Hundreds of thousands of people donate through charities every year, and around the holidays those numbers skyrocket as parents encourage their little ones to gather gifts for children less fortunate than them. When we’re little, we learn that helping others is important – not to mention that it leads to good karma. But for one American boy, his good deed repaid him in a way he could have never imagined.
It led him to his future wife…
Tyrel Wolfe doesn’t remember packing that Operation Christmas Child box, but his aunt (who dropped off the box at her church) assures him that he definitely did. It was also his idea to include a picture of himself (in tiny cowboy regalia, no less) along with his name and address, just in case his recipient wanted to respond.
Wolfe was raised in Midville, Idaho and probably never thought twice about the fact that he didn’t receive a response from the recipient of his Christmas box, Joanna Marchan. After all, Tyrel was just a boy who was busy growing up. Many years went by, until one day, Tyrel received a Facebook request from an adult Joana. He ignored it, not recognizing the name and connection to this stranger. Upon the second friend request however, he accepted, and then sent her a message to ask her how they knew each other.
Joana Marchan was living in the Philippines with her family, and, as it was for many people who lived there, life could be a struggle. The Operation Christmas Child charity is run through Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian organization. Their mission statement asserts their history of helping “meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine.” Joana’s family presumably fell into one of those categories.
The box full of goodies meant so much to her that she tried writing a thank you card to Tyrel using the information he had sent, but she never heard back. Perhaps the snail mail was lost during it’s long trip overseas. But Joana never forgot how much that Christmas box meant to her. Even well into her early adulthood, the kind act continued to stand out in her mind. Eventually, even though many years had passed, she decided to give it one more shot.
Joana Marchan found Tyrel Wolfe on Facebook and sent him a friend request.
How They Met
“I told her I’m going to do whatever it takes to come back to her.” (People Magazine)
Sure, I told you how they technically met, but how did these two now-adults get together?
After Tyrel finally messaged Joana back, she told him how much receiving that box had meant to her all those years ago. The two began talking through Facebook, and then moved on to texting. It wasn’t long before their friendship began to blossom into something more. After some time, Tyrel decided that he needed to meet Joanna in person to decide whether they should continue to pursue their romantic feelings for one another.
He was nervous, having never been to a foreign country, but he booked his ticket anyway. And when he walked off the plane and saw her in person for the first time, both he and Joana had immediate reactions.
“I had to pinch myself a couple of times because I thought it was a dream. I was immediately attracted to her,” Tyrel told People.
And Joana recalls that she was overcome by emotion herself. “Once I saw his face, an amazing feeling came over me. I was so happy I cried.”
Because of the strict courtship customs in the Philippines, the two were not allowed to become an official couple without the permission of Joana’s father. But before he could obtain it, Tyrel’s trip came to an end, and he had t0 return home.
“It one of the hardest goodbyes I’ve ever had to say, because we didn’t know the next time we’d see each other.”
Their Love Story
Tyrel did exactly what he promised. Using the magic of the internet, the two kept in touch long-distance, and soon Ty booked another trip to Manila – this time planning to stay for a month. While he was there, he asked Joana’s father for permission to marry her. He agreed, though Joana’s mother had reservations due to their youth and thought they should wait. It wasn’t until Tyrel’s father also made the trip down to the Philippines that permission was granted. Ty and Joana were finally able to begin planning their life together.
The two married on October 5th, 2014, at the Wolfe’s Idaho ranch, and welcomed a baby boy, Harlann, in May of this year. They have made a point to visit Samaritan’s Purse’s headquarters in North Carolina and pack a Christmas box together every year. Inside each one is a note detailing their story – something Rachel Mills, the assistant director of Operation Christmas Child, thinks is great:
“We want these children to experience love, and that’s exactly what they found. It was like a needle in a haystack.”
Which, when you think about it, is kind of how finding true love feels for just about everyone. And whether you believe in divine intervention, destiny, or just in the power of love, this tale is one fit for a storybook.
If nothing else, Joana and Tyrel’s happy ending should serve as a reminder that the more chances we take, and the more we’re willing to step outside of our daily paths and interactions, the more opportunities will come our way.
And one of those just might be the love of your life.
“…we want to show that we care and want to share our love. We both feel so blessed and grateful that Operation Christmas Child brought us together.”