Christmas is typically a time of giving. So, many churches and other community organizations partner with projects like Samaritan’s Purse to donate gifts and necessities to people less fortunate than themselves.
When Tyrel Wolfe was seven years old, he and his family participated in the Samaritan’s Purse gift drive at his church. The little boy filled a shoebox with gifts, toiletries, and other necessities to go to someone in need. He also added a little photograph of himself with his signature on the back. Then, the family dropped the shoebox off at their church.
The shoebox gift was on its way to a family in the Philippines, but young Tyrel essentially forgot all about it. That is until one day, over ten years later, when he received a friend request on Facebook from a girl in the Philippines.
The girl was Joana Marchan. She had received Tyrel’s box for Christmas so long ago and wanted to reach out to thank him. Tyrel was blown away. He did not at all expect for the little girl who received his gift to make contact all these years later.
Tyrel’s parents, however, were not as eager to accept the girl’s story. They warned Tyrel that the girl could be lying and suggested that he test her in case she was taking advantage of him. So, Tyrel did. He asked the girl over Facebook to tell him what was in the box.
But Joana had received the box so long ago that she couldn’t remember what was inside it. All she remembered was that there was a picture of a little boy in a cowboy outfit with Tyrel’s name on the back. That was more than enough to convince Tyrel that the girl really did receive his shoebox gift.
So, the two began talking regularly over Facebook, sharing more and more about themselves. Tyrel was still blown away that Joana had found him. He shares that he believes there’s no way Joana could have found him just by chance. He knows the two were meant to find each other.
After talking for a while over Facebook, Tyrel started saving money to go visit Joana in Manila. When he finally had enough money, he booked a flight and set off on a journey to meet the young woman.
Both Tyrel and Joana admit that they were very nervous to meet each other, but when they finally got to lock eyes, all of those nerves went away. The two hit it off almost immediately. After that first visit, Tyrel made two more visits to Joana in the same year.
Tyrel also learned how to ask Joana’s father for his permission to marry his daughter in his own native language. Five months later, Joana came to the United States to marry Tyrel in his parents’ backyard. On top of that, the couple asked for guests to bring shoeboxes filled with gifts for others as their wedding gifts.
The couple is still living happily together with the addition of a baby boy! That one shoebox that Tyrel had packed when he was just seven years old led to one of the most beautiful and unbelievable modern love stories.
Watch the video below to learn more about Tyrel and Joana’s story.