The world is massive and vast, and in the same breath it is tiny and finite. A boy living on one side of the world sends a gift of charity to the other side of the Earth and completely forgets about it. But his kind-hearted gift doesn’t just serves as charity; it becomes more… a whole lot more.

In 2000, Tyrel Wolfe was just a boy of seven years living in Midville, Idaho. His parents encouraged him to take part in a special charity drive called “Operation Christmas Child.” The global charity organization, Samaritan’s Purse, organized a Christmas drive to fill shoe boxes with toys and necessities for underprivileged kids in other countries.

Someday, all the love you've given away, will find its way back to you, and it will finally stay. - Drewniverses

 Instead of whining and disapproving as most kids would, Tyrel was different. He took on the project with excitement and couldn’t wait to get started. He also took an admirable approach to the task, deciding to create a shoe-box that would make the child on the receiving end gasp with surprise and cheer with glee

Tyrel sent a shoe box to Joana in the Philippines The wonderful package truly helped the little girl and her family out.  When Tyrel found out that the Christmas box would be going to a girl. He at first became disappointed because he knows what boys his age would enjoy. Instead of getting frustrated and discouraged, he decided to use his brain and make the best box a little girl could ever ask for.

She had sent him a letter to thank him but somehow, the letter never arrived at Wolfe's home. In 2009 Tyrel received a friend request from a person he clearly doesn’t know; he didn’t accept the invitation. In 2011 Tyrel Wolfe received an email that made no sense to him. He got a Facebook message from a girl who claimed she had a connection to him,. He received a friend request once again from the same girl. This time he was intrigued and accepted the request. The girl’s name was Joana Marchan and she was from the Philippines. Now Wolfe knew that he had no friends there so he proceeded to ask her how they “knew each-other”. Joana told him about a shoebox she received as a child from a charity drive called, “Operation Christmas Child”. She also told him about the photograph he had placed inside the box.

At first Wolfe had to jog his memory to actually put two and two together. His first action was to show his parents the email that he received. Despite feeling sure that this was indeed real, his parents were more skeptical about the story and told Wolfe to ask the girl to describe the so-called picture she had.

Wolfe’s parents got more than they expected when Joana started to describe the picture of Tyrel, detail for detail. She described a young boy in a cowboy outfit that matched the exact description of the photo he had placed inside the shoebox. Everyone’s jaws hit the floor.

The two continued to talk to each other via Facebook for about a year and a half. Tyrel longed to visit his mysterious long lost friend, but he unfortunately didn’t have the money to make a long arduous journey. The in-person meeting would have to wait. After working tirelessly for months Tyrel had finally saved up! He had enough money to embark on the long awaited journey of a lifetime…all aboard!

In an interview with People Magazine, Tyrel recalls the contemplation he endured before taking the trip to the Philippines. “I knew I was taking a big risk, 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.”

As you can imagine, the flight to the Philippines was quite nerve-wracking for Tyrel. But then, as soon as he walked out into the airport terminal, all the nerves just disappeared. And the moment that they saw each other for the first time, something happened. “I was immediately attracted to her,” he said in an interview. He felt that it was love at first sight.

The one who loves you will never leave you because even if there are 100 reasons to give up he/she will find one reason to hold on.

Since their first meeting was a success, he ended up staying with her family during his trip. But the stay was an eye-opening experience for him seeing as their lifestyle was so different from his back in America.

Joana’s family lived in a small house that was 10-by-9 feet and only minimally furnished. What really surprised Tyrel was that all of her eight family members slept in one room on the floor. “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 explained.

The trip was going so well, not only did Tyrel get to see an amazingly beautiful country, he also was really connecting with his old shoe-box pal. The two were overjoyed with happiness!

After his 10-day trip ended, he remembers the feeling that he hadn’t spent nearly enough time with Joana. It was heart-breaking for both of them to separate and he made her a promise that he would come back for her.

For the following weeks, Wolfe felt something missing in his relationship with Marchan. Tyrel Wolfe worked alongside his dad as a trail-and-bridge builder for state parks and saved up money to finance another trip to the Philippines. Only this time he was not going to make the trip alone.

Tyrel’s father was supportive of his son’s decision to go back for Joana, but his mother wasn’t. Tyrel’s mother was less enthusiastic about the idea because she felt they were still young and didn’t know each-other well enough. But when it comes to the heart, there’s no stopping what it wants.

Wolfe convinced his father to take the flight with him to visit Joana and her family. This put his mother at ease because she knew that Tyrel would have someone else there to guide his decision. Tyrel was ecstatic that he was going to fly back to the love of his life, and even more so that his father would accompany him.

Eventually they made the long flight to Manila and it was time to introduce his father to Joana, her parents and her family. Even with different languages and social norms separating the families, they got along just fine! What a relief for Tyrel and Joana!

Following both families’ traditions, Tyrel approached Joana’s father and asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage, and he happily said yes. They threw them an engagement party there.

The best location for their wedding was decided to be America. Since Tyrel had a secure job in America, they decided that following the wedding they would live in Tyrel’s hometown. But first they needed to ensure that Joana could get a visa to fly in.

Their wedding ceremony was unique, with the groom wearing a “barong” – a Filipino wedding garment. The ceremony took place on the Wolfe ranch in October 2014. But there was something more unique that took place that day.

As a tribute to their own love, the couple asked guests to make their own Christmas charity shoe boxes. But that wasn’t all. As part of their vows, Tyrel and Joana promised to make Christmas charity shoe boxes every single year. After the wedding, the couple drove to North Carolina to deliver all the boxes to Samaritan’s Purse.

The couple decided to live in Midville, Georgia, which is just a quarter mile from where Tyrel’s parents live which means they’re always close by. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy for Joana.

The unbelievable love story of Tyrel and Joana just prove that love can pop out of nowhere. When a photograph was all that could link these two, who would have thought that after 11 years they would find each-other? Love will always find you, no matter who you are, and especially no matter where you are. 

By Tim Pedrosa

If you love a person, you accept the total person. With all the defects. Because those defects are a part of the person. Never try to change a person you love, because the very effort to change says that you love half, and the other half of the person is not accepted. When you love, you simply love.— Osho