In a story that sounds like something out of a fairy tale, a little boy in Idaho packs a shoebox full of gifts along with a photo and his address and drops it at the Samaritan’s Purse for delivery to a child in another country. Little did this boy know at the time, but the box would lead him to his future wife 14 years later.
According to Samaritan’s Purse and Good News Network, an 8-year-old Filipina girl, Joana, received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox from a boy in Idaho back in 2000. Joana received the shoebox at a vacation bible school in Quezon City, a suburb of Manila. Included in the box was a small photo of a little boy in a cowboy shirt holding a lariat. The boy had included his name and address.
The box was life-changing for Joana and she wanted to be sure to thank the little boy that put so much thought and care into her package. Therefore, she wrote a letter to the little boy to explain how the box had impacted her, but she never received a letter back. Joana kept the photo and boy’s information for 11 years before she decided to use Facebook to see if she could find the person who packed her box.
“I still wanted to thank the person who gave me the box that had meant so much to me.”
Joana typed the boy’s name, Tyrel Wolfe, into the Facebook search box. A number of matches came up, but one stood out in particular. One of the names popped up from Idaho. The child in the photo was dressed in cowboy-type attire with a rustic mountain background. She had never been to the United States but she knew that Idaho had mountains, so she took a chance and messaged the Idaho Tyrel Wolfe in hopes he was the mystery boy in her photograph.
Tyrel received the message and began to chat. Tyrel had sent that shoebox eleven years earlier and never dreamed the recipient would contact him, let alone be a girl he would fall in love with over a series of Facebook conversations. After their initial communication, the pair knew they had a lot in common.
“They were both passionate about music — albeit different styles — and both sing and play at least one musical instrument. And Joana had always dreamed of a quiet life in the country.”
Despite the 15-hour time difference, Joana and Tyrel set aside time each morning and night for daily Facebook visits. However, the pair knew if they wanted to further their relationship, they would have to meet in person. Therefore, Tyrel saved up money to take the 7,000 mile journey to meet Joana face-to-face. The couple first met in person in 2013 when Tyrel made the long journey.
Joana knew instantly that Tyrel was special.
“Once I saw his face, an amazing feeling came over me. I was so happy I cried.”
During that first face-to-face meeting, Tyrel knew that Joana was “the one.” He asked for her father’s blessing for the two to begin a long-distance relationship and was granted her father’s blessing.
Tyrel returned to Idaho fully determined to go back to the Philippines. He took on extra hours as a trails- and bridge-builder at area state parks, saving every dollar he could in order to visit Joana during the holiday season. This time he stayed for a month. During that month stay, Tyrel asked Joana’s father for a second blessing, this time to marry Joana. Joana said yes and the couple held an engagement party in the Philippines before Joana left with Tyrel to Idaho on a fiancée visa.
The pair was married on October 5, 2014, 14 years after Tyrel packed the shoebox that would forever change his life.
In honor of Samaritan’s Purse’s shoebox program bringing them together over such great distance and time, the couple decided to have wedding guests bring shoeboxes or make donations to Samaritan’s Purse in lieu of wedding gifts. The couple then brought the shoe boxes to the Samaritan’s Purse headquarters together to share their most amazing story.
Tyrel noted that when he packed that shoebox he knew it would bring joy to a child somewhere in the world, he just didn’t know the joy it would bring him in return.
“I remember as a little boy, I was so excited to know the toys and other items I put in the box would bring joy to another child somewhere else in the world. I just didn’t know the joy it would bring back to me one day.”
In other love story news, a woman fell in love with her anonymous sperm donor after tracking him down through social media.
What do you think of the amazing Christmas shoebox love story?
[Image Credit: Samaritan’s Purse]