Kent Hovind has grown a strong following within the Christian community. With over 80,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel and anywhere from five to eight thousand views on each of his daily video clips, the man known as Dr. Dino has more than a few fans, not to mention the critics. But some followers were dedicated enough to leave their lives behind and join his mission and help recreate and restore Dinosaur Adventure Land for the grand opening.
The day of the grand opening, DAL had nearly 20 volunteers on the property. What led them to be there? And what is the source of their passion for the mission?
Where are they from and who are they?
DAL volunteers ranged in ages from teenagers and early adults to senior citizens. Many had traveled across the country and some left their homes for extended periods.
Anna Newton is 20 years old and serves as the DAL creation museum tour guide. She and her younger brother found Hovind’s DVD collection growing up. It was their science curriculum as homeschoolers. They became fans of Hovind’s and kept up with him on YouTube. When they heard about the property turning into a reborn adventure land on one of the announcement videos, Anna decided to move to the property and help revive the idea in the spring of 2017 and has been there ever since.
Tom Rigdon moved from Texas to DAL for a week with his wife and three children to help with the grand re-opening. He first learned about Hovind in 1996 through some VHS tapes of Hovind’s sermons. He says he felt the message was restoring people to the creator in a way that no one else has attempted to do.
When asked how long he and his family would be there, he said he wasn’t sure and that he would stay as long as he felt compelled to.
Jeff Gubser is a 47-year-old from northern Kentucky. He said Hovind’s YouTube channel spoke to him, and he came to volunteer instead of getting a job in Cincinnati doing construction work. Ultimately, he hoped to get offered a job by someone who visits the park.
A woman who went by “Lady Di” said she had been with DAL since 2004. Like Rigdon, she also learned about Hovind through the VHS tapes. Shortly after finishing the video series, she felt convicted to go to Pensacola and ended up working at the Dinosaur Adventure Land there. When Hovind first went to prison, she stayed in Pensacola and worked with Hovind’s son Erik for Creation Today.
When Hovind came out of prison, he asked Lady Di to come to the new place. She was hesitant. Her home church was far from the proposed site and it was important to her to stay with it. She ended up agreeing to make the move and has now lived at DAL for two years supporting the DAL mission.
Why do they want to be at Dinosaur Adventure Land?
Their goal is to spread the word and create a home base for the Creation Science Evangelism ministry. They want to see it grow and expand past what it is. They have nearly 140 acres to work with and Hovind finished the end of the grand opening with his hopes to expand fundraising efforts and even plant an orchard among the trees across the pond.
Tom Rigdon rejected being labeled as a worker. Instead, he said he was there to labor in the kingdom of God. Each volunteer felt just as Rigdon did. The work wasn’t meant to have any material gain, but instead, a heavenly purpose to help bring people to Christ.
Anna Newton said she chose to spend her past year at DAL because it establishes trust in God’s word by showing the Bible is real, as it was written. Her time there has inspired her to possibly open up a Dinosaur Adventure Land of her own in the midwest region where she grew up.
What do they believe in?
First and foremost, they are Christians. They believe in Jesus and ultimately want to see people find Christ through this organization. But that’s not where it ends. Some of these dedicated volunteers also profess themselves to be sovereign citizens, a group characterized by their refusal to integrate into government run institutions like social security.
Thomas Newton came for the grand opening and helped deliver the truck of food for visitors. He said he was a member of the sovereign citizens movement and boasted that both of his children had homemade birth certificates and his daughter, Anna Newton, had no social security number.
Tom Rigdon expressed a need to return to the ideals of the founding fathers. For Rigdon, a country founded on biblical and christian principles should continually be influenced by that faith. They hope that something like Dinosaur Adventure Land will help people see Christ and begin moving forward with that vision.
What is it like to live at Dino Land?
The site had 20 volunteers, some of whom lived there anywhere from one week to two years. One of the women, known as Lady Di, said the housing was gender separate, not including families. All are expected to abstain from drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana. One volunteer had been expelled from the site for breaking this rule, as it's not something the group wants to be associated with.
For those who can meet the standards, they work in exchange for housing and food. But it's not the food that keeps them there. Volunteers cite the community of people they've found and the truth Hovind has shown them as reasons they stick around.
Every night except for Saturdays, volunteers and Hovind participate in a devotional. On Sunday, they all attend a church in Monroeville. If they aren’t able to make it out for some reason, Hovind will deliver a sermon. It usually is science-focused and reflects the work in his videos.
Any word on the tax issues?
Few volunteers brought up Hovind’s past or any of the tax-related charges that have haunted Hovind over the past decade. Lady Di did mention that because of the time in prison, Hovind had come to a realization that the end times are near, which only motivates him further toward upholding the creation science evangelism mission.
For those passionate about creation evangelism, DAL is an oasis. It’s an opportunity for volunteers to embed themselves in a community of people who think and care about the same beliefs they do. Yet, it isn’t all rainbows and dinosaurs.
Yes, these volunteers share a dedication to spreading the word of God, but there is also a sense that they adore the man Kent Hovind to a similar degree. You can’t know Christ properly until you acknowledge this specific version of the truth. And that truth revolves around the creation story more than the resurrection. Ultimately Hovind attracts a subset of Christians who believe they have found the truth and anyone who disagrees is incorrect.
But many religious denominations operate the same way. They have a specific version of truth and a group of followers who subscribe to it. Yet few would question these established religious institutions.
The way DAL functions may be unorthodox, but it isn't dangerous. As long as Hovind stay out of legal and tax trouble, he and his volunteers at DAL will continue living out their mission in peace.