What are your fondest childhood memories of Christmas? The tree? The decorations? The dinner? How about the presents? There was nothing more exciting as a child, to run downstairs or check the bottom of the bed, to see if Santa had been. However, for some children there are no presents on Christmas day. For those less fortunate, they will be lucky to eat anything on 25th December, never mind a Christmas feast. It’s for this reason, Christmas Shoebox appeals were started.
If you’ve never heard of a Christmas shoebox appeal, the premise is quite simple. You take an empty shoebox and fill it with gifts and essentials, to be sent to a child less fortunate. Many big charities hold a shoebox appeal, and it’s something that many schools across the world get involved with. Each shoebox would be filled with toys, school supplies, sweets, toiletries, and other little presents, before being wrapped up and sent off. These shoe boxes are shipped to some of the poorest countries in the world, including Africa, India and war-torn towns and villages. From the 1st November, local churches, community halls and schools start building their boxes and getting them ready to be shipped to children in need.
Along with each of the gifts that are carefully selected and packed into each box, many people also choose to send letters and pictures to whichever child will be receiving their gift. Usually, these little bits of paper will be cast aside as the grateful child digs into their box, desperate to explore all of their new toys and gifts. However, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes the letters and pictures are the best part of a shoebox, for the child that receives them. They’ve met someone new, someone that cares about them, and someone they can consider a friend from the other side of the world. Now, isn’t that a beautiful thought?
The intriguing stranger
In 2011 a young American man received an intriguing online message from a woman living in the Philippines that demanded she knew who he was and that she has something important to tell him, yet he didn’t recognize her or have any connections he knew of to this woman. So how could this stranger know who he was, and why did she want to be in contact with him so badly?
Trying to get the full story
Incredibly, this mystery woman seemed to have an unbelievable story as to how she knew this stranger all those miles away in another country. However, the story made absolute sense to the young man after hearing all the details, and against everything this amazing woman had finally managed to track down and locate the man she had been looking for.
Starting with a cowboy
Back in 2000, seven-year-old Tyrel Wolfe’s story began. While living with his parents in Midvale, Idaho, this young boy made a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child, a box that he could fill with all the necessities and fun toys for children that weren’t as fortunate. Wolfe carefully selected what he would send off, and put one very significant thing into this box that would lead to the message all those years later.
Choosing the perfect things
While Wolfe was packing up his Christmas shoebox to send off, he placed inside a photograph of himself too, and the box was soon ready to be sent off from the church to somewhere in the world to a child that needed it to help make their day even more special for them. After sending it off, Wolfe didn’t think about it again, until the fateful day he logged onto Facebook in 2011 to see his message that would get the ball rolling.
Unfamiliar friend request
Receiving an unknown friend request from a name he didn’t recognize, Wolfe’s curiosity got the better of him, and he responded to see what the mystery person had to say. It was to his surprise that Wolfe got a reply from Joan Marchan, a woman living in the Philippines, telling him she had a picture of him as a child and got it from all places, a shoe box!
Getting the truth
Marchan explained that she had received the shoebox with the photograph from Operation Christmas Child many years ago, and had tried to send a letter all that time ago in return to thank him. However, Wolfe hadn’t ever received the letter and wasn’t sure whether to believe her story. He asked for a description of the photograph in question to see if Marchan was actually telling the truth.
Worries from afar
Many people have been catfished over the years. This is when someone uses fake pictures and profiles, and can even lie about their name, age, and location as they remain behind a computer screen somewhere entirely different in the world. Social media now means around 53% of Americans have told a lie or two on their profiles, while 83 million Facebook accounts aren’t real people. Wolfe was worried this was just another of the many catfishers out there.
To his surprise, a description of a photo of a young boy dressed in a cowboy outfit was given to him! Over the next three weeks, Marchan and Wolfe spent their time chatting online and used the time to get to know each other. The pair were amazed at everything they had in common, and after bonding over their love of Christian music, they realized that time had flown past. Before they knew it, they had been talking for a whole year, but they were unsure of where the relationship was going.
Although Wolfe was overwhelmed by his new relationship, people were worried his new friendship would only lead to more heartbreak. Unfortunately, Wolfe had suffered a lot of bullying throughout his younger years that had left his desperate to find friends. Everyone was worried that he was falling for the wrong person just because Marchan was showing an interest. Even though Wolfe now had a few friends from college, he has always felt an outsider. Marchan seemed to understand.
Growing even closer
They grew ever closer, but no one knew where this shoe box relationship was going, let alone Wolfe and Marchan. After all these years searching for her mystery cowboy, Marchan had finally now found the man she was searching for. The next question is what the two would do being so far away from each other, but practically two halves of a whole.
Taking a leap of faith
Taking the plunge, and saving up enough money, Wolfe finally booked a ticket to fly to Manila to find his new mystery friend. Even though he had never traveled anywhere alone before, Wolfe had the excitement of seeing where this friendship could go, and what could blossom once the pair were finally united face to face to keep him going and settle his nerves, but how would it go when he stepped off of the plane?
Upon arriving in Manila, all nerves disappeared once the two set eyes on each other and were finally able to meet in person. The attraction was immediately there from Wolfe’s side, and to his luck, Marchan felt the same way. After meeting, Wolfe then went on to spend time living with Marchan’s family and getting to know everyone. Time would tell if her family would accept her new friend into their lives the way that she had.
The truth of the matter
Marchan admits that meeting Wolfe for the first time was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences in her life, but would it have the pay off she was hoping for? Apparently, she knew she had feelings for Wolfe as soon as she saw his face. According to Wolfe, he needed to “punch myself a couple times” to get prepare himself for the surprise of meeting the woman he had first spoken to all those years ago. However, only time would tell how far their relationship would go.
A big question to ask someone
Time quickly ran away for the Marchan and Wolfe, and it was soon Wolfe’s time to fly back home to the U.S., but this time alone. The couple had quickly fallen in love with each other and continued to keep in contact over Skype. However, a few months later, Wolfe planned to return to Manila, and this time he had a big agenda with an important question to ask someone.
Trying to get permission
Wolfe planned to ask Marchan’s father for his permission for her hand in marriage. Her father agreed to the plan. However, her mother was unsure about it all saying they should both wait before they committed to anything serious like this. Wolfe persuaded his father to fly to Manila to meet his mystery woman and her family, and as soon as he had, everything was agreed. Could anything stand in the way of true love after all these years?
Down on one knee
Although Wolfe was back in his hometown, he couldn’t get Marchan off his mind. He had to return to ask the very important question: would she become his wife? There was no time to waste, and Wolfe soon had the ring prepared. Now, it was just time to find an ideal opportunity to pop the question. The setting was perfect, and Wolfe soon got down on one knee. Thankfully, Marchan was overjoyed at the thought of joining his family and said “yes!”
The perfect tribute
Nothing stood in the young couple’s way, and in October 2014, on Wolfe’s parents’ ranch, the happy couple married. Wolfe even wore a barong, a traditional Filipino garment, during the wedding ceremony. In honor to how they met, they asked the guests to the wedding to create a Christmas shoebox themselves, the perfect dedication to how Marchan and Wolfe’s love story began all those years ago, but that wasn’t the end of the story.
It wasn’t just Wolfe that was overwhelmed to find a new love in his life; all his friends and family knew the struggles he had faced over the years and were ready to see the youngster find some happiness in his life. In fact, one of his friends was quick to talk about Wolfe and Marchan’s wedding day. He commented how amazing it was that Wolfe has “found the woman of his dreams” in a way that no one could have ever imagined.
Their own kind of honeymoon
After the wedding, the couple drove to North Carolina for their own kind of honeymoon; to deliver all the shoeboxes to the Samaritan’s Purse in person, this being the same organization that brought them together in the first place. The pair then agreed that every year from then they would make more shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. The couple also left a little surprise inside the shoe boxes for all the children that would get them.
A little story
All the shoe boxes that Wolfe and Marchan donated contained a small note explaining the tale of how the two had met, but they said they didn’t want to give anybody the wrong impression or send out the wrong message, and didn’t give the children a fantasy to read. The pair just wanted to share their love they share after the charity bought them the greatest gift of all in each other. The couple would now have to adjust to their married life, and for Marchan, a change of country altogether.
Inspiring a generation
As well as continuing to send their own Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, both Wolfe and Marchan hope their story will inspire others to do the same. All it takes is a shoebox and a few special items to get you started. Plus, who knows if sending off a parcel could one day lead to finding a soulmate? Only time will tell. The couple know the importance of helping those in need and seem determined to make this tradition last a lifetime.
Remembering old memories
Many of us now have a social media page. Around 2.6 billion, to be precise. So perhaps it’s no wonder that so many of us are used to tagging each other in photos or writing heartfelt messages on each other’s walls as a way to express our love? However, it seems as though Wolfe and Marchan are determined to keep their relationship alive in a whole new way. The pair have been collecting items over the years and been able to turn them all into a scrapbook.
All kinds of pieces
As the pair were writing love letters and poems to each other for many years, they had plenty to start off their new scrapbook. That wasn’t all. Wolfe and Marchan had also kept any photos they sent each other over the years, as well as holding onto any sentimental items from their time on different sides of the planet. It looks like all those years as pen pals were about to come to life before their very eyes all in one extraordinary memory.
Something for the future
The couple have high hopes they will be able to add to their scrapbook as their marriage continues to grow and evolve. Now, they can fill the blank pages with photos of all their brand new memories as they learn to live life as newlyweds. Plus, Wolfe and Marchan hoe they will one day be able to hand the book to their future children, this way they will be able to read all about the story of true love that bought their parents together after all those years.
Adjusting to a new life together
After getting married, Marchan and Wolfe settled down near to where his parents live, and have been making the most of married life so far. With Marchan having never been to the U.S. before, she has managed to see many parts of the country with her new husband because of the amount of travel required with Wolfe’s work. With all the traveling around, would the couple be able to cope with all the change?
Life outside, compared to life in the city
Marchan (now Marchan-Wolfe) has had a lot to adjust to with her new husband after growing up in the Philippines. Going from being raised in the city, to living out in the country has its differences, including the people, traffic, noise, and the newfound space. Over the next few years, it would tell if the couple could create real lives together, and where the next steps in their futures would go.
Making it work – Life outside
Although Marchan now has a new man by her side, it seems as though the adjustments have sometimes been too much to handle. She often admits that she has felt homesick over the years, but is grateful for Wolfe’s support throughout the transition. After all, moving your entire life 8,000 miles across the world is sure to throw up some complications, right? Thankfully, Marchan admits it is their love for each other that has made the whole journey worthwhile.
New footsteps in their lives
After having been married happily for nearly three years, on Facebook in May 2017, the couple had very exciting news, and some more adjustments to make as they proudly announced the birth of their baby boy! Now they have some extra footsteps to join them on their journey as they discover the joys of parenthood together, and can start their new chapter as a little family with the new addition.
The proud new parents
Wolfe and Marchan have received hundreds of congratulatory messages for their new son, who they named Harlann Jun Wolfe. Having the new addition to the family seems to complete the already incredible story that has followed these two.
A new family
It seems as though both Wolfe and Marchan have settled into life as new parents. In fact, their social media is now filled with snaps of the family going on all kinds of adventures. From mountain hikes to family vacations, this group of three appear to love spending time in the outside. However, with so many family members now living all around the world, it seems as though they have plenty of traveling to do if everyone wants to see young Harlann grow up.
The Wolfes don’t only keep their new lives in America; they have also taken a vacation or two to the Philippines to introduce Harlann to all the members of his family. It might be tough having so many family members around the world, but this couple seem determined to make it work. Plus, young Harlann takes it all in his stride as he gets to enjoy his international family visits. With so much love from every corner of the world, it looks as though Harlann will have plenty of support along the way.
Growing up together
Becoming a parent can have a significant effect on many people’s lives, but it seems as though Harlann’s arrival has had more of an impact of Wolfe and Marchan that anyone ever thought possible. Wolfe often uploads snaps of the pair chilling out together or enjoying playtime. Alongside these pictures, the new father usually writes of how lucky he feels to have the woman of his dreams as well as a son that has shown him what it means to love.
Believe it or not, but the couple have been married for nearly four years. As soon as their third anniversary rolled around in 2017, Marchan took to Facebook to express her love for her husband. The mom wrote about how much her time with Wolfe has meant to her over the last three years, as well as posting “thank you for doing this life with me” as they figure out how to work out married life. Marchan finished off her post with “I love you more than I can put into words” – could true love exist after all?
Remembering the old days
As Christmas rolls around every year, the couple often remind themselves of the parcel that brought them together in the first place. Without that cowboy photograph, none of their relationship would have ever been possible. Plus, they hope by keeping the tale alive, they will be able to inspire people to believe in love. After all, it’s not every day you get to hear about a love story 11 years in the making, right? All thanks to one simple snap.
After finding each other with just one photograph of a young cowboy, and the power of social media, it now seems that life for these two seems to be extraordinary – almost a modern day fairytale! Perhaps these two show that your soul mate does actually exist out there, no matter how far away they may be in this world!