Still, the kids’ model is no toy, measuring 70 feet long, 14 feet wide and 18 feet high.
It sits near the parking lot at their church, SouthGate Church (formerly Calvary Temple) in South Bend.
“We decided that the best way for anyone to understand a story of Scripture was to experience it,” says Jerrell Jobe, a member of the pastoral staff.
The adults at SouthGate did a lot of research on the ark before an architect at Forsey Construction Inc. in South Bend drew a blueprint for them. Then, carpenters in the church helped the kids build it.
On Wednesday nights the kids examined the story of Noah from different angles — the history and culture of the time, God’s promises and faithfulness, Noah’s obedience, etc. Then, they worked on the ark — painting and screwing boards together.
“In the beginning they couldn’t even conceptualize how big the ark was,” Jobe says.
In fact, when they stopped work the first night, the kids didn’t feel they’d accomplished anything.
“We told them, ‘Imagine how Noah felt doing this for 120 years,’æ” Jobe says, laughing. “We wanted them to understand how big the ark really was and … that we believe God has a plan and purpose for each and every person, and this includes children.”
The children caught on quickly.
“They really pondered the question: How can (God) use me to change the world? Some of the responses were pretty astounding,” Jobe says. “They have not just said ‘Hey, this is cool,’ but on their own initiative have started to live out these things.”
Sunday, several of the fifth-graders shared their insights with about 500 members of the congregation during an outdoor service that used the ark as a backdrop.
One girl shared that God told her that he wanted her to go into nursing homes and pray for people. So, she got her grandfather to take her.
A boy explained that God told him, ‘I want to use math in your life to change the world.’ He talked to his teacher and is now set up with a tutor.
Another girl says God is leading her to work with autistic children, including a neighbor. A third girl thinks God is asking her to raise money for kids in the hospital. She and her mother are already researching options.
Now that the ark is finished, Jobe says the church plans to leave it up for about a month. Then they will donate the wood to a good cause."