It’s impossible to know the definition of poverty until you experience it firsthand. Surrounded by people who are thankful that they have a gravestone to sleep on instead of a mud puddle, I decided, as my teammate put it, that I needed to rethink the meaning of wealth.

Lorega is basically a group of shacks built in a cemetary. It is inhabited by people who have lived there for their entire lives and don’t know what it means to consume 2,000 calories in 24 hours or to have a clean pair of underwear every day. Since it’s illegal to live in a graveyard in the Philippines, the people that live there don’t know how long that will continue to be their home. However, they live their lives not in fear of the future, but in thanking God for each moment He provides for them.

These people know how to praise God with very little. With the guidance of a missionary years ago, they learned about Jesus and how much He cares about them. Instead of being angry at Him for not giving them enough material things, or questioning how He could love people who live among the dead, they decided that they wanted Him to provide for them. And the people of Lorega definitely have God’s joy.

The kids, like all Filipino children, are so precious. Because their parents choose to spend money on drugs or are too lazy to work, they have to grow up in a cemetary. They live their lives in almost constant sickness or disease. Yet we were able to give them joy, to show them hope in the midst of their poverty. We were able to show the kids what some of their parents had discovered in earlier years: the love of Christ. As we played with the kids, the smiles that lit up their faces showed true joy. Those are smiles that I will remember for the rest of my life.

The hardest part of children’s ministry is saying goodbye to the kids. They’ve clung to you, taught you their language, and played games with you for over an hour, and then you have to leave. But even though I might never see some of those kids again, I know that my team’s love impacted them. God used my team to show those kids that though they might live their whole life in a graveyard, they don’t have to stay there when they die.  They can be with Him in heaven.

The people of Lorega have their own definition of wealth, a definition that is far better than the world’s. The Christians that live in this community praise God for each thing they have. The know He’ll provide. To them, wealth is the knowledge that God is all they need.