During the holidays, many charities offer the opportunity to send gifts to those who may not receive anything for the holidays. In 2000, Tyrel Wolfe and his family participated in a project, Operation Christmas Child run by Samaritan’s Purse, which sent shoeboxes filled with school supplies, toiletries and small toys to children in the Philippines.
Little did Wolfe know how impactful his gift would be to the girl who got his shoebox of gifts.
At the time Wolfe was seven years old. As the little boy from Idaho was packing the shoebox, he was instructed to include a photo in with the gift, so he chose a photo of himself dressed as a cowboy. Once the box was shipped out, he thought that was that.
In 2000, a seven-year-old boy made contact with his soulmate—he just didn’t know it.
Years went by and Wolfe eventually forgot about the box, until one day in 2009.
Out of the blue, he received a friend request from someone named Joana Marchan. Since he had no idea who Marchan was, he ignored the request—for two years. In 2011, the young woman reached out again and this time Wolfe responded.
After the two exchanged a few messages Wolfe realized the mystery girl was the one who had received the shoebox he sent all those years ago. According to Marchan, she sent a thank you note after she received the gift, but Wolfe never got it.
“I was curious as to what he was like now,” Marchan told PEOPLE.
The two started talking on Facebook and realized they had a lot in common.
At first Wolfe’s parents were skeptical and told him to “test” Marchan’s story, but when she described the picture that Wolfe slipped into the shoebox, the teen knew she was telling the truth.
“I was blown away,” he told FOX 9.
The new friends began communicating nearly every day, and after a year and a half Wolfe decided it was time to visit Marchan in the Philippines.
In May 2013 Wolfe flew to the Philippines to meet Marchan in person.
“When I finally got there and saw her, I had to punch myself a couple times because I thought it was a dream,” Wolfe told PEOPLE.
Although Wolfe’s visit only lasted 10 days, he knew that Marchan was the one he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Unfortunately, he discovered it would be a little difficult to accomplish.
According to PEOPLE, Wolfe needed to receive permission from Marchan’s father—a family tradition—and Wolfe’s own mother was hesitant about her son’s future. She was worried the relationship was moving too fast.
After another visit to the Philippines, this time a month-long trip, Wolfe asked Marchan’s father—in his native language—for permission to marry his daughter. And although he received the blessing of the Marchan family, he still needed to convince his own family.
So, a few months later, Wolfe’s father visited the Philippines to meet the Marchans.
On October 5, 2014, the couple got married at Wolfe’s family’s home.
Their meeting went well and in the following months Marchan applied for a visa so she could go to the United States and marry the love of her life.
The couple, who chose to live in the United States, got married on Wolfe’s parents’ ranch in Idaho. Unfortunately Marchan’s parents weren’t able to get visas, so they couldn’t attend the wedding in person, but they did join via Skype.
According to FOX 9, the couple asked that their guests bring shoeboxes, similar to the ones that brought the little boy from Idaho and the little girl from the Philippines together.
The happy couple has since been living in the United States and recently welcomed an adorable baby boy.
Since moving to the United States to live with her soulmate, Marchan says she definitely experienced a change, but it was a good type of change.
“It was a big change and adjustment for me,” Marchan said. “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.”