Give a Christmas Gift, Get a Spouse?!

Give a Christmas Gift, Get a Spouse?! December 4, 2014

Tyrel & JoanaWhat does it take to find ‘the one’? For this couple, it was as complicated as a journey across the world, and as simple as mailing a Christmas gift.

When Tyrel was 7, he packed a Christmas gift in a shoebox for a child he’d never met. His church was doing the Operation Christmas Child project by Samaritan’s Purse. His shoebox went all the way to the Philippines, where a girl named Joana opened it. The box had lots of fun toys and a book about Jesus. She read the book and accepted Jesus as her Savior, and so did her dad.

She wrote a letter back to Tyrel to thank him for the gift and tell about the change it made in her life. But he never got the letter.

Even though she didn’t hear back, Joana kept a picture from the shoebox — the little blond boy who had packed her gift, with his name on the back.

Eleven years later, she still didn’t know if he ever got her thank you. She looked “Tyrel Wolfe” on facebook and sent a friend request to someone in Idaho who looked like her picture.

It was him.

They wrote letters and exchanged pictures for a year before Tyrel saved up his money for a plane ticket to the Philippines. He and met Joana in person for the first time. “Once I saw his face, an amazing feeling came over me,” Joana said. “I was so happy I cried.”

On that trip, Tyrel asked Joana’s dad for permission to officially date her. But he already knew she was the one.

Ten days were over much too soon. Tyrel headed back to the States and started saving money again. He took on extra hours so he could return to the Philippines and Joana as soon as possible.

The next time he visited, he stayed for a month, and proposed to Joana. She got a special fiancé visa, came to the United States, and they were married in October!

For wedding gifts, they asked guests to pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. Then Tyrel and Joana traveled all the way from Idaho to North Carolina to deliver them to Samaritan’s Purse headquarters and share their story.

Tyrel says they plan to continue the tradition of packing shoebox gifts with their own children. “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.”

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