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St. Maarten: Poverty in Paradise

For those of us who work in the office here at Cross International Catholic Outreach, it’s a treat when one of our partners from across the globe pays us a visit. We were pleasantly surprised when Father Bob Johnson stopped by on the way back to St. Maarten. He led our morning staff prayer and devotion time, and shared some firsthand insights from the field.

Fr. Bob Johnson ministers to the marginalized in St. Maarten.

Fr. Bob said he’s often asked, “How’d you get this gig in St. Maarten—did you win the lottery?” It’s an innocent but mistaken assumption that he works in paradise. It’s a favorite tourist destination with breathtaking beaches, and ritzy resorts, nightclubs and casinos.

Outside the tourist district, however, is stark poverty. That’s where Fr. Bob lives and works. But it’s not just material poverty that’s a problem in St. Maarten and other Caribbean countries. “Poverty has more of a face than just the physical,” he explained. “Part of the essence of the Caribbean people is spiritual. When you are of a people who has been enslaved for 300 years, being told you are not a person, it takes twice that time to purge it from the people’s psyche.”

With the global economy affecting tourism, unemployment in St. Maarten is at an all-time high, and it’s made the problems of drugs, crime, and hunger worse than ever. Yet resources to help the suffering are few and far between. “We’re reaching out to those who are marginalized and falling through the cracks,” Fr. Bob said. Since 2007 Cross Catholic has been helping Fr. Bob and St. Martin of Tours Parish provide food supplies to nearly 300 needy families.  Click here to learn more.

One comment
  1. Shereelynn Wiser

    I saw the article about Father Bob and the poverty in St. Maarten and we are traveling to St. Maarten in a few weeks. We have been there before and did the tourist things and now would like to bring needed items that would help Father or a organization in St. Maarten.

    We have done charity work on cruises for over 2 years bringing items to children’s homes, schools and orphanages in Cozumel (where we sponsor a little boy), Nassau, Aruba, Roatan and Ocho Rios. We will be seeing a school in St. Lucia on this trip.

    I have done work with Samaritans Purse and Salvation Army for over 20 years and here in SC where we live for the last two years.

    Thank you for your kind reply.
    Sheree Wiser

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