The Amazing Story How One Christmas Shoebox Gift Led A Child 7,000 Miles To His Future Wife
“I was curious as to what he was like now… Was he going to college like me?” – Says Marchan, the Filipina child, now woman.
It all started back when Tyrel Wolfe was just 7-years-old. Back in the year 2000 the Midville, Idaho, boy had packed a Christmas shoebox gift with his parents for a child in the Philippines. This project, which is still run by Samaritan’s Purse is called Operation Christmas Child. It involves filling shoeboxes with school supplies, toiletries, and small toys for children in other regions.
In this gift giving project, each shoebox packer had to include a photo of themselves with their gift. Wolfe had placed one photo of himself in the boxes and handed the shoebox to his aunt who dropped it off at church.
After that moment and almost a decade later he had never given the box another thought.
Fast forward to 2009, Wolfe received a Facebook friend request from a Joana Marchan. Not knowing who she was, he had decided to ignore the request. Two years had then passed and she had send another request in 2011 which Wolfe decided to accept out of curiosity. After asking how she knew him in a message, Wolf then asked his mother about the charitable gift he had created as a boy.
And as it turned out, Marchan had sent a thank-you note after receiving the shoebox as a child but it had gotten lost in the mail.
Marchan tells PEOPLE that she was curious to see how Wolf was doing after all those years.
The two then started communicating over Facebook and discovered that they had shared a lot of interests like listening to Christian music and having their religious faith.
After a full year of taking to each other online they decided to finally meet in person. After graduating from high school and saving money from working, Wolfe was finally able to travel to Quezon City, a suburb of Manila in the Philippines, for 10 days by May 2013.
“I knew I was taking a big risk,” Wolfe tells PEOPLE. “I had never traveled alone, let alone to a foreign country before and I was meeting people I didn’t know or even knew really existed.”
‘I Thought It Was a Dream’
Wolfe felt nervous, anxious, and excited all at the same time.
“When I finally got there and saw her, I had to punch myself a couple times because I thought it was a dream,” Wolfe says. “I was immediately attracted to her.”
Marchan felt the same way as she awaited.
Marchan’s family, who lived in a 10-by-19 feet home with very little furniture where all eight family members sleep on the floor of one room, was an eye opener for Wolfe.
“Here in America, a lot of people are blessed with a lot of things, and after seeing Joana’s home, I’ve gained a different outlook on how people live,” Wolfe says.
In following Marchan’s family’s request. The two weren’t allowed to officially become a couple untile Marchan’s father approved. Both were heartbroken to say farewell as he left from the visit.
“It was one of the hardest goodbyes I’ve ever had to say because we didn’t know the next time we’d see each other,” Wolfe says. “I told her I’m going to do whatever it takes to come back to her.”
After returning home in Idaho Wolfe and Marchan continued to facebook and skype each other. Wolfe then booked another month-long trip which began on Nov. 27th.
It was in his visit that Wolfe asked Marchan’s father, Jun, for her hand in marriage. He had approved but her mother Rocel wanted the young to wait.
Wolfe did not give up. He then again went back later on for a 10-day trip to Manila to meet Marchan’s family.
During his visit, Wolfe recalls, Marchan’s mother went up to his father and said: “You are a sign from God that we are allowing Tyrel and Joana to marry. If you had not come, we wouldn’t have let the relationship continue.” The families celebrated by throwing an engagement party.
Wolfe and Marchan decided to live in the US where he has a really good job where he is able to support his wife and send some money to her family.
According to PEOPLE, “On Aug. 19, Marchan had an interview at the embassy in Manila and got approved for a visa. By Sept. 4, they were off to start a life together in the small town of Midville. ”
Marchan’s parents, however, couldn’t get a visa to visit the US so they were unable to attend the wedding, but they participated through Skype.
“It was held on Oct. 5 at Wolfe’s parents’ ranch, with about 100 guests. Wolfe wore a barong, the traditional shirt worn by Filipino grooms. ”
The newly wed couple now lives in their own home in Midville, a quarter mile from Wolfe’s parents.