All It Took Was One Photo
When Tyrel Wolfe was a young boy, he sent a shoebox overseas. All he was hoping for was to make the recipient’s life a little better. Over a decade later though, that same boy has become a man, and it seems that he has once again been reminded of that shoebox he made all those years ago. Wolfe was just seven years old back in 2000. The Idaho-born boy took part in Operation Christmas Child and quickly put together a shoebox full of gifts. However, he included a photo of himself. This is what truly put this story into motion…
Despite coming from humble beginnings and not having the most financially stable upbringing, young Tyrel was aware of the importance of helping others. His parents taught him that valuable lesson from day one: if you have something to give, then do everything in your power to give it to somebody who needs it more. This is where the shoebox came into play. Being regular attendees of their local church, the Wolfes were made aware of an initiative that the Christian institution had set up.
Operation Christmas Child
At just seven years of age, Tyrel took part in his church’s Operation Christmas Child. Samaritan’s Purse had set up the initiative, which had been popular amongst many Christian communities around the world. The task was simple: take a shoebox, decorate it and fill it with basic essentials and toys. Then, you take the shoebox, deliver to the church, and it will send each shoebox to a child who came from less fortunate circumstances. This is exactly what Tyrel did.
A Time For Giving
There was no denying that Tyrel was a boy who was pure of heart. He didn’t have the faintest of ideas as to where his charitable shoebox would end up going. All he knew was that it was Christmas time; a time when giving came with a capital “G.” He believed that the prospect of helping somewhere in need would make both his Christmas, and theirs, much more meaningful. But maybe there was something more to it…
Longing For A Friend
While Tyrel can look back on his upbringing with fond memories, his social life always left a lot to be desired. At school and in his social circles, Tyrel was the victim of bullying on a number of occasions and he rarely had someone who had his back in the direst of situations. While his college years were a little more fruitful, earning him a handful of friends, Tyrel admitted that he always felt like a bit of an outcast.
Mysterious Friend Request
Tyrel braved through school and college and he was now a young man finding his way in the world. One day though, something out of the ordinary happened. Tyrel logged onto Facebook and noticed that he had received a friend request from someone he didn’t know. It was a woman from the Philippines by the name of Joana Marchan. Despite being intrigued as to who this person was, Tyrel ultimately denied the request for security reasons. However, this story was far from over…
After initially denying Joana’s friend request, Tyrel had a change of heart and decided to give her a chance. Ultimately, he wasn’t sure if this was someone he already knew or not. Did Tyrel study with this person and forget about her? He chose not to overthink it too much and clicked the accept tab, approaching the situation with an open mind. Without haste, Joana sent Tyrel a message. However, what she wrote to him completely took the young man by surprise…
I Have Your Photo!
Eagerly anticipating her message, Tyrel opened his inbox and started reading. Truth be told, the man from Idaho couldn’t believe what this young Filipino lady had written to him. According to Joana, she had a picture of Tyrel as a boy. Was this the young girl who received Tyrel’s Operation Christmas Child shoebox? Or was there more to it than that? For a moment, Tyrel was simply dumbfounded by the entire situation. So he contacted his parents…
Well, This Is Confusing
Not only did this woman claim to have Tyrel’s photo, she also told him that she had tried writing him a thank you letter a long time ago. However, when he told his parents what had just transpired, they were ultimately very skeptical and did not believe Joana. They told Tyrel to ask the young lady if she could describe the photo that she possessed. That way, they would have a better idea if she was telling the truth or not.
She Was Telling The Truth
Amazingly, it was the exact same photo that Tyrel had placed inside that shoebox he had sent all those years ago. Joanna described the photo and it was to the tee – Tyrel was wearing a cowboy costume. Feeling more at ease about the whole situation, the pair continued to exchange messages for the next few weeks. With time though, it was getting clearer and clearer that this was actually the start of a beautiful friendship…
Beginning Of A Beautiful Friendship
Tyrel had found a true friend in Joanna, especially after he found out all of the things that the two had in common. Despite being thousands of miles apart, Tyrel and Joana had so many shared interests. Probably their most passionate commonality was their mutual love for Christian music. They began sharing each other links of their favorite songs and this kept on going for over a year. But no one could have anticipated Tyrel’s next move…
After developing a strong connection over the last year, Tyrel asked Joana if he could come to the Philippines to meet her in person. She said yes and with nothing to lose, the young man booked a plane ticket to Manila. With plenty of money saved up and no commitments holding him back, Tyrel hopped on his plane and flew to Joana’s part of the world. “I knew I was taking a big risk,” he said, after revealing that he never traveled anywhere alone before.
While on that long flight, Tyrel was worried that he was making a huge mistake. However, upon landing in Manila and meeting Joana for the first time, he was no longer nervous. The first time he saw her person, Tyrel realized he had made the best decision of his life. “I was immediately attracted to her,” he said in an interview with People magazine. Tyrel’s thoughts about Joana were clear. This begged the question though: what did Joana think of him?
What Did Joana Think?
It seems that Joana’s feelings after meeting Tyrel were similar. “Once I saw his face, an amazing feeling came over me,” she said. Both parties were extremely grateful to have finally met each other and Tyrel was just relieved that Joana felt the same way. “When I finally got there and saw her, I had to punch myself a couple times because I thought it was a dream,” he said. So what did the two friends do during Tyrel’s stay?
Short But Sweet
During his stay, Tyrel got the chance to meet Joana’s family and see the sites of Manila. It was a wonderful trip and the pair got plenty of time to hang out and get to know each other even better. You know what they say though: all good things come to an end. And just like that, Tyrel’s stay in Manila was nearing its end and he would soon have to board a plane for his return flight back home. However, Tyrel had other plans…
I’m In Love With You
Despite the fact that he was under pressure to return back to the U.S., which he did, Tyrel couldn’t deny the strong feelings he had developed for Joana. He was wholeheartedly in love with her. Tyrel refused to settle for a long distance relationship full of Skype conversations and time difference-oriented scheduling. As a result, he chose to go with his gut and return to Manila. But this time, it was a very different kind of trip…
Will You Marry Me?
So Tyrel touched down in Manila and returned to Joana for the second time. He couldn’t bear one more Skype call and was desperate to see her once again in person. This time though, Tyrel came to the Philippines full of intent and purpose. He came with the intention of asking for Joana’s hand in marriage. Although she said yes and wanted to marry Tyrel, there was one more thing he had to do before the coast was clear…
Before Tyrel and Joana had the green light to tie the knot, the former was required to sit down with her parents and get their seal of approval. Fortunately, though – they said yes. Joana’s parents knew that she had found a fantastic man in the form of Tyrel and they were confident that she was in safe hands. However, there was one more hurdle in the way of their Holy matrimony. It turns out that Tyrel’s parents were even more apprehensive than Joana’s!
The Wedding’s On
According to Tyrel’s mother, she believed that the young couple was diving in way too soon. She wanted her son and Joana to take things a bit slower and give their love a bit more time to blossom before they tied the knot. Nevertheless, Tyrel was hellbent on marrying Joana and eventually persuaded his parents to fly all the way to Manila and meet Joana’s parents. Needless to say, both parents hit it off as well, and the wedding was back on.
The Big Day
Soon enough came Tyrel and Joana’s big day. In October 2014, the couple recited their vows at a ranch that belonged to the groom’s parents. Not only did they have everything in place for the wedding; Tyrel also wore a “barong,” which is a traditional garment that Filipino men wear on their big day. However, probably the most fitting feature to end their beautiful wedding was when Tyrel and Joana asked their friends and family to each make their very own Christmas shoebox.
In what can only be described as a unique kind of honeymoon, the newlyweds to their shoeboxes from the wedding and delivered them to Samaritans Purse, just like Tyrel did all those years ago. In every single shoebox, the couple placed inside a note with the story of how they came together. “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,” Tyrel said.
Life After The Wedding
It should come as no surprise that it has been a new change for Joana ever since moving to the U.S. with Tyrel. “It was a big change and adjustment for me,” she said. “I was raised in the city and now I’m living in the country with much fewer people and more space, but it’s a beautiful place.” Despite feeling homesick from time to time, Joana knew that she had done the right thing. However, one more thing happened that gave this story so much more meaning…
They Had A Baby
After the first three years of their marriage flew by, they were proud to announce the arrival of their first child, a baby boy. It seems like the story came full circle when Tyrel posted this photo on Facebook of him with their child. After all, it was a photo that ultimately brought the baby’s parents together in the first place. It’s amazing to think that it only took one photograph to put this wonderful love story into motion. It goes to show how one small detail can change everything.