11 Years After Sending A Shoebox, This Guy Received A Life-Changing Message

A Facebook Friend Request

Facebook/Ty Wolfe

In 2011, 18-year-old Tyrel Wolfe received a strange message on Facebook. It was a friend request from a young woman called Joana Marchan, who lived in the Philippines. He realized it was the same woman who had messaged him two years earlier, only back then he had ignored it. This time, though, he was curious.

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A Complete Stranger

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Tyrel looked at the woman’s profile, and confirmed that they had no friends in common. He’d never been to the Philippines, either, and it didn’t look like she’d been to the U.S. - much less his little town of Midvale, Idaho. How had she found him, and what did she want from him? So instead of deleting the friend request, he wrote her back.

The Mystery Deepens

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Tyrel sent Joana a message: “How do you know me?” She wrote back something that seemed out of left field. “Do you know about Samaritan’s Purse? Are you familiar with that?” read her reply. At that moment, memories from his childhood came rushing to his mind. But he still had no idea what that had to do with this woman.

A Long-Forgotten Shoebox

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When Tyrel was 7 years old, he took part in a program called Operation Christmas Child, created by the nonprofit organization Samaritan’s Purse. He packed a shoebox full of goodies like toiletries, toys, and school supplies, which would be sent to a less fortunate child somewhere across the globe. 11 years later, news of his shoebox had come back to him.

Was She The Recipient Of His Shoebox?

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“I think I got your shoebox,” Joana told Tyrel. The young man was amazed that the girl whom he had sent a care package had found him all these years later. But his parents were more skeptical. To make sure she was telling the truth, he asked her what was in the box. She didn’t remember all the contents, except for one thing.

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A Serendipitous Photo

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When he filled the shoebox, Tyrel had put in something extra: a photo of himself, with his name on the back. To his surprise, Joana had kept the photo, and he asked her to describe it. “A cute cowboy with a wooden background,” she replied. Tyrel then knew she was telling the truth. It was a nice, feel-good story. But at that moment, a more amazing one was just beginning.

Striking A Friendship

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Tyrel and Joana stayed in touch, chatting online almost every day for the next three weeks. They found out they had a lot in common, such as a love of Christian music. Soon they developed a friendship, which grew over the course of a year and a half. By then, Tyrel had graduated high school and saved up enough money to book a ticket to Manila.

Transcontinental Love

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He had never traveled alone before, but he wanted to see where his relationship with Joana would lead. He ended up staying with her and her family for a month, during which both of them realized they were in love. Eventually Tyrel had to go back home, but he promised to return. When he did, he had a very important question to ask.

Popping The Question

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On his third trip to Manila, Tyrel learned enough Tagalog to ask Joana’s father for her hand in marriage. He agreed, but her mother was more hesitant. She wanted them to take it more slowly. Tyrel then asked his father to fly to Manila and meet Joana’s family, hoping it would reassure them of his intentions. It worked.

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Multicultural Wedding

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In October of 2014, five months after he proposed to Joana, the pair got married at Tyrel’s parents’ ranch. She wore a $5 wedding gown from the thrift store, while he wore a traditional Filipino garment called a barong. It was the perfect country wedding, made even more perfect by what the couple asked the guests.

Keeping The Tradition Alive

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Instead of the usual wedding gifts, Tyrel and Joana asked their guests to create shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. For their honeymoon, the pair drove all the way from Idaho to North Carolina to deliver the boxes to Samaritan’s Purse. Aside from the regular items, they included something special in each box.

Sharing Their Story

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All the shoeboxes delivered by Tyrel and Joana contained a note, which told the tale of how the two had met and gotten married. Their goal wasn’t to give the children a fantasy to aspire to, but to show the good things that can come of helping others. The couple decided to make shoeboxes as a yearly tradition. In the meantime, Joana was adjusting to life in the U.S.

Making A Life Together

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Joana grew up in Manila - a bustling, crowded city. Now she lives with Tyrel near his parents’ home in Idaho. Adjusting to life in the countryside wasn’t easy, but with her husband’s help, she grew to love it. She’s also been able to see much of the country thanks to Tyrel’s work, which requires him to travel. And recently, the couple announced some exciting news.

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A New Member In The Family

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After being happily married for three years, Tyrel and Joana welcomed their first child, a baby boy whom they named Harlann Jun Wolfe. They received hundreds of congratulatory messages from friends, family, and others who had heard of their story. The pair is grateful every day for having found each other, as they will never forget the first time they locked eyes.

A Real-Life Fairytale

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Tyrel recalls arriving at the airport that first time in Manila, looking for Joana. “And then, I see her, her big, beautiful smile shining out in the crowd. And the biggest question is like, “Lord, is this a dream?’” he recounted. A dream that came true thanks to a shoebox and a photograph.

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