Philipsburg: The following is the message delivered by Leader of Government William Marlin on the occasion of the National Day of Prayer.
"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" Thus sings the Psalmist. It is indeed good and pleasant when brethren can come together as one to pray and praise the Lord.
This is what this gathering here today is all about: an offering of prayers to the Lord, asking for his continued protection, provision and guidance for our community, for our island, its people and its governments both in the North and South.
St. Maarten is a blessed island. We are a blessed people; not because we are so special; not because we are so pious; but because we are highly favored by the Almighty.
Amidst all the global economic meltdown that has seriously affected countries all over the world, we are still standing, shaken but not knocked down. That is a special favor of God, no matter how much we would like to claim the honors for ourselves.
In the face of global warming and the resulting climate change, with Europe, the United States and other parts of the world experiencing the worst winter in half a century, we can still bask in the Caribbean sun, and enjoy the warmth of Paradise. That is God's special favor upon us.
While international terrorism stalks the skies, striking fear into the hearts of millions across the globe, our own skies have been spared such horrors and we have not had to lose any sleep over potential attacks. That is God's special favour upon His people.
That is why we are gathered here today: to seek God's favours as we begin this year of the Lord, 2010, a year that holds a lot of promise for us as a people; a year in which our advancement as a people will be measured by how united we are and how committed we will be to the ways of the Lord.
I am, of course, not a preacher. Those of you, who know me, know me perhaps better as a teacher. The two however share quite a lot in common: they are both callings; and both the preacher and the teacher are called to disseminate the truth; to impart knowledge; to educate and edify and mould souls.
The preacher and the teacher also share another thing in common (and this time, presumably with the politician, also): they can often talk for long.
Fellow St. Maarteners, Ladies and Gentlemen, Residents, Friends, it is not my intention to keep you here for too long. I must, however, share a few thoughts with you.
Prayer is putting our faith to work - and work is prayer. Government, like any other person, needs prayers, not just because as Christians we are required to pray for our leaders, but also because as Government, all our plans will come to naught if we do not first seek God's approval.
This brings me to the point of the separation between Church and State. There are those among us who question why we should have a National Day of Prayer, implying that Church and State should not mix.
I have my own views about that. The separation between Church and State, as I understand it, is not meant to be a divorce; to the contrary, it is supposed to lead to mutual respect, and a relationship based on a common belief: that we are ALL God's children.
Some people, on the other hand, lament the fact that the Church generally stays out of social issues, and even moral ones that affect our society.
In my humble view, the role of the Church also includes serving as the moral conscience of the community. This role should not be confined to the four walls of the Church.
The Church should be seen as an agent of fundamental change in the dangerous direction society sometimes takes. A good example of this is the rising crime rate on the island.
Not only the Community Councils should be establishing a Task Force, the Church should also get involved and let its voice be heard loud and clear; after all crime is a sin against man and God. It affects ALL of us, whether you are saved or not saved.
Similarly, the Church cannot and should not remain silent when children are deliberately left out of school because of their immigration status which is no fault of theirs.
Education is not an immigration issue; it is not just a social issue; it is also a spiritual issue. After all, wasn't it Jesus Christ himself who told his disciples, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God"?
What I'm trying to say is that we cannot claim to be God-fearing people and yet discriminate against children in such a way that we deny them education.
The Church has been a dominant part of education on our island. And by the same token of the involvement of the Church in education, I dare say St. Maarten cannot develop without the Church being part of that development in an enlightened way.
At the same time, the Church, I humbly submit, cannot progress unless the faithful experience progress in a holistic manner, and by that I mean body and soul.
Fellow St. Maarteners, Ladies and Gentlemen, Residents, Friends, as we begin this New Year, the two – Church and State – "two-gether", and the whole island Together must move forward in order to face the challenges of 2010 and beyond.
These challenges include: reducing crime, creating jobs, improving our educational system, setting up the structures for our new country status; marching towards 10-10-10 together confident that we are the Joshua generation, destined to get to the promised land of country St. Maarten.
This reminds me of that Scripture where a dozen scouts were sent to check out the land of Canaan. Nowadays, the 12 would be known as spies and treated as such. Ten of them, an overwhelming majority, came back and said it was a mission impossible to take the land because it was full of giants.
They saw themselves as grasshoppers. Only two returned with a positive report, confident that those giants could be defeated, and the land promised as inheritance to the children of God would become theirs.
God doesn't work with a misguided majority; He chooses an enlightened (I guess, some of you would say, an anointed) few to accomplish His plans. That is why one with God is a majority.
This Scripture is very relevant to our pursuit of Country Status for St. Maarten. Our Island Council currently consists of 12 members – yes, 12: - 11 elected and one, the chairman, appointed by the Crown.
We may not be the 12 scouts spying on the land of Canaan. But we have been repeatedly told also that it is impossible for St. Maarten to become a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands because there are too many giant problems the island cannot handle.
Fellow St. Maarteners, Ladies and Gentlemen, Residents, Friends, well, I am pleased to tell you that today, 10-01-10, exactly nine months to that glorious date, today, by the grace of God, we are now camping on the outskirts of our own Canaan right now.
My question to you today, therefore, is: are you one of those 10 scouts who see giants and are terrified by them, are you one of the ten who see themselves as grasshoppers or are you one of the two who see victory as a God-given blessing for His people?
Let me quickly add that Country St. Maarten is not going to be a land full of milk and honey. Country St. Maarten will not be Heaven on earth. Country St. Maarten is part of our journey to that eternal Kingdom which is our final destination.
It may take us through the Kingdom of the Netherlands for a while. But we're not stopping there. It may take us through valleys and potholes, but we shall fear not. It will demand of us more work, more sacrifices, but we shall not be moved.
Fellow St. Maarteners, Ladies and Gentlemen, Residents, Friends, I am convinced as leader of your government, that with your prayers, and with God on our side, we shall move this island forward together.