Back in 2011 a woman in the Philippines messaged a young American man out of the blue. And although he’d never heard of her, she insisted that she knew who he was. What’s more, she soon divulged a story that made perfect sense. Against all odds, it seemed, this woman had found the person she had been looking for since she was a child. What happened next, though, was truly remarkable.
Tyrel Wolfe is a man with a truly unique story to tell. It all began in 2000 when he was a seven-year-old boy living with his parents in Midville, Idaho. That’s when he took part in Operation Christmas Child, a worldwide Samaritan’s Purse initiative that encourages people to create shoebox packages full of necessities and toys for children living in less fortunate situations.
Young Wolfe placed a photograph of himself inside his shoebox, too, and soon it was dropped off at church ready to be shipped off to a needy child somewhere in the world. After that day, though, Wolfe never thought about the shoebox again. That is, until he received a mysterious Facebook message in 2011.
You see, Wolfe had a friend request from a woman in the Philippines called Joana Marchan, a name he didn’t recognize. But it turned out that this same person had actually tried to contact him in 2009, two years prior. Wolfe had, however, dismissed the request.
This time, though, Wolfe was curious and wanted to give the person a chance. So he responded – and Marchan’s first message back was truly baffling. After all, the woman told Wolfe that she had a picture of him as a child – a picture she had received in a shoebox from Operation Christmas Child.
Wolfe could hardly believe what he was reading. Plus, this woman said she had tried to write him a letter to say thank you. But Wolfe’s parents were not so easily convinced by her story. So, to check if Marchan was for real, Wolfe asked her to describe the photograph she said she had.
Sure enough, Marchan described a picture of a young Wolfe in a cowboy outfit, the very same photo that he had placed in the shoebox. Wolfe and Marchan then spent weeks getting to know each other online. And while it was incredible that Marchan had managed to find her cowboy after all this time, what was even more amazing was the number of things that the two had in common.
One of them, for instance, was a mutual love of Christian music. The pair bonded over this, and before they knew it they had been communicating with each other for a whole year. They had naturally grown closer, too, but no one could have predicted the next development in their relationship.
Yes, Wolfe decided to take things to the next level and booked a flight to Manila to meet his faraway friend. He had managed to save up enough money and was excited to get there, even though he had never traveled anywhere on his own before. “I knew I was taking a big risk,” he told People magazine in December 2014.
But when Wolfe arrived, all his nervous energy disappeared. The moment he saw Marchan, he instantly knew he had done the right thing by flying out to see her. “I was immediately attracted to her,” he told People. And luckily, the feeling was mutual, and Wolfe spent a while living with Marchan and her family.
Soon, though, it was time for Wolfe to head back to the U.S., despite the fact that he’d totally fallen in love with Marchan. So, not content with continuing to talk with Marchan over Skype, Wolfe later returned to Manila to ask Marchan’s father for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
Fortunately, he said yes – but Wolfe’s mother was actually less sure. It seemed that she wanted the couple to give it some time before they committed. But nothing gets in the way of true love, and eventually Wolfe persuaded his father to come to Manila and meet his lover’s family. And after that, the deal was sealed.
The happy couple got married at Wolfe’s parents’ ranch in October 2014, and the groom wore a traditional Filipino garment – known as a “barong” – for the ceremony. In a fitting tribute to the manner in which they met, the couple asked wedding guests to each make a Christmas shoebox.
As a kind of honeymoon, the couple drove the shoeboxes to North Carolina to deliver them to Samaritan’s Purse. The newlyweds also vowed to make shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child every year going forwards.
In all of their shoeboxes, the couple also included a little note explaining the story of how they met. But they were careful not to give the wrong message, as Wolfe explained to People. He said, “We don’t want to give them [the children] some fantasy, but we do want to show that we care and want to share our love. We both feel so blessed and grateful that Operation Christmas Child brought us together.”
After the wedding, the couple settled near to Wolfe’s parents and have been enjoying married life so far. Marchan had never been to the U.S. before, but now she has seen many parts of the country with her husband because his line of work requires a lot of travel.
It’s a far cry from where she grew up in the Philippines. “It was a big change and adjustment for me,” she 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.”
And the couple have had to make even more adjustments. Having been happily married for almost three years, Wolfe announced some very exciting news on Facebook in May 2017: the birth of their beautiful baby boy!
The new parents, who named their son Harlann Jun Wolfe, have received hundreds of messages of congratulations online. Their story was already a beautiful one, but it is even more special now that they’ve welcomed a baby into the world.
It’s extraordinary that Wolfe and Marchan managed to find each other when they only had one photograph to go on. But they did it, and now they are enjoying a beautiful life together. It just goes to show the world that some things are meant to be.
Another couple who were seemingly meant to be were Walmart employee Renate Stumpf and Louis Demetriades. Fate just kept bringing them back together, you see. And in February 2015 Stumpf had a shift at the store that she’ll likely never forget.
When Renate Stumpf began her shift at Walmart in February 2015, it may have been just a normal working day for her. However, after a familiar face from Renate’s past entered the store and held up a sign addressed to the worker, she was faced with a decision that had the potential to change her life.
Renate herself had grown up in Germany, although she wouldn’t stay in Europe. That’s because, after encountering her future husband at an army base in the late 1950s, she would eventually up sticks with him to the U.S. There, Renate and her spouse also had three children together; sadly, however, the pair would split 13 years into their marriage.
And Renate had been working at Walmart for 25 years when Valentine’s Day came around in 2015. On that occasion, she was at the Fort Smith, Arkansas, store – and her shift may not have been a particularly memorable one at first, either. Then, however, a mysterious man approached the German native with a message.
Unbeknownst to Renate, some of her Walmart colleagues were already aware of what the man had planned. A camera crew would also follow him as he entered the store and walked up to Renate. Then, after a brief moment, the Walmart employee noticed the individual and his piece of card – and she covered her mouth in shock.
And the man with the sign was Demetriades. When he was 18, he had been stationed at an army base camp in Germany, and there he had met a local girl of around the same age. Her name was Renate, and the pair had quickly struck up a very close relationship.
“I was working in the kitchen at the army base, and [Louis] was a soldier,” Renate recalled to ABC News in 2015. “The first time I ever saw him, he asked me if I could fix him a hamburger. He liked who he saw, so he asked to go help me out in the kitchen.”
Romance then blossomed between Renate and Louis, with the pair eventually getting married. They subsequently moved to the United States and started a family, having three children together. However, in the years that followed, the couple’s relationship became strained for a number of reasons.
“We had little financial support, I didn’t know anything and I could barely speak English,” Renate told ABC News. “We started arguing about every little thing.” So, after more than a decade together, the couple got divorced and began to move on with their lives.
Louis ultimately relocated to Memphis, Tennessee; like Renate, he also went on to remarry. And despite sharing children, he and his former wife wouldn’t be in contact for another 43 years. The ice would thaw between the pair in late 2014, however.
By then, both Louis and Renate’s respective spouses had passed away, prompting the former to make a decision about his future. To that end, he attempted to contact his daughter on Facebook; he also looked to reconnect with Renate after all those years apart.
Louis eventually called the branch of Walmart at which Renate worked, with the two setting up a meeting just before Christmas 2014. Few could’ve predicted what happened next, though. “When we saw each other again last December, we knew right then we still loved each other for sure,” the German native told ABC News. “That love has never passed.”
Then, in 2015, Louis made yet another bold move, driving all the way from Memphis down to Fort Smith. And on Valentine’s Day he strolled into the Arkansas Walmart, cameras trailing him, to approach his ex-wife – who was completely unaware that he was in the building.
“Hey, good lookin’,” Louis said to Renate, while holding a placard that reads “Happy Valentine’s Day! Will you marry me?” Looking stunned, Renate replied, “I just talked to you this morning!” The pair then shared a hug and a kiss, before the German woman was pressed for an answer to her ex-husband’s proposal.
“No,” Renate jokingly responded, before adding, “Yes, but not today!” And she expanded on her thoughts to CBS affiliate KFSM. “43 years is a long time, and to say ‘yes’ right away, I’m gonna have to test him a little bit first!” she revealed. “I will marry him, though, because he’s a good man.”
Meanwhile, Louis explained to the station why he had chosen to profess his love for Renate at her place of work. “Why did I come to Walmart to propose to my wife again?” he said. “It’s because she has so many friends here, and I knew she would like to share that with them.”
And users of KFSM’s website shared their thoughts about the unexpected proposal in the comments section of the story, with their reactions being mainly positive, “This makes you feel great,” one individual commented of the tale. “[Renate’s] my favorite cashier too!”
That warmth was echoed by another commenter who professed to be an acquaintance of the German woman. “I’ve known Renate for many years and her family, [and] she is by far the sweetest lady around,” they wrote. “I love how she is, and I’m happy for her. She is amazing.”
What’s more, one person could really relate to Renate and Louis’ situation. “Aww, that is awesome,” she wrote. “I met my first husband again after not seeing him for 39 years on October 25, 2014. Then, on December 12, 2014, we got married again.”
As for the happy couple, they decided against having a civil wedding on the day, with Renate insisting that they weren’t in a hurry. “There’s no rush at my age,” she told ABC News. “God put us together again, and it couldn’t be any other way after all these years.”
Sometimes, the past has a funny way of catching up to us – literally, in Renate’s case. And even though she and her former husband had been distant for more than 40 years, their reunion seems to prove that, on occasion, love never dies.