Monday, October 21, 2013

We Caught A Thief!

I'm glad Sydney learned to be forgiving.  As her mom, I'm still ticked at this punk, who got away with all the candy I sent her.  I expected this from Mexico but not Korea.  I'll have to seal her Christmas package really tightly.  I hope he's too terrified to ever do anything like this again.  

That's right, dear readers, I came to Korea to be a missionary and somehow I've also taken on the role of amateur detective. Just call me Nancy Drew. But, before we get to the exciting story of my sleuthing, let's rewind and talk about English Village!  I'm going to do my best to explain, but if any of you still haven't the foggiest idea what English Village is by the end of this post, just Google it. The internet, in all it's wisdom, will explain what I cannot.

English Village is essentially an extremely complex and randomly themed English class. For normal English Villages the point is to practice English, but when it's organized by a zone of missionaries, the purpose is twofold. In addition to speaking practice, English Village is a great way to introduce people to the Church and to give them a subtle tour of the building. Are you with me thus far? Probably not, but I'm just going to press onward anyway. Maybe it would help if I took you through, room by room. Here we go...

Welcome to English Village!

You enter at the Post Office, where you are given a passport and one hundred American dollars (not legal tender) to spend throughout your journey. From there, you head straight to the airport where you choose to fly to one of four exotic destinations: Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, or Salt Lake City! After the airport, you board your plane, where the glamorous air-hostess explains, in the slowest English she can manage, the various room of English Village. In case you couldn't guess, the glamorous air-hostess was me. Even Koreans complain that I talk too fast. Once your flight has landed, you're hungry, of course, and so you stop at the nearest restaurant and order some...pancakes!

Side note: If only I had the time to explain the stress these pancakes caused. To all future attempters of English Village, pancakes is not the way to go.

At the restaurant, you learn about table etiquette and how to pay a proper tip--a lesson even Americans could probably do with learning. Unfortunately, the restaurant makes you a little sick, so you then must visit the doctor's office for a check-up. In the waiting room, you can check your height, weight, and eyesight or simply peruse the wide selection of Church magazines (this is where I would be wiggling my eyebrows suggestively). Once the doctor has made sure you're sufficiently healthy, you head straight to the clothing store and then to the movie theater to browse a collection of missionary P-day clothes and watch a few Mormon Messages (my eyebrows are wiggling again). Finally, to end your English Village trip, you stop by the chapel and learn to sing a hymn. Fun, right?

All in all, our English Village went really well. The members loved it and a bunch of investigators, less actives, and even random people off the street came too! Since our mission president wants every zone to start doing this once every two transfers, hopefully by next time more members will feel comfortable bringing their friends and family members to come, have fun, practice English, and meet the missionaries!

Now, for my thrilling detective story. This is going to be like an episode of Monk, so get excited.

Since English Village took place in 정주, the biggest city in our zone, my companion and I were away from our apartment for almost two full days. When we finally returned to 중주 late Saturday night, we saw that there was a small package stuffed into our mailbox--a package for me from my family! As I pulled it out of the mailbox, I noticed the top was slightly ripped open, but since I was far too excited to care, I thought nothing of it and ran immediately upstairs with my companion so we could look through my spoils. However, it soon became abundantly clear that something was missing--my iPod. And if this wasn't enough, my Kit-Kats too. I knew my mom would never put just one measly fun-sized bar of my favorite candy into a package she was sending to the other side of the world. So yeah, I was angry. I can get over a stolen iPod, but once you touch my Kit-Kats, you've crossed a line.

Since neither my companion no I were ready to give up on my stolen stuff, with the permission of our mission president, we went to the apartment office the next day and watched the security camera tapes. Check that off the list of things I never thought I'd do on my mission. I felt like my companion and I were Monk and Natalie as we watched the tapes intently, waiting for the moment when one of us could point at the TV screen and declare, "He's the guy!" Oh, and believe me, that moment came. Red jumpsuit, reflective tennis shoes, dark hair. Just a fourteen-year old kid. At first, I was incredibly excited because I felt like a detective, but then, as I continued to watch this random teenage boy go through the package that my mom had lovingly put together for me, I felt violated, upset, and just, angry. Since it was Sunday [yesterday] and we had an appointment at a member's house that night, my companion and I couldn't go immediately to the police station, so we left for our member's house, resolving to go to the police station first thing Monday morning. My companion had assigned me beforehand to give the spiritual thought at the end of our visit with our members, but as we ate dinner, I couldn't get it out of my head just how angry I was. And as I thought about my anger, I realized the message I needed to share--forgiveness. As the saying goes, "Practice what you preach." I knew that I needed to forgive this kid who has stolen from me and so, with the translation help of my wonderful companion, I shared my story with our members and then spoke of the importance of forgiveness. As I spoke, I felt my anger ebb away and I knew that my Heavenly Father was pleased with my new found desire to forgive.

But the story doesn't end there. As our member dropped us off at our apartment, and I turned to walk into our apartment building, I saw him. Red jumpsuit. Reflective shoes. Dark hair. The thief. As soon as he saw that I was a foreigner, he tried to hurry away, but luckily my companion is both bold and fluent in Korean, so she simply went up to him and asked, "Did you steal her iPod?" 
He denied it. 
She said, "We watched the security tape. You stole it Friday at 9:15. Where is it?"

So after a few minutes and one rather awkward ride together in the elevator, I had my iPod back. And you know what? As I took it back from the now-slightly-terrified kid who had stolen from me, I looked him in the eye, smiled brightly, and said with all the gratitude I could muster, "Thank you very much." He bowed low. I bowed back. All was well.

Four lessons are to be learned from this:

1. If you're going to steal, never wear the same bright red jumpsuit you wore on the day you committed your crime. Honestly.
2. Don't assume that because you steal from a foreigner, that that foreigner's companion is not fluent in Korean and a freaking boss at catching thieves.
3. God really does work in mysterious ways. As we watched the security tapes Sunday afternoon, we had a great conversation about religion with the man who worked at our apartment office. We gave him a Book of Mormon and he accepted it.
4. Always forgive.

In last year's April General Conference, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, "We must recognize that we are all imperfect--that we are beggars before God. Haven't we all, at one time or another, meekly approached the mercy seat and pleaded for grace? Haven't we wished with all the energy of our souls for mercy--to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made and the sins we have committed? Because we all depend on the mercy of God, how can we deny to others any measure of the grace we so desperately desire for ourselves? Should we not forgive as we wish to be forgiven?"

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

I encourage you all this week to remember the ultimate example of forgiveness, even Jesus Christ.
Always choose to forgive.

I love you always.

Sister Arvanitas
Sydney's new coat to keep her warm

The airplane at English Village

Airplane window
Another airplane window

Airplane gate

Restaurant to eat pancakes

Who did the impromptu flower-arranging? me. I think I've found my spiritual gift...

Doctor's office

Doctor's waiting room

Clothing store for English Village

"He's the guy!"
just call me Detective Inspector Arvanitas.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Sister Sydney! Love your blog and congrats on the journey!
    Mrs. Palmer