14 Years And 7,000 Miles Couldn’t Stop This Epic Love Story From Blossoming

In 2000, when he was 7-years-old, Tyrel Wolfe”s mom suggested that, as a gesture of goodwill, he participate in Operation Christmas Child. The organization sends care packages to kids across the world. The recipient of Tyrel”s shoebox was a girl named Joana in the Philippines, who got it by chance at a graduation ceremony from her church in Quezon City, a suburb of Manila.

Tyrel had included a photo of himself, as well as his name and address in the box, and so Joana was able to write him a thank-you letter expressing her gratitude. For most, that would be the end of the story. But not for these two. In 2011, with the availability of Facebook, Joana decided to hunt down the boy who had sent her a package over a decade ago. While several results came up when she searched the name “Tyrel Wolfe,” she took a chance on a profile in a rural section of Idaho. The photo she”d received in 2000 showed a young boy in a cowboy outfit, and so she figured that might have been a good connection. Back in the U.S., Tyrel logged into Facebook to see a curious friend request from, as he put it, “a random girl in the Philippines.”

Only of course, she was anything but random.

Tyrel and Joana Wolfe visited the Samaritan”s Purse headquarters and personally delivered their shoeboxes for the Operation Christmas Child program.

The two spent a year exchanging not only Facebook messages, but letters and photos as well, catching up on all the years they”d spent apart. They more they talked, the more the realized they had in common. They were both big fans of music, and liked to sing and play instruments. They were also both spiritual people, being devout Christians. Despite having busy lives of their owns and the 15-hour time difference between Idaho and the Philippines, they were careful to make time each day to Facebook chat, and soon a strong connection grew between them. Finally, in June 2013, Tyrel decided to visit her. It was a bit of a nerve-wracking trip for him at times, but the pair were united at last. “Once I saw his face, an amazing feeling came over me, Joana said. “was so happy I cried.”

Tyrel would return to the Philippines after his initial visit, and, with the blessings and permission of their parents, Joana and Tyrel began officially dating. Finally, Tyrel mustered up the strength to pop the question. The next several months were spent working out the paperwork, and with Joana preparing to start a new life in Idaho. This was an added bonus of reconnecting with Tyrel–she”d always wanted to live in the country.

The wedding photos from October 2014. While Joana opted for a white gown, Tyrel went with a barong, the traditional Filipino grooms” embroidered shirt.

Finally, after many years of no communication and several more of reconnecting, the seemingly star-crossed couple were married on Tyrel”s parents” 400-acre ranch in Midvale, Idaho, in early October of this year. They”re six weeks into married life now, and are excited to spend their first Christmas together. In light of how they met, Joana and Tyrel have decided to make Operation Christmas Child part of their yearly tradition, and hope to have their future children involved as well.

Operation Christmas Child is a program by Christian organization Samaritan”s Purse, and sends toys and other supplies to children in developing nations.

“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,” Tyrel said. “I just didnt know the joy it would bring back to me one day.”

Via Samaritan”s Purse