Sunday, July 4, 2010

Farewell to The Land of the Morning Calm

Happy Independence Day!!!

This is my last email home from Korea. Crazy.

Yesterday (Sunday) was kind of sad. It was hard to say goodbye to everyone. Last night we gathered at the Church to have a final party because Sister Linford, Elder Oxborrow and I are all going home and we've all served here in Bangojin. We shared final testimonies and ate food together. It was a really memorable time.

I've made a lot of great friends here in Korea, and I've really enjoyed my time in this country. Yesterday at church I shared a scripture about how I feel: Enos 1:26

I told the church members that when I first came to Korea, I had a hard time with a lot of things. The language, culture, heat/humidity, missionary work and lifestyle, companions, the food... But as I've labored here for the past two years, I've also experienced a change of heart. I've learned a little of the language (I'll never be fluent probably), I love the food, I love the people! I feel that I can call Korea "우리 나라" ("our nation") and I will always want to call it that. I wanted the friends I have here to understand that, and I think they did. I hope they did. I love Korea. I've rejoiced in the opportunity I've had to share the gospel with my brothers and sisters here! The work has been hard, and I've received a lot of rejection, but they are still my brothers and sisters and I love them all the same. It has been an amazing experience.

I promised some members that I would do a few things:
1) I would go home and work to live the gospel and continue doing missionary work;
2) I would continue studying Korean and never forget about this country; and
3) I would come back to Korea...kind of soon.
I think those are some good goals to start with.

Tomorrow I'll go back to Gyeongju and say goodbye to friends there, and then it's off to Pusan and Seoul. I'm almost home!

I'll have stories for you all in a few days!

Love you!! The Gospel is true!

Elder Bocchino

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ulsan District Conference

Another week gone - time is flying.

Oh, a bit of sad news. Korea was eliminated from the World Cup. The whole nation was pretty bent out of shape about it. The US also lost. :( and so did England. So I have NO ONE to root for.

Bangojin is great! We had the Ulsan District Conference last Sunday and President Jennings came, along with Elder Ringwood of the Quorum of the Seventy. Elder Ringwood was in North Korea last week overseeing the Church's donation of over 1,000 apple trees there, and then he swung down here for a few missionary meetings and the District Conference. He had served as the Seoul West Mission President a few years ago, so he was able to speak to the church members in Korean. Some good experiences at those meetings! At the missionary meeting we talked a lot about discouragement and miracles that we don't see. Basically how to deal with rejection and also with not seeing the fruits of our labors. Sad, but true.

On P-day, we went to a cave outside of the city. It was pretty touristy, but it was pretty cold inside (good activity on a hot and humid day). There was also an ice cave that we visited. Pretty fun all in all. Seeing all the foggy, green hills and rice fields reminded me that I'm gonna miss Korea when I leave. I leave in 15 days by the way.

This next week will be spent trying to meet people for the last time, and spend time with some families that I've grown close to. Next week I should be able to go back to Gyeongju and see some friends. Hopefully I can help someone get closer to Christ before I end my mission. It's been an incredible experience.

The gospel is true!

Love, Elder Bocchino

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Iron Festival, World Cup, Gyeongju, and splits

Hey! I have 18 days until I'm back in the US! Time is flying.

Last weekend, we volunteered at the Iron Festival where we celebrated traditional Korean iron smelting. Turns out that the Koreans first discovered iron on their peninsula here in Ulsan. This really is the industrial capital of Korea. Pohang is the steel exporter, and Ulsan makes ships, cars, oil rigs and refines oil. There are also some nuclear power plants here. Heavy industry.

Korea lost to Argentina last week in the World Cup, but they also tied Nigeria, so it looks like they'll advance! Koreans are excited!

On Sunday, we watched the Joseph Smith Movie with Korean subtitles. It's the first time the Koreans have seen it, though it's been out in the US for years. Good movie, and I think the members were able to learn a lot more about the Prophet Joseph Smith through it.

On P-Day, we went up to my old area of Gyeongju and took a look at the Seokuram grotto. It's a cave at the top of a mountain with a Buddha statue in it that is very very old. Pretty impressive views (if it wasn't so hazy) and cool hike.

Last week we cleaned the Hogae church - lots of heavy lifting - very sweaty work. It's getting really hot and humid here.

I went on splits last week with the Zone Leaders. We had some interesting meetings with less active church members in the ZL area.

It looks like I'll be able to go on splits with Elder Oxborrow (he's in gyeongju and is going home with me on the 10th) for my last week in country. That means that we should be doing meal appointments in Gyeongju and here in Bangojin for that week, as we both know people in both areas.

Not much else to report...time is flying!

Love you! Elder Bocchino

Sunday, June 13, 2010

World Cup

Wow! World Cup is here! Once every four years most people in the world (except Americans) tune in for the World Cup...a soccer battle between nations. Koreans are crazy about soccer! The other night was the opening Korea vs. Greece game starting at 8:30 pm here in Korea. They set up outdoor viewing locations all over Korea (all over Bangojin!) and settled in for the epic battle. We were in a restaurant when Korea scored its first goal. That was a thrill! Koreans have a way of making these things feel like the whole country is in it together. Every goal scored is a victory for every Korean man, woman and child. Kim Yun Ah's olympic skating gold was a victory for every Korean as well. It's part of their culture, the culture of "ooh-rlee" or "we/us". It's great! It also illustrates Korea's constant need to prove itself on the world stage.

When we had to go home, we found they had set up a projector with the game in our apartment parking lot! So we could watch it from our front door!

Ended up as a shutout: 2 - 0 Korean victory!! Next game is Thursday against Argentina.

As for other news, the North Asia Area authorities are rolling out plans for local churches to track down lost members and try to figure out how to help these people and fix our records, finally. After two years of this, I'm headed home, and now they're coming out with the official programs...figures. lol.

The ZL's should be having a baptism in a few weeks and the sisters will have one in Hogae next month. Good things are happening.

A few days ago we talked to an older man in a store who had met with missionaries when he was younger in Seoul (he's 62 now). He shared with us his life story, of being carried on his mom's back as they fled from Seoul during the Korean war. They ended up in Pusan and then back in Seoul later on. I believe he went to Japan to learn how to be an engineer. Korea didn't have the ability to train engineers at that time. Koreans suffered greatly during those years. This country used to be so poor and backward, and they were a Japanese colony. It's a miracle they're where they are today. His story made me think of my grandmother who fled China as a young child, and both of my grandfathers who served in Korea. The preceding generations around the world have suffered a lot. Helps me to be grateful for all that I have, and all that the senior generations have helped provide.

Time is getting short! It's an indescribable feeling!

Love you!!! Elder Bocchino

Friday, June 4, 2010

Conferences, elections, and rumors or war

Time is running out for me here in Korea......about 5 ish weeks left. Crazy!

Yesterday at Zone Conference I gave my "death talk" (the talk you give before you leave the mission). I had 3 minutes, so I mentioned how challenging it was to come to Korea and shared 1 Corinthians 1:26-27 and Doctrine and Covenants 35:13. Then I testified that the Gospel is true! Short, but I think I mentioned the important things.

Sunday was our Branch Conference. We had 93 people at Sacrament Meeting! President Jennings came to preside and we all had a great time. We learned a lot. I had to help translate in nursery with the Canadian family. Still hard, even after almost two years in country. ugh!

Tensions are still kind of high in Korea. It's looking less likely that war will break out anytime soon, but people are still worried. They held local elections yesterday and I think that the President's ruling conservative party did really well. By the way, the Socialist Labor Party is really strong here in Ulsan and in university campuses across Korea...interesting. Our investigator (coffee shop guy) used to work for them in college and has some interesting stories. (He's against them now.

Today we're going back to the dolphin/whale museum because most of the people in Ulsan now are new and haven't been there. it should be fun!!!!!!

I've still got time left. Trying to finish strong!!!

Love, Elder Bocchino

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Evacuation plans, acting on faith, and unity in families

While tensions with North Korea are increasing, the Korean people remain calm and collected. Everyone agrees that the North knows it can't afford to start a war, therefore people aren't too worried about it. We (missionaries) do have established evacuation procedures that we will follow if necessary.

Kyung Jin (coffee shop guy) remains skeptical of organized religion. This has allowed him to have an open-ish mind while investigating our Church, but has also made him just skeptical of all religions in general. He is a great guy with lots of questions about faith and God, and I really hope he begins to experiment with faith and acting on what he's learning from the Book of Mormon.

We will start meeting with a member, Brother Lee, whose son should be getting baptized soon. Brother Lee and his wife are at least bringing the son to church on Sundays (even if he doesn't want to go), which is really good. I'm constantly reminded of the need for unity in families and the blessings associated with living the gospel as families.

We had a District Leaders' Meeting in Pusan yesterday (on transfer day) and talked about how we're going to deal with losing so many missionaries. Our numbers are getting slashed from about 120 when I came to Korea to probably 70 when I leave. Big change.

I said goodbye to some friends yesterday as they're going home. One of them was Elder Mckenna, with whom I served in Sacheon. We had some really great experiences together. That will be me in 6 weeks. Strange. Time is flying.

The Gospel is true!!! Love, Elder Bocchino

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Strengthening Families Together

Well, another hot and humid couple of weeks have flown by.

Recently, the big news has been North Korea's sinking of a South Korean ship, killing over 40 South Korean sailors. We're keeping our ears and eyes open as the whole country wonders what will happen next. Ulsan is a big target for the North, as the Hyundai Heavy Industries factories are prepared to produce naval ships, and the Hyundai Motors factories are ready to make jeeps and tanks if war breaks out. I'm not too worried right now, but we're still vigilant and I get a little jumpy when the city tests it's air raid sirens. :)

Last week, we went up to an old elementary school and saw a reptile/snake exhibit they have there. It was really fun and we got some good pics. I got to hold a HUGE snake at one point (I'll send you those pics later) and it urinated on me. Gross!

Bangojin Branch is doing great. We had a great meeting with Brother Lee today (his son is 9 years old and preparing to be baptized) and we had a great time. We read the Book of Mormon together and I felt the quiet influence of the Spirit. I know that as we help him and his wife strengthen their faith, they will be better able to help their son accept the Gospel. It brings up memories of my own baptismal experience.....thanks to my Mom and Dad and various Church leaders, I was able to begin living the Gospel and progress to where I am today. I remember that, and vow not to give up on this young man (Dohng-Guhn) no matter how squirrely he is. :)

Time is flying by! Transfer calls are tonight...we're not sure what will happen. I have one transfer left!!!

Love you guys! The Gospel is true!!!

Elder Bocchino