Tyrel Wolfe is a man with a truly unique story. It all began in 2000 when he was a seven-year-old boy living in Idaho. He decided to take part in Operation Christmas Child, a worldwide Samaritan’s Purse initiative that encourages people to create shoebox packages full of necessities and toys for children living in less fortunate situations.
Scrambled To See What He Could Find
So young Wolfe placed a photograph of himself inside his shoebox, and soon it was dropped off at church ready to be shipped off to a needy child somewhere in the world. After that day, though, Wolfe never thought about the shoebox again….
This little boy and his family, didn’t have a lot of money, they were simple people, living within their means. Yet Tyrel was always taught by his parents the importance of sharing what you have and giving in whatever way you can. For him this shoe box project was a really special of way doing this, and being able to connect with someone far away by just one picture.
Sent To The Unknown
He had no idea what would happen to the box, or where it was going, but one thing he knew, that at Christmas time the theme is giving, and this is what he was doing. He was excited at the notion that someone far away would receive his box and he hoped it would get there safely. If he could bring someone happiness at Christmas he was content.
Growing up, Tyrel had a bit of a tough time, and often faced a lot of bullying. He longed for a real friend, someone that accepted him for him and would love him. He went off to college and made some good friends, but he still felt a bit of an outsider.
Years later time went on, and Wolfe had a friend request on Facebook from a woman in the Philippines called Joana Marchan, a name he didn’t recognize. Wolfe had, however, dismissed the request, as you do when you get random requests on social media.
Not What He Thought
Wolfe was curious and wanted to give the person a chance, he thought maybe it was someone he studied with, or someone from his school that wanted to reconnect. So he responded – and Marchan’s first message back was truly unexpected and astounded.
Truly Taken Aback
Wolfe could hardly believe what he was reading. The woman told Wolfe that she had a picture of him as a child – a picture she had received in a shoebox from Operation Christmas Child. He had to sit and think for a moment before it came flooding back.
What’s more, this woman said she had tried to write him a letter to say thank you. But Wolfe’s parents were not so easily convinced by her story. So, to check if Marchan was for real, Wolfe asked her to describe the photograph she said she had.
Could It Be A Catfish?
Sure enough, Marchan described a picture of a young Wolfe in a cowboy outfit, the very same photo that he had placed in the shoebox. Wolfe and Marchan then spent weeks getting to know each other online. And while it was incredible that Marchan had managed to find her cowboy after all this time, what was even more amazing was the number of things that the two had in common.
Unexpected Friendship But What Was Going On Here?
They both had a mutual love of Christian music. The pair bonded over this, and before they knew it they had been communicating with each other for a whole year. They had naturally grown closer, too, but no one could have predicted the next development.
Needed To See For Himself
Yes, Wolfe decided to take things to the next level and booked a flight to Manila to finally meet his faraway friend. He had managed to save up enough money and was excited to get there, even though he had never traveled anywhere on his own before. “I knew I was taking a big risk,” he told People magazine in December 2014.
What Would Happen Next
But when Wolfe arrived, all his nervous energy disappeared. The moment he saw Marchan, he instantly knew he had done the right thing by flying out to see her. “I was immediately attracted to her,” he told People. What would happen now?
What Did She Think?
Joana recalls the first time she met him, “Once I saw his face, an amazing feeling came over me.” Tyrel was so relieved that she felt the same way. Tyrel recounts. “When I finally got there and saw her, I had to punch myself a couple times because I thought it was a dream.” Was this fate?
Whatever Would He Do Now?
He stayed with her and her family and his feelings began to grow. Soon, however, it was time for Wolfe to head back to the U.S., despite the fact that he’d totally fallen in love with Marchan. So, not content with continuing to talk with Marchan over Skype, Wolfe later returned to Manila to ask Marchan’s father for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
Not As Happy As He Would Have Hoped
Fortunately, he said yes – but Wolfe’s mother was actually less sure. It seemed that she wanted the couple to give it some time before they committed. But nothing gets in the way of true love, and eventually Wolfe persuaded his father to come to Manila and meet his lover’s family. And after that, the deal was sealed.
Best Day Of His Life But More To Come
The happy couple got married at Wolfe’s parents’ ranch in October 2014, and the groom wore a traditional Filipino garment – known as a “barong” – for the ceremony. In a fitting tribute to the manner in which they met, the couple asked wedding guests to each make a Christmas shoebox. How perfect.
Dreams Do Come True
His friends were so happy for him, one of them spoke out at the wedding saying: “He had a hard time a lot, but now it is amazing to see him so happy and to have found the woman of his dreams in such a special way, it is hard to believe, but gives us all hope that true love does exist”.
Past Coming Back To Life
As a kind of honeymoon, the couple drove the shoeboxes to North Carolina to deliver them to Samaritan’s Purse. The newlyweds also vowed to make shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child every year going forwards.
Spreading The Christmas Love
In all of their shoeboxes, the couple also included a little note explaining the story of how they met. But they were careful not to give the wrong message, as Wolfe explained to People. He said, “We don’t want to give them [the children] some fantasy, but we do 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.”
Back To Olden Days
The couple made this scrap book to remind them of how they met, and even kept all the poems and love letters they wrote to each other when they were still pen pals. In years to come they will still have this to look through, which is so special. Nowadays people simply tag things on social media, but this is extremely rare and incredible.
After the wedding, the couple settled near to Wolfe’s parents and have been enjoying married life so far. Marchan had never been to the U.S. before, but now she has seen many parts of the country with her husband because his line of work requires a lot of travel.
Will It Last?
It’s a far cry from where she grew up in the Philippines. “It was a big change and adjustment for me,” she told People. “I was raised in the city and now I’m living in the country with much less people and more space, but it’s a beautiful place.” She did feel homesick at times, but her love for her new husband and their story, which felt like it was meant to be so much, meant that she could not give up on that. What would happen next would change her life even more.
The couple soon had to make even more adjustments. Having been happily married for almost three years, which flew by, Wolfe announced some very exciting news on Facebook in May 2017: the birth of their beautiful baby boy!
Story Goes Viral
The new parents, who named their son Harlann Jun Wolfe, have received hundreds of messages of congratulations online. Their story was already a beautiful one, but it is even more special now that they’ve welcomed a baby into the world. Their story caused such a stir, that it went viral and reached news channels worldwide. “The Christmas miracle” they called it. Fans loved how they met and how they were so in love still.
All Because Of One Photo
It’s extraordinary that Wolfe and Marchan managed to find each other when they only had one photograph to go on. But they did it, and now they are enjoying a beautiful life together. It just goes to show the world that some things are meant to be. In this digital age, it is even more special that they found love in such an organic way.
The beautiful scrap book that they kept full of love letters and pictures of their story will forever be there to remind them of their incredible story, and one day when their kids grow up, they will be able to show them and retell it over again.
This story really is a Christmas miracle and at this time of year, makes realize the importance of love and miracles. Anything really can happen. During this Christmas, think about the amazing things that have happened to you, and perhaps give back in some way to show others you appreciate them.
Operation Christmas Child
If this story inspired you in some way to give back, there is still time to create your own shoe box just like they did for Operation Christmas Child, or something similar to give back to those less fortunate. Who knows, maybe you will have a special experience from it just like they did.
Where Are They Now?
On her Facebook page recently, Joana wrote celebrating their 3 year Anniversary: “3 years down and our love has grown with a precious boy! Happy Anniversary Ty, thank you for doing this life with me as we figure out just how much the better in “for better or worse” really is when we’re in it together. I love you more than I can put into words.”
Like Father Like Son
Ty recently posted this picture of him and his son, and confessed the love that he felt so strongly for him and his wife for giving him two gifts. He also mentioned their story again and how blessed he feels for that shoebox.
The World Touched By This Story
This news channel covered the heart warming story.”Destiny packed in a shoe box”. It really did all start with one picture and one shoebox, and the rest is history.