When newlyweds Tyrel and Joana Wolfe dropped off Christmas shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child at Samaritan’s Purseheadquarters in mid-November, staff were surprised that the couple had driven the boxes all the way from Idaho to North Carolina to donate them.
The organiztion has donation sites in Idaho, so why make the long journey?
It turns out that the couple was brought together by an Operation Christmas Child box.
Back in 2000, Joana received a Christmas box at a bible school in suburban Manila, Philippines. Inside was a photo of the boy who packed it for her – 7-year-old Tyrel Wolfe – along with his name and address in Idaho. Joana sent him a letter thanking him for the box, but Tyrel never received it.
Eleven years later, Joana decided to use Facebook to try to track Tyrel down. After finding a Tyrel Wolfe in Idaho, she sent a friend request and a message. Tyrel was intrigued by the message from a “random girl in the Philippines,” and the two started corresponding daily.
The more they corresponded, the more Tyrel and Joana found they had 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.
Tyrel saved his money for a plane ticket to meet Joana in person and ask her father’s permission to date her.
“Once I saw his face, an amazing feeling came over me,” Joana said. “I was so happy I cried.”
After 10 days together, the pair knew they wanted to be together for good. Back home, Tyrel took on extra work so he could return to the Philippines and propose marriage.
The couple started the process of obtaining a fiancee visa, and finally Joana arrived in Idaho in September 2014. They were married October 5, and asked guests to bring Christmas shoeboxes as wedding gifts.
So the Wolfes’ journey came full circle when they dropped off the Christmas shoeboxes at Samaritan’s Purse headquarters.
Tyrel says he knew the box he packed all those years ago would bring a little girl joy, but he “just didn’t know the joy it would bring [him] one day.