Idaho boy sent shoebox to ‘Christmas Child’ in Philippines, 14 years later they wed


By Mark Ellis —

Tyrel Wolfe at 7

Many believers have stuffed a shoebox full of goodies for Operation Christmas Child, a project to bless children around the world run by Samaritan’s Purse. But for one seven-year-old boy in Idaho, it led to a surprising outcome many years later.

In 2000, Tyrel Wolfe packed a shoebox for a young girl his age and added a photo of himself wearing cowboy attire, holding a lariat.

After he turned in his shoebox at church he never gave much thought to the girl who received it 7,000 miles away.

Joana Marchan received the shoebox at a vacation bible school in a suburb of Manila. Not only was a photo of Tyrel included, but also his address.

Joana was thrilled to receive the shoebox

She wrote a thank you letter to express her appreciation, but it got lost in the mail.

Eleven years later Joana decided to use Facebook to see if she could find the boy who packed her box. She searched for his name and got one hit in Idaho. She took a chance and submitted a friend request.

But Tyrel had never heard of Joana Marchan, so he ignored the request.

Two years later, Joana sent another friend request.

This time, Tyrel sent Joana a message asking how she knew him. She replied, telling him that he was the one who sent her a shoebox in 2000.

As the two got to know each other online, they discovered they shared a common faith in Christ and even enjoyed some of the same music.

Tyrel decided he wanted to meet Joana, but had to work to save money for a plane ticket. After his graduation from high school, he flew to Manila a month later. He had been on Christian mission trips before, but had never been to Asia and had never traveled by himself.

It was an emotional meeting. When Joana first saw Tyrel she burst into tears.

“When I finally got there and saw her, I had to punch myself a couple times because I thought it was a dream,” he told People Magazine. “I was immediately attracted to her.”

Tyrel instantly noticed a gap between his way of life and the more modest lifestyle of Joana’s family in the Philippines. All eight members of her family slept on the floor of their 10×19-foot house.

Getting to know each other

Prior to the trip, they had agreed not to officially date until Tyrel had asked her father’s permission in person. Midway through his visit he asked her dad, who happened to be a pastor. He quickly agreed.

“I wanted to spend every moment I could with Joana while I was there, because once I left I didn’t know what would happen next,” Tyrel told People.

Tyrel sensed that Joana was the one for him. After he got back to Idaho, he began to work and save so he could go back to visit.

They stayed in touch via Facebook, and Skyped with each other often before Tyrel returned to the Philippines again in November. This time he stayed for a month.

On his second trip, he asked her father for permission to marry Joana.

The couple held an engagement party in the Philippines and obtained a fiancée visa for Joana.

On October 5, 2014 they got married outdoors on Tyrel’s parents’ 400-acre cattle ranch in Midvale, Idaho. The groom wore a traditional shirt often worn by Filipino grooms.

The wedding

As a special touch, wedding guests were asked if they would pack an Operation Christmas Child shoebox and bring it to the wedding.

The couple decided to live full-time in the U.S. because the job prospects were better for Tyrel.

“It was a big change and adjustment for me,” Joana told People. “I was raised in the city and now I’m living in the country with much less people and more space, but it’s a beautiful place.”

In June they were blessed with the birth of a baby boy.


To learn more about Operation Christmas Child, go here


  1. Oh how wonderful! The Lord is faithful and works things out for His Glory so we can praise Him! What a blessing!

  2. I would love to meet you guys someday. This sounds a little bit like our story! May God bless your family and when cultural differences and just being human make things hard, remember that God put you together. Stay with God and love each other hard through every season. Blessings from the Catos in Detroit!

  3. What an amazing story. So glad to see that there are still people on this world who cherish the proper values.

  4. What a beautiful story. My husband and I fell in love at first sight. We were married 8 days later. We’ve been married for 20 years. However I wouldn’t suggest this for everyone. We were in our 40’S, and both had been married 2 times before. We both have been single for quite a while and not looking to be married again. But the Lord had a different plan. We were pretty much set in our ways and knew what we wanted in a mate and knew what we didn’t want. Both of us never thinking that marriage was an option for us. We talked about everything and we both were raised the same way. We were both raised in a Christian Home and we shared the same Christian Values. No marriage is perfect, every marriage has to be coddled and worked at. You have to love the Lord first… and he will take it from there. My husband and I love each other very much. We have made it through good times and bad times. We have worked together to make and keep a loving home and a great Christian Life. My husband has worked very hard his entire life. And now that we are retired he is having severe spinal problems. He has been in excruciating pain for several years. The doctors think they have finally found a way to treat his pain. And we are so Thankful for the Lord’s, Mercy as we go through this healing process with a new treatment. I have been with him and helped him with Love and Encouragement the whole way. And will continue to do so because he is the Love of my Life. I’m asking anyone that reads this to please pray for my Husband. His name is Stanley. He has bulging discs from L1 to L5 and several others. He has had 7 spinal surgeries, 3 neck surgeries, a broken neck and broken hand. He has had two seizures and is suffering in horrible continuous pain. We appreciate your Prayers. And we know that God’s Grace will heal him because the Bible says so. Thank you for reading my story. I hope it can be an encouraging story, and possibly help someone else or a couple who is planning on sharing their life together. When you marry someone it is very serious and not to be taken lightly. When we said our vows. My husband added after: (until death us do part) FOR ETERNITY! And I didn’t know he was going to do that but I also replied: FOR ETERNITY!!! And that pretty much sums up our LOVE STORY.
    Thank you for sharing with us. I’d like to Thank You in advance for your Prayers!!
    God Bless You All!!!!
    God is Good All The Time…
    All The Time God is Good!!!
    John 3:16
    For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have Everlasting Life.
    Proverbs 3:5&6
    Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
    6. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He Shall direct thy paths.

    • Oh Kendra…I wish your husband could have seen a chiropractor before his surgeries. Maybe even now chiropractic could help him. My husband is a chiropractor and has helped many patients who have had surgeries like your husband. They have less pain and are so grateful. 🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏for you both.

      • As someone who has sciatica nerve pain, I’d like yo tell you to get him some Bio-Freeze & get a Kinetic Masseuse. These 2 things have made all the world to me!

    • Please try acupuncture, at least for the pain. It sure worked for me, and very quickly, too! Will keep you and Stanley in my prayers!

    • I don’t want to discourage you in praying that God will heal your husband here, but sometimes the healing doesn’t come until we are in our new bodies in heaven. “By His stripes we ARE healed”…healed from our sin and definitely made whole and new in eternity. Prayers for earthly healing.

    • The best thing I ever did for a bulging disk is decompression. It works by pulling the upper and lower body. No surgery. my sister-in-law had five bulging disk and was headed to a wheel chair confinement. Decompression got her back on her feet. Look into it.

  5. I am so glad that you shared your story, It is the most beautiful romance I’ve ever heard. I wish you much happiness. Stay close to God.

  6. That was so beautiful I meet my husband when I was only 14yrs old married him at 17yrs old we have been best friends for 60yrs now God has a plain for our lives if we let him I love my Jesus. He has always took great care of us .

  7. As I began to pray for your husband, my left hand began to feel very hot, I placed it over your request and prayed again, this time was even more intense….I think The Lord is going to heal your husband. Wow, that was pretty amazing to experience, thank you and bless you.
    Love, Wimberly.

  8. The Shoe-box is the first real tangible thing or gift they have ever had. I make many shoe boxes each year. But the real part is to take it and give your box to the child God points out to you at that time .
    I gave done this in Senegal and Gambia ! Traveling with a team from Samaritan’s Purse and a team of ordinary people to Bless children with a gift ( a Shoe-box,) as well as the Gospel Story.

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