Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Transitioning Pdays

Well, we got a sudden Pday today for a little bit...it's to help us transition to the new system of having Pdays on Thursdays rather than Mondays. Next week, we'll have our full pday on Thursday the 7th. This also means that I might be getting home to America on July 10th or 11th rather than the 7th......

I went on splits with the Zone Leaders. It was pretty fun. We had a great district meeting where we talked about the Gift of the Holy Ghost as well as Charity and Love. Good stuff.

Love you guys!!!! Elder Bocchino

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Happy New Year - Twice!


Merry Christmas!!! Happy New Year!!! You know, the Koreans celebrate two New Year holidays. They celebrate the "new sun" holiday that everybody in America celebrates: Jan. 1. They also celebrate the Solar New Year holiday in mid January. It should be fun, to do it over again.

This time last year I was in Pusan at the end of my second transfer in country. My trainer was boarding a flight to go home....strange...one year ago I was still in Korea.....

I talked to my family! Yay! It was great! Definitely gives a boost! Makes me trunkier than ever, but that's ok!

Last week on Monday we had a zone pday where we exchanged white elephant gifts and watched Prince of Egypt. On Wednesday we went to Pusan for a Mission Christmas Conference where we had a great meeting, ate Costco pizza, watched "Scrooge" and got a free Christmas tie from the Mission Office. We also saw our new Mission Office couple (Elder and Sister Bagley).

On Thursday (Christmas Eve) we went to two kindergartens run by church members and played Santa Clause for the kids. A lot of kids were scared and cried...kind of a traumatic experience for them I guess. lol Then I called my family! That night we had a Branch Christmas Party. We joined the sister missionaries in a skit that went well, and I got to play Santa again (!)...interesting experience. Fun times. On Christmas we went to downtown Ulsan and caroled with the other missionaries in front of Lotte and Hyundai Department stores. Pretty fun. Then one of Bangojin's Church Members showed up and took us all out for a Christmas Dinner. We had a type of rib soup. Very very tasty.

Sister Lee (who was baptized a few weeks ago) was confirmed a member of the Church in sacrament meeting on Sunday. Also, the sister missionaries' investigator (Sister Ooh) was baptized. Some other Ulsan missionaries also had a few baptisms last week. I've never seen this kind of activity in my mission so far...good times! Sister Ooh has two daughters and their families in the Bangojin Branch. Her husband passed away earlier this year. She spoke of wanting to be with him again after death as motivation for her baptism. Wonderful woman...she's made a lot of progress since earlier this year.

We taught Gospel Principles class since our Branch Mission leader is back in America for a month. We talked about prophets and read about President Thomas S. Monson, God's prophet on the earth today.

Well, it's hard to find things to say after talking so much to my family via telephone, so I'll just say Happy New Year! The Gospel is true!!! Love, Elder Bocchino

Sunday, December 20, 2009

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

A cold, windy week in Ulsan.....

We had a great lesson with Sis. Lee (who got baptized last week). She's great! She is so committed to living the gospel. She said that God has answered her prayers and given her confirmation that she's doing the right thing. Amazing.

We had received some phone numbers of Hyundai workers who had gone over to BYU for a few months to study in the business program. While there, they expressed some interest in the church, so we called them and will hopefully be able to meet some of them in the coming weeks. Nice people...they had a great impression of the USA and of the Church in Utah.

We finished putting together a book organizing all of the Branch's church members according to where they live....we'll start visiting them soon...trying to find less active members.

The other day, we went down to a member's Chinese restaurant with the sister missionaries (who we ran into while trying to visit the same people) and had a free meal. It was great! Bro. Lee is such a great cook!!!

Random thought: I can look out onto the ocean here...and I see huge container and fuel ships...it's great. Hyundai is a HUGE company.

Last night, we went to find a less active member near our house. He's only a few years older than us. While we were walking in the dark, I went into a shop to ask for directions. Turns out that I was standing in the right address and talking to our member. He was nice. We introduced ourselves and gave him our number. We hope to be able to visit him again and help him. After that, we went searching for another apartment and found a different less active's mom (she wasn't helpful) and left discouraged. Then we went and were able to visit with a more recent member (she was a Korean runway model a few years ago I think..) and were able to talk about the significance of the Christmas holiday. Her questions centered around 1) which Old Testament prophecies related to Christ?; and 2) which fulfilled prophecies made people at the time of Christ willing to accept him as the Messiah?

We're planning on studying and getting back to her.

A few more days until Christmas!!! Around this time I think about America, family, Christmas trees/lights/etc, presents, friends, hot chocolate...basically I get homesick...then I remember that the point of this holiday season is the celebration of the birth of the Savior of the World. How thankful I am for the best present of all!!! Over 2000 years ago, the King of Kings was born, lived a perfect life and suffered for my sins. He died and was then resurrected and lives today! He continues to reach out to us and leads this Church. What a happy message! Christ lives!! Merry Christmas!!!!!

Love, Elder Bocchino

PS: This time next year, I will be home for Christmas! :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Some (Inconvenient) Truths About Santa Claus

A few little-known truths about Santa Claus.....

Often described as a "man on a worldwide mission", Santa is frequently spotted incognito near evergreen trees with his "helpers."




Even Santa can't pass up a bargain in today's economy - this Hershey's candy bar costs only $60.00!!!!!



One of Santa's best-kept secrets: BLACK THERMALS!!!! HO HO HO!!!


Merry Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sister Lee's Baptism


From Elder Bocchino:

Whew! What a first week in Bangojin. It's a small peninsula on the east coast of South Korea and is part of the city of Ulsan. It is dominated by Hyundai ship and car factories and most of the people on the streets wear the gray uniforms of Hyundai workers. Lots of cranes and smokestacks!

I've been able to meet a few members throughout the week - very nice people. We also had several English classes. Attendance isn't as large as the classes in Gyeongju, but we'll work on that.

On Sunday, we had a baptism! The sister (Sister Lee) met missionaries about 8 weeks ago. She works at a convenience store near the church. She was able to hear their teachings, cut down her coffee consumption, and accepted the baptism challenge. For some reason, she requested that I baptize her. I've not participated in a baptism here yet, or performed the ordinance. It went well. We talked about how baptism is the beginning of a journey rather than the end. Sister Lee is committed to living the gospel throughout all of her life. I'm excited for her.

The Branch is big here. It used to be a Ward when it was part of the Pusan Stake. 65 people came to church yesterday. (In Gyeongju, we were really lucky to get 30). The members seem really nice. Last night, we went with the sister missionaries to the Branch President's house for dinner. It was delicious and the Branch President is really nice! Very fun...

We're preparing for Christmas and our Branch Christmas party. Apparently I'm going to be Santa Claus (the members have been reminding me of that all week long. They're excited!). Also, I'll be going to a member's private kindergarten to be Santa for a little bit on Christmas Eve. :)

We'll also be having a Christmas Mission Conference in Pusan on December 23! I'm pretty excited!

It's been quite a week. Sis. Lee's baptism helped me think a lot about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and what our priorities in life should be. We need to have faith in Christ (which Sis. Lee has), we need to repent for the things we've done wrong (which she's done), we need to be baptized in Christ's name by someone holding the proper authority (we did that the other day), we can then receive the Holy Ghost and have it as our constant companion (we'll do that in two weeks...by someone with authority), and then we need to endure to the end by living a righteous life according to God's commandments. What a beautifully simple Gospel! What a true Gospel!

Gotta go! Love, Elder Bocchino





Sunday, December 6, 2009

Gyeongju to Bangojin

I'm transferring out of Gyeongju after 18 weeks here. I love Gyeongju and was expecting to stay, but I'm hoping that this transfer will be fun too. I'm heading to the big city of Ulsan to an industrial area called Bahng-oh-jeen (actually fairly close to Gyeongju). I'll be District Leader and co-senior with Elder Murray. He came to Korea 12 weeks behind me.

Last week we gave Nadia (the Russian lady) a Russian copy of the Book of Mormon. One nice lady from English class took us out to eat the Japanese soup Shabu Shabu (basically meat and veggies flash boiled). Delicious.

We walked way down into the rice field/outskirts south of Gyeongju last week looking for a less active member. We asked a really nice man on the street where we could find a real estate office to look at a map, and he just went into his own business and printed us off a simple map from the computer. Nice guy #1. Then we went to the address and asked a man working in a small garden nearby if he knew the person we were looking for. He knew the family and took us to the house where we talked with the (very old) parents of the church member, and the man persuaded them to give us the son's number. Then we talked to that man for a while after. He was so shocked that we traveled all the way out there to find one member who hadn't come to church in like 15 years. He was an angel. Very nice and had lived in that same spot for over 60 years, born and raised. Nice man. Out of the whole experience we gained a simple map from one man and a phone number from another, but I felt the Spirit and the kindness of those people. Good times.

Mr. Jung (I'm so sad to leave him) continues to testify that our church is a good Christian church to people he meets. It makes me feel good to hear that. He's not going to get baptized any time soon, but it makes me feel good to see that someone's perspective of our church has changed. He's been a good friend to me and will continue to be great to the missionaries. I'm going to miss playing cards with him.

Nadia came to church with her daughter and a Filipino woman. I hope they continue to come and get closer with the Church members.

On Sunday, I had a hard time giving my farewell talk in Church. Church members see missionaries come and go all the time, but I only get to have one Gyeongju, and only get to see those people so often. They didn't know I was transferring, so when I got up and said that I was being transferred, people were surprised. The Branch President might have been mad that I didn't tell him right away haha. I shared Ephesians 2:19 and talked about how the love that I felt in Gyeongju helped me feel less like a foreigner and more like a Gyeongju person/branch member. I love Gyeongju and I love those people. I felt their love so abundantly and I'm thankful for that.

After Church we went to the traditional house of an English class member (her husband has a huge black beard!). We just chatted for a while. She's really nice. I didn't know but she's a member of the Unification Church, led by Reverend Moon from Korea. Nice lady.

Sunday night we had our usual dinner appointment with Hye Jung, the recent convert high school girl and her brother and mother. We ate delicious food, promised to keep in touch, and then we had to go. It was freezing cold outside, but I felt warm from the love of that family. I'm going to miss them. They've been like a second family to the missionaries in Gyeongju for so long.

So I'm headed to Bangojin. The Gospel is true! Missionary work is amazing!!!

I love you guys! It's almost Christmas! Happy Holidays!!! love, Elder Bocchino

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Zone Conference

Happy Late Thanksgiving!!!!!!

Today we went with the Pohang and Ulsan/Hogae Elders way up north into the rural areas (6 of us in all). We went to go see a pagoda for Elder Mann's last PDay. The pagoda turned out to be 15 feet tall, kind of a let down, but it was an adventure getting there! Then we walked to a random temple up in the hills that was WAYYY cool!!! It wasn't a tourist attraction (the signs made sure to tell us that) but we still went in and got some great pics. We also got the chance to light some candles and do some bows to the Buddha statues...great stuff! Great view of the valley, too! Awesome. The 6 of us hitchhiked back to the small town and then bussed down to Gyeongju. Way fun!

Last week we had Zone Conference. Elder Choi of the Seventy came. We talked a lot about the mission of the Church: Bringing All Souls unto Christ. This mission requires us to strengthen members, help our recent converts get to the temple, and find new members. This work isn't just about forgetting members and going on the streets, and it's also not about teaching English. It's about doing what we can to serve others, strengthen the church, and bring souls closer to Christ. Great stuff, fit really well with our mission's focus on working with members. With our missionary numbers decreasing so much, we need the members to help out as much as possible (according to Pres. Hinckley, members should find people to teach about the church and the missionaries should teach them...).

On Saturday night, we went to a Thanksgiving Party in Ulsan. Some potential investigators were supposed to come, but couldn't because of horrible traffic. It was fun! I got to eat a piece or two of turkey! lol. Not much food, but pretty fun. The missionaries in Ulsan acted out the First Thanksgiving for the Koreans...pretty funny.

On Sunday, we had two investigators and a less active member come to church. One lady investigator (her son is at BYU) wanted to learn about the Holy Ghost, so we had a great Gospel Principles class! That night, we went to her house and met with her and her husband. She'll be in Seoul having surgery until February, so this might be the last time I see her. The husband will be staying at their apartment in Ulsan during that time, so we won't see him much either. Great people. They knew my trainer and did a lot of cool things for him and his family before he went home to America. They want to stay in touch. Nice people! The husband set up that shipyard tour for us.

We're trying to get more university students to our English class (especially with North Asia's new focus on college students). We'll see!

The Gospel is true! Time is flying! In 25 days I'll call home! Elder Bocchino

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Root Answers to Leaf Questions

This week we met with a Russian lady named Nadia and had lunch together. She's pretty nice and brought her young daughter to our Branch's Halloween Party a few weeks ago. We talked about her upbringing in Russia and her parents' religious views. She believes in God but doesn't go to church. We invited her to church and hopefully she'll be able to come in the following weeks. Our members really liked her and her daughter.

A taxi driver commented to us about President Obama bowing to the Japanese Emperor. He said "Hey! Obama visited Japan! He bowed WAYYY TOO LOW to the Japanese Emperor!" I asked, is that bad? He said "Yeah, that's weird! When you're president of the United States, you don't do that! That's way weird! America's the best country in the world - why would you bow to the Japanese emperor????" Apparently the Koreans didn't like it.....bad move. President Obama then came to Korea, ate Korean barbecued meat and posed in the TaeKwanDo stance for pics.

On Thursday we had our district meeting sitting on the grass among the tombs/hills here in Gyeongju. Interesting.

On Friday, our English Class took us out to eat and we celebrated my comp's birthday. Then we went down to Ulsan for interviews with President Jennings. No news on if I'll be transferred or not.

On Saturday, we went back to Ulsan for the first few sessions of the District Conference. President Jennings presided over the Saturday Priesthood and Adult sessions. GREAT meetings - the spirit was really strong. President Jennings spoke about "not answering a leaf question with a leaf answer", but instead answer with a "root" answer. For example, when a daughter asks if she can wear a skirt that reaches down to the top of the knee rather than the bottom (or some other nit picky question about standards) we can respond by having a good discussion of what modesty is all about and why we try to be modest. In other words, focus on the spirit of the law to avoid getting hung up on the nitty gritty details, missing the whole point of the law, and lowering our standards. Good stuff. We (the Ulsan missionaries) gave a musical number at the Adult Session (Come Thou Fount in Korean) and Elders Mann and Harris gave talks about member missionary work. Great stuff.

On Sunday, we watched a special satellite broadcast from Salt Lake City to all Korean Stakes and Districts. President Uchtdorf presided and Elders Holland, Evans and Ochoa (sp?) gave talks. One of the themes was "Gather to Zion", also translated as "if you're Korean, you should live in Korea to build up the Church and not immigrate". Pretty strong language was used, we'll see how it's received. Actually it plays well to certain nationalistic views held by many here. They also railed Koreans for not sending out enough missionaries (there are 114 Korean missionaries out in the field worldwide right now). They said "every Korean should serve a mission". Also, Elder Holland said, "I know what the challenges are. I KNOW that you face challenges with education systems, military service and other things. I KNOW. But other people in other countries have the same challenges, and they still manage to go on missions." Pretty strong language. We'll see. Also, an interesting thing on numbers. The Church claims to have 80,000 members in Korea. That's the number we should have according to baptism records. However, we aren't even sure we have 38,000 who we know where they live. Half the number of "members" actually have confirmed or semi-confirmed addresses, and that number is always decreasing as we look for less actives. Take that number down to active members...my guess: less than 20,000. Take that down to number of temple recommend holders, and you have the answer to why Pusan isn't getting a temple any time soon, why the Brethren are urging Koreans to stay in Korea, and why it is so hard to be a member in Korea. It's hard. It's a small church here. :)

A girl who cuts our hair (and who has a cool Filipino boyfriend) is opening her new shop along a road we often travel. We're hoping to meet the boyfriend later this week and visit with both of them more often. Fun people...we gave her the American name "Jenny".

Well, the size of the Church doesn't affect the truthfulness of it. During the Sunday broadcast, Elder Holland bore strong testimony of living prophets and continuing revelation. He made the point that a Church with living prophets, if full of members who don't follow those prophets, is no better than a Church without prophets. True. This Church follows the organization God has used throughout the history of this world and has the Holy Priesthood to act in God's name. The restored Church of Jesus Christ, "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone" (Ephesians 2:20). Elder Holland also talked about receiving our own personal witness of truth through prayer. He said "we should always pray, about everything." Straightforward advice. We need to pray to receive a witness that these men truly are called of God as were the prophets of old, and then act on the answer received.

Whew, that's what we tell people everyday on the streets and in the apartments! The work rolls on! The Church is true! Elder Bocchino

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hyundai Shipyard in Ulsan

Hey everybody! Crazy day today - we got to tour the Hyundai Heavy Industries Shipyard in Ulsan...wayyy fun. They drove us into the facility on a company bus, ushered us into a plush viewing room (with signs and PowerPoint's labeled "LDS Missionaries" :P ) and showed us a movie about the company. Apparently they're involved in all sorts of heavy industrial projects around the world. Then they took us around the HUGE complex in the bus and showed us the dry docks where the ships are being built - some crazy things. HUGE equipment everywhere: cranes, ships, trucks, other weird vehicles, lots of metal things - pretty cool. Our guide was pretty good and spoke English well. I got to talk to him a little about missionary work and why we're doing it. All in all, there were 13 missionaries there. After Hyundai, we went bowling and ate Burger King (not common in Korea). There's also a 5 star Hyundai Hotel outside of the complex. Pretty cool stuff. The guy who set it all up is the man we harvested peanuts for: his son is at BYU right now.

Earlier this week (which was a very cold and rainy week by the way) we went out to a city area on the outskirts. We went to the local office and asked about some less actives. They didn't want to help us at all at first but finally relented and helped us out a lot. We decided to hitch hike out to find two less active boys around our age. We got soaked and way cold, but the mountains were beautiful and the weather dramatic. We couldn't find the house and it seemed like they were long gone. Nobody knew who they were and what not. As we were leaving the little village, we felt like maybe we should try one more house and ask about them. We met a lady who invited us into her house and started making some calls (apparently she knew the area really well). She called a man who was working in the city of Gyeongju at the time and then handed us the phone. He was the father of the two boys and was very nice and helpful. One of the boys is in college in another city (we got his cell phone number) and the other boy is doing his mandatory military service. He'll be home next year. The father had apparently seen us hitch hiking in the rain on his way to Gyeongju that day. ;) It was quite a blessing, we were able to get lots of information on our members and met the angel ladies who helped us (a grandmother and great grandmother). They just kept talking about how crazy it was that we found them in a crazy storm way out in the country (something I love). What a day that was.

We were able to teach Mr. Jung about commandments and we committed him to going one week without Green Tea (against the Word of Wisdom). He agreed, and we took his tea away from him. We gave him hot chocolate. We'll see what happens. :)

At church on Sunday, the former mission president from Pusan, Pres. Song, came to our branch. Pretty unexpected. Very nice man, even though his style is very different from what we currently do in our mission.

This last weekend, we met with our recent convert girl Hyae Jung. We thought it was going to be the last time we meet, since she has to study hard for the next year because she's a senior. It looks like even though she won't be able to go to church much anymore, we'll be able to meet her every now and then. I'm glad. She needs the constant contact with the Church. So many seniors in high school here just fall away forever.

Yesterday we were walking around the downtown and ran into a crazy BreakDancing thing - pretty funny. We got some good videos of it. The crowd thought we were cool. The announcer spoke about us in Korean, pointed us out, and tried to speak English to us - pretty funny. Cool guys, we talked to them later. I love the crazy random stuff we run into here.

Love you! Elder Bocchino

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Country Roads

This week we headed for the hills! First, I went on splits with my dongee member Elder Stephens. We hitchhiked out west to a little town to visit some less active members. We were picked up initially on the freeway by a man who believed that the world was going to end in 2012 (seems like that's becoming a popular belief). He showed us some copied book that listed all the catastrophes that will happen in the next few years. Apparently his church is a mixture of Buddhist/Christian/end of the world beliefs. We had an interesting conversation.

The first member we hoped to visit wasn't home, so we hitchhiked down to another member who lived outside the little town. A local woman (who smelled of alcohol) picked us up, found out where we were going, questioned some people about where the address was (getting half of the local village involved) and then took us right to the house. When no one answered the door, she tried to open it and tried to open the windows....it was way funny! A little too helpful! lol Then she picked up her kids from school to introduce us (the kids were wayyy cute - Korean kids always are) and then drove us all the way back to Gyeongju (she refused to let us out of the car). And yes, she was driving crazy....it was pretty scary.

The other member eventually called us the next day because we left our card on his door.

A few days later, I took my companion on his first excursion outside the city. We hitchhiked way up north to a little industrial town, then through some fields to the next town (through a folk village full of straw huts and stuff...way cool!), and then to the local government office. They showed us how to get to where we were going. We wandered through some crazy neighborhoods for a while and found a really nice log house of sorts with a huge yard, lots of puppies, boats and other toys in the yard. It reminded me of an American house in the country. No one was home. We met some senior ladies who seemed to know the area well, so we asked them about the member we were looking for. Though they spoke some CRAZY dialects and slurs, I managed to understand that they knew the girl, but she had moved. They were really nice.

We left there and went down through some beautiful mountains and hills to ANOTHER small town. We talked to an interesting fellow at the government office who told us how to get to the houses we were looking for, but since it was getting dark we decided to hitchhike home. We were picked up by a jeep with a French engineer and his Korean friend and rode back to Gyeongju together. Crazy times.....

Having crazy adventures in the beautiful countryside always makes me happy.

On Friday, we went out to a middle school (also out in the BEAUTIFUL mountains...the leaves are gorgeous) in a small town where our member is the principal. We met up with some US and Korean KATUSA soldiers from the base in Taegu and talked to the students in English as a service project. The soldiers were funny...it was fun to hang out with them for a little while. They were impressed by our Korean language skills (yeah right!) but the Korean KATUSA guys were fluent in both. One of the Americans had served in Iraq. (He's a member from Idaho).

On Saturday, we went out in the country to the home of an English class member and chopped some wood (!), something I've always wanted to do in Korea. It was way fun! We ate an awesome lunch with them and then went up to a Buddhist sanctuary and took pictures. (Again, the leaves are great!) Later that day, another English class member brought her daughter to introduce to us. She attends college in Seoul and wants to attend an American university. We told her about BYU and showed her a movie about Utah. I referred her to a girl member who will be going to BYU next month.

Yesterday at church a man (who has met with missionaries in the past and knows one of our members) randomly came to church. He wants to meet with us again. We had an AWESOME Gospel Principles class, taught by our wise member, about Faith in Jesus Christ. I love our Branch.

This week is the big SAT-style test for high school seniors in Korea. It's the most intense thing ever. They say in Korea that high school seniors are king. That's true. Everyone tries to help them and ease their worries around this time because this test is so important.

Also, November 11 is Peppero Day, which is kind of like Valentines Day where you give cookie things to people. Fun!

The Church is true! Love, Elder Bocchino

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Importance of Repentance and Living The Gospel of Jesus Christ

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! (late, I know..)

Well, the first week of a new transfer...

We had a Halloween party last Saturday. About 15 people showed up and we explained what halloween is, carved pumpkins, played games and ate food. It was great! Really relaxed - it's always like that in the small town branches.

The other day, my companion and I were walking and were stopped by a guy who asked us what God's (or the "Lord's") real name is. We immediately knew that he was a member of the Jehovah's Witness church. We let him talk to us for a while and then tried to suggest that Christ's name being Jesus or Jehovah doesn't really matter (both are correct) but living the Gospel of Christ is what we need to be doing on earth. In the end, he was nice (he might have been drunk) and gave us a pamphlet (he wouldn't accept ours).

Funny, yesterday we were stopped by a Jehovah's Witness woman who told us that God will cut off any who don't believe in Him. I asked her what we need to do to return to Heavenly Father. She replied that we need to study the Jehovah's Witness special Bible translation. I tried to talk about Faith, Repentance, Baptism etc., and then she said she had no time and left.

I like to have a very very very open mind when talking to other missionary-type people, but it's hard sometimes.

Church was great! Mr. Jung couldn't make it to church but the mother of the young man going to BYU (who asked about repentance) did. We had a great Gospel Principles class where our wise old member beautifully explained repentance and answered her questions - it was great. Translating for our foreign member is hard, but it makes me focus on what's being said in the meetings.

We also contacted a referral from Salt Lake. It turned out to be two 28 year old girls working at a hair shop close to our house. One of them visited Temple Square on a NuSkin business trip and said she "felt good" and felt like we were "different from other Christian churches where she feels a lot of negativity". They were funny and we hope to meet again.

All in all, a good week....The Church is true! Love, Elder Bocchino

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Need For A Restoration

Elder Green is being moved down to Pusan. I'll be with Elder Routsen next transfer....should be interesting.

Last P-day, we went to Bulguksa (the huge Buddhist temple here in Gyeongju) and took some pictures. Pretty fun. The leaves here are changing colors - quite beautiful. We saw some monks praying in the sanctuaries and got to go inside and look at some statues of Buddha.

We finally had our lunch appointment with our friends who work at the post office. They're in their 30s (a guy and a girl) and they're getting married to each other in a few months. It's weird, we're friends with almost everyone in the post office! :) It's pretty fun.

We went on a picnic with our English class on Friday. Pretty fun. We'll be having a Branch Halloween party this coming Saturday. I hope we see a lot of English class people and other non-members there. We're planning on carving pumpkins...ON Halloween...a little late but whatevs...lol

This past weekend we went outside of the city to visit the parents of a member who is at BYU right now (he served a mission in California). We harvested peanuts with them last month (they're not members). We ate lunch with them and talked about the Gospel. Their son is encouraging them to read the Book of Mormon and learn about the Gospel. The mom was particularly interested in learning more about repentance. She said they talk about it in her church (they attend the Presbyterian Church right now) but she feels that there's a deeper meaning to it and that our church focuses on repentance a lot (Correct!). We talked a lot about it. I mentioned that it's been said that "repentance" is the most joyous word in all of Christianity. We reassured her that everyone has to repent, at all times, even Elder Green and I. It doesn't end with baptism. She is a great lady. The father is also very nice. He said that they need to learn more about our church, and he also feels that we all believe the same God and Jesus, and that God will tell him if He wants them to go to our church (this was actually a very spiritual discussion, not contentious at all). We testified that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of action, and that we must ask God what is right, not wait for Him to tell us out of the blue. Great people, very edifying experience!

Last night, we were hanging out with Mr. Jung and the Pohang elders when Mr. Jung's friend came. He and I started talking in a quiet corner and he told me of some of the adventures he's been on. Apparently he likes to sketch, and he went with a group of sketchers to the Middle East, checking out and sketching ancient Christian sites. I asked him if he attends church, and his response was "I believe in God of course! Churches are merely places to meet together and worship him." I asked him, "Jesus Christ established a Church when He was on the Earth. If that same church were on the Earth again today, what would you think?" His response was, "Well, of course that would be great!"

"Hmmm...this guy's cool" I thought.... :)

I started briefly explaining to him that the Church of Jesus Christ had become corrupted after the death of the Apostles, and many other churches had sprung up in its wake. He agreed or at least seemed to really understand what I was saying. I told him that a "restoration" was necessary and that almost 200 years ago, that Restoration happened. We talked about the different Christian denominations that exist in the world. He seemed to feel that it was all the same church because we all believe in Jesus Christ (good point, we are united in that belief but divided in many other important doctrines...Paul talked about a "unity of the faith".) He maintained that "churches" are merely places of worship, and that Christianity's doctrine is the same around the world.

So, I called him out on that, "Wait, the doctrine is different isn't it?"

"Yeah, okay you're right! of course it's different! it's not the same church," he said....

He started talking to me about the "cult churches" or "strange churches" in Korea and started naming them (Koreans consider Seventh-day Adventist to be one of these). I told him how many Koreans call our Church a "cult" and other hurtful names. He asked me what the reason for that was - "Didn't you just say you were the Church of Jesus Christ? Why do they call you a cult?" he asked.

I told him that a lot of Koreans initially balk at the ideas of modern prophets and the Book of Mormon. That launched us into a discussion of the Book (which he had heard about but never read) and I showed him Mr. Jung's copy. He read the introduction and I explained that it was written by ancient prophets in the Americas. He explained that many Koreans would have trouble accepting anything outside of the Bible as scripture.

After a little bit of quiet pondering, he told me that he thinks that people need to take the Book of Mormon, read it, ponder it, and then after all that they can decide if it's true or not. He said it's wrong to reject it right away. I couldn't have said it better myself!!!!!!!! I testified to him that as we do those things and pray to God, everyone can know of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. I can tell people it's true, but everyone needs to find out for themselves. That's our invitation as missionaries, and that's the Savior's invitation to all of us - to come and know Him. The man left shortly after that, but thanked me for showing him the Book of Mormon and talking with him. I hope to meet with him again!!!!

Very spiritual and testimony-building couple of days for me.......man, the Church is true!!!!

Love, Elder Bocchino

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The field is...green!

Elder Bocchino in the field (Gyungju):


Joshua's companion, Elder Green (from Kaysville, UT):



Laboring in Gyungju

(R to L) Elder Bocchino, Mr. Jung, Elder Green, and two other missionaries at Mr. Jung's shop downtown (Gyungju). The missionaries have been helping Mr. Jung do some remodeling at his shop.











Sunday, October 11, 2009

General Conference

My companion received a "Dear John" email. Sad story.

Last week, I renewed my foreigner card in Taegu with my buddies Heaton and Singleton. The next day, we had Zone Conference in Taegu with Gyungbuk and Shilla zones (our zone and the Taegu zone). Interesting topics, and during half of it I met and talked with my MTC teacher and his wife (along with Elders Heaton and Singleton). Very fun. It was so weird to see my MTC teacher in Korea, a place we'd talked and joked about in the MTC. We talked about discouragement we sometimes feel trying to preach the gospel, and also about developing faith to find and teach people the message of the Restoration. Interesting. We were also able to be debriefed on our MTC experience and give some feedback on MTC teaching and its application in the field.

This past weekend we went to Ulsan and watched General Conference with the Ulsan District and with all of the Ulsan missionaries (in English - yay!).

Some very powerful sermons and very spiritual insights in Conference! I learned a lot and was edified by the experience. When my companion and I have been explaining to people where we were going this past weekend, we told them that General Conference is a place where we can hear God's prophet and Apostles speak to us and give us messages for our day. That's true, and I know I received inspiration and guidance at Conference. Great experience.

The weather is cooling down as we move deeper into Autumn. Good news!

oh yeah, and today might be Columbus Day, so HAPPY COLUMBUS DAY!!!!!!!!!

Love, Elder Bocchino

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Crazy week! We celebrated the Korean "Thanksgiving Day" (Choosuk) by going to Ulsan with a bunch of missionaries and playing lots of football. We also watched Chronicles of Narnia and Wall-E. Very fun!

The next day, our entire Zone went to a meal appointment with the Ulsan District President. We ate delicious food and he explained some of the traditions associated with this very special Korean holiday (such as how the food is placed on the table, how Koreans perform the rituals to respect their ancestors, etc). On Choosuk, all Koreans go to visit their parents' houses (usually they go to the husband's family). Whole cities become empty for a few days as everyone goes back to the country towns they came from...like Gyeongju! :) We had 32 people attend church on Sunday due to people visiting from other cities. Very interesting. Choosuk is a time to remember and honor your ancestors. It's hard to do much proselyting on Choosuk and if you bother people in their homes it presents a very bad image for the Church. Therefore, we had the full p-day and meal appointments and things like that.

We've continued to help Mr. Jung lay cement and fix up his shop in the downtown area. Pretty fun. He promised to come to church next week.

Last night we met with a brother in our Branch and his father at their house and ate dinner together. The father believes in Shamanism and explained to us the significance of the numbers 3 and 12 in Shamanistic theology and Asian history. Very interesting. "Shamanism" refers to the traditional Korean religion before the arrival of Buddhism. Shamanism is actually a part of Korean Buddhism now.

This week is General Conference! We'll be going back to Ulsan this weekend to watch it and stay the night. Should be fun.

The Church is true! Missionary work is hard but worth it!

Love, Elder Bocchino

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Laying a proper foundation

It's been a week of hard work. We visited with a man who has known missionaries for the better part of two decades. He owns a small cell phone business in the downtown area. He is doing some heavy remodeling to one of his businesses and asked us for help. Whew! We laid cement and destroyed a wall for two days. Very fun...it was good to do some physical labor. I learned how to lay cement (the Korean way)....we'll see if it lasts. He also cooked us up some spicy soups in a tiny cluttered kitchen in the back of his shop. Interesting experience.

A lot of people who we've met once aren't too interested in meeting again, so we're struggling to find people to meet.

We had zone meeting last week, where we discussed being creative vs. robotic as missionaries, and then we just bashed on the old English program days.

Next week is Choosuk, the Korean Thanksgiving-style holiday where they remember/worship their dead ancestors. We have a full p-day this coming Friday, and that Saturday we might be going to Ulsan to meet up with other missionaries at the District President's house. Fun fun fun. We're hoping to watch some movies and go to the BIG Buddhist temple here in Gyeongju on the p-day Friday.

Had interviews with President yesterday since he was in Pohang. No transfer info (it's wayyyyyyy too early) but still interesting. Sister Jennings promised us that we'll get a Thanksgiving dinner next transfer, either in Taegu or in Pusan. (woohoo!)

The October Liahona is amazing! Especially the article about shepherds in Israel.

The Church is true, the work is great! Love, Elder Bocchino

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Prophets and Prayer

An interesting week. We got to do some yard work, which I've enjoyed more and more since becoming a missionary.

Well, a man and his wife moved here a few years ago from southwest Korea. His son converted to the Church, served a mission in Los Angeles, and is now attending BYU-Provo. The parents aren't members, but they had us and a foreign member of our branch (she's an English teacher) over to help with their big garden. The father is good at English and works at the Hyundai shipyard/headquarters in Ulsan (huge shipyards...biggest in the world apparently).

We dug a lot of peanuts...a lot...then shook the dirt off of them and then pulled them off of the roots. They need to be washed and dried, and then you can eat them. Interesting. They offered to give us some, then took us out for lunch and fed us a lot of soup (oyster?) and meat.

We started an English class specifically for high school/college students at our church now. Kind of sketchy, given our mission's history, but we did it mostly because we have a lot of students in our branch. It would be good if they could bring friends and spend time with the missionaries.

So we were walking down the street and a man selling shoes stopped us. He was reading a Bible and had some questions for us. He asked us why we were carrying the Book of Mormon around instead of the Bible. That led to a 30-minute conversation about our beliefs. We pulled out our Bible and assured him that we preach the WHOLE gospel of Christ. We talked about Prophets. We testified that God calls prophets to lead and teach His children, and that those prophets write records. (That's what the Bible and Book of Mormon are: records of ancient prophets).

He said "no, there is no other word of God outside of the Bible". I asked him if he thinks God loves us. He said yes. Then I said "well, because He loves us He has more things He wants to say to us than that which is in the Bible." We explained that Moses wrote five books of the Bible, but God had more to say...Isaiah has his record, but God had more to say...we have the Gospels, but God had more to say...we have the records of Paul and the Apostles...but God had and will always have MORE TO SAY...because He loves us. It is neither logical nor doctrinal to claim that God's words and teachings ceased with the writings that King James' scribes chose to include in the present day "Bible".

I asked him if he knew the English word "Bible" and what it means. I explained that it means divine library, then asked him what a library contains. Books. The Bible is a collection of books. It is a collection of the writings of prophets called of God. That's what the Book of Mormon is. There is no doctrinal foundation for a closed canon containing only the magical number of "66 books" contained in our present-day Bible. God loves us more than that. We should be hungry for any words He has for us.

Since he had a testimony of prayer and the Holy Ghost, we asked him to read a little of the Book of Mormon and pray about it. He accepted, and then said that since he can't really trust prayer all that much, he'd have to read the Bible too and he knows that the Bible will tell him that the Book of Mormon is wrong. We will meet with him again and review a few things.

I testify of God's love for us. I know that His words to Israel didn't cease with Moses, nor with the Apostle Paul. God's continuous work and glory is to help all of His children return to Him. In 1820 he called Joseph Smith, a young farm boy in upstate New York, as His prophet in these last days. He gave us the Book of Mormon, a collection of prophetic writings, and ushered in the Restoration of Christ's true church. In this same manner was Moses called, and in this same manner were the children of Israel led. I trust prayer (my personal communication with Heavenly Father) more than any other method of learning truth. All people can read the words of God's prophets, both in the Bible and Book of Mormon, pray about them, and receive their own answers. God loves His children now just as much as He did then, and is still willing to work miracles for their benefit. Those who doubt this should take another look at the Bible. :)

I love this work. The Church is true!

Love, Elder Bocchino

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Finding a Belief

A very fun week in Gyeongju. I'm tired. lol

We made quite a few hitchhiking trips out into the boonies looking for church members. Our journeys took us to government offices where the workers initially refused to help us. However, one man at the computer recognized one of the names on the paper we gave him and decided to help us. He then gave us names of workers at the other offices we were visiting who were his friends and who would help us. The rest of the day went very well. This week we were able to turn in between 15 and 20 names of church members who had moved and whose records we could send off to Seoul. Great week.

That same day, we hitchhiked through some beautiful mountains to a tiny town called San-nae-myeon. We visited the government office with no issues, then found ourselves wandering towards a beautiful waterfall coming out of the side of a mountain (the first I've seen in Korea, I think). A man wandered up to me and began explaining how the waterfall works (water is pumped up the mountain). I told him that it was beautiful, and boy did he like that! He grabbed my arm and took Elder Green and me to a shack/tent thing where people were sitting drinking alcohol. He sat us down, bought us a pineapple Fanta soda, and introduced us to a University President who was visiting his hometown of San-nae-myeon. Apparently, this man who was treating us to the Fanta was the "town mayor" of sorts in this little mountain village. The waterfall was his special government project, and he was very pleased that we liked it. Talk about having friends in high places eh? The MAYOR of San-nae-myeon...population 45...or something... We drank our soda and went on our way back to Gyeongju.

We hitchhiked down to another town earlier in the week and talked with a Catholic gentleman, who gave us a lift, about prophets and the need for a restoration of Christ's church after the death of the Apostles. Interesting discussion.

We were in the Post Office and began talking to a lady who said she wanted a belief. She sent her children to church because she wanted them to be good people, but she and her husband had no religion. We explained the Book of Mormon, the restoration of Christ's gospel, and the opportunity to know truth through study and prayer. She liked it but seemed a little dismissive of the "pray and you'll find truth" talk. I asked, "Why do you want a belief, anyways?" She stumbled over a few words and then laughed and said that I had asked a good question. I then testified of the Book of Mormon and told her getting a belief or knowing God's truth isn't easy. She would have to work for it. She reminded me of the Doctrine and Covenants scripture of those who are kept from the truth because they know not where to find it. I look forward to meeting her again.

A church member told us to visit his non-Mormon father in his shop by the downtown area of the city. We did. The father is very nice and is good at speaking English. We talked a lot about religion and he taught us about Shamanism. (Korean traditional stuff...like before Buddhism). Nice man.

Well, knowing truth isn't easy! As we study, ponder and pray, we can be touched by God's spirit, our minds can be opened and our hearts touched, and we can receive heavenly instruction. A boy named Joseph Smith did this in 1820, leading to the restoration of Christ's full gospel in these days. Millions of people are doing this around the world today and are taking part in the "marvelous work and a wonder" which prophets have prophesied about. The heavens are NOT closed, God is our Father, revelation is real.

The Church is true.

Love you! Elder Bocchino

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Angahng and Shilla Millennial Park

Gyeongju is a lot like Sacheon. On Friday, after eating lunch with our English Class members, we took a grand hitchhiking trip north to a town called Angahng. We managed to meet some nice workers at the local government office who agreed to check on their information systems and confirm that our less active members had moved. (We confirmed that 5 church members no longer live in the area). Then we hitchhiked back down to Gyeongju through the backroads. Always a treat.

Earlier in the week, we went up to Pohang for District meeting, and then we went and knocked doors with the Pohang elders. It's been a LONG time since I did four man tracting. Very fun. We're pretty sure Elder Lee (Pohang junior) will be transferred to Pusan, so today we're going to Shilla Millennial park in his honor. (People walk around dressed like ancient Shilla warriors...)

I guess my CRAZY MTC teacher is coming to Korea with his wife next month. Hopefully my dongee will be able to meet with him. I'm pretty nervous though, my Korean is still horrible. lol

We had some cancellations this week, plus a lot of time spent in Pohang.

Fun times. The Church is true! Love, Elder Bocchino

Monday, August 31, 2009

Splits, Interviews, and Discussions

Hey everyone! Another great week in beautiful Gyungju!

I had splits with my District leader (and dongee member) Elder Stephens....very fun. My dongee is awesome!

We were able to go up to Pohang this week, great place, very big and exciting, except apparently there's a HUGE red light district. I haven't seen it.

We also had interviews with Pres. Jennings this week. Didn't hear much about transfers. I'm probably staying (though I said that last time) and Elder Green could stay too.

We talked about various proposals to create an Ulsan Branch or Stake. In 2007-2008, the Ulsan District Sacrament attendance hovered around 260, now it is over 300, since Pres. Jennings came to the mission. The current Ulsan District includes the big city of Ulsan (Hogae Branch, Shinjung Branch, Bangojin Branch), the smaller but still big city of Pohang (Pohang Branch), and my city: Gyeongju (Gyeongju branch). Exciting stuff.

Also, we met with a lady who is regularly reading the Book of Mormon. Last week we gave her homework: read 3 Nephi 11-26. She read up to Chap. 15 this week. We talked about it, and she asked an interesting question about 3 Ne. 13 (I think?) where the Savior seemingly condemns divorce and the practice of remarriage after divorce. We explained that men at that time were divorcing their wives for frivolous reasons (mostly so they could marry other women). This is wrong, of course. We explained that the Savior was discouraging frivolous divorce. Also, we assured her that our current Prophets and leaders encourage us to work to overcome marriage problems, but divorce is not forbidden. Interesting conversation. We look forward to meeting her again next week.

We're still discussing interesting things with our recent convert girl, including the issues of foreordination and predestination. We discussed agency and the fact that even though God knows what will happen to us, we still have the ability to choose and our future is not set. Interesting discussions.

Gyungju is beautiful. Very peaceful here. I love you! Elder Bocchino

Monday, August 24, 2009

Happy Birthday, President Jennings!

Woohoo! What a week! On the day we left for the Mission Conference in Pusan, we were invited by a less active Filipino member to what we expected was a gathering of foreigners in Gyeongju. She (our member) said she would introduce us to her friends so that we could teach them about the Gospel. She's great. The meeting, however, was actually a gathering of women from foreign countries who married Korean men, usually through international marriage programs. It was a fundraiser to pay for marriage ceremonies for those couples who aren't technically "married" yet. There were a lot of Filipino, Thai, Chinese and Cambodian women there. Needless to say, Elder Green and I didn't exactly fit in. However, we did make it into a lot of pictures and maybe some missionaries down the road will see pictures of us at this event on posters or something...we did meet some really nice people that we will later contact and try to meet with again.

After that "get-together" we headed down to Haeundae, where we spent the night before Mission Conference. President Jennings' wife put the conference together without his knowledge or approval. It was for President's birthday. We all gathered in the chapel, organized into ranks and waited. The APs and some of the Korean sister missionaries were in traditional Korean clothing (very colorful). There was a huge table up front filled with food (traditional set up for Korean celebrations). When President walked in, he looked around the corner of the door and saw nearly a hundred of his missionaries standing at attention. We broke out into cheers and applause and he started crying. When President sat at his place behind the banquet table, we wished him a happy 60 years (in Korean) and then performed a very formal Korean bow, ending up on the floor. Then we sang happy birthday and the party started! It was GREAT! We were pretty proud that we could surprise our Mission President like that. He and his wife kissed...several times...it was pretty embarrassing. I love the Pusan Mission!

We proceeded to have a pretty good conference. President talked about how numbers don't matter. We just need to have faith and act in faith and do the Lord's work. We'll find some people prepared to receive the gospel. It wasn't the rabble rousing "let's go out and teach English and baptize thousands" talk that you might hear in other missions (or in the Pusan Mission circa 2005), but it was exactly what we needed. I think all of the missionaries in this mission have received confirmation that President Jennings is the right man to lead this mission at this time in Korea.

After that we ate a delicious lunch and then watched Kung Fu Panda. It was really fun. Our dongee got together and took some pics. The sisters in our dongee leave this December or January. We'll all be sad when they leave.

What made me so happy about doing something nice for President is that I felt it reminded him that he has SOME support. He's getting soo much pressure and antagonism, both from those "above" and "below" him. He's not getting any support for his work to change the direction of this mission. We just hoped he felt like he DOES have some support, from his missionaries.

Great experience. Sister Jennings mentioned that this could happen again for Christmas maybe....we'll see. :)

The other night we were walking through a beautiful park in Gyeongju. We went up to a strange monument and tried to figure out what it was. A man came up and nicely explained to us (in Korean and English) what it was. Then we sat down and had a very nice conversation about religion and the history of religion in Korea. He's sort of Presbyterian but sees a lot of problems with Christianity in Korea. We talked about that. Interesting fellow. He stated that the rise of Christianity in Korea followed the economic progression, but now that the economy is strong and fairly stable, religiosity rates are declining. Also, he said that the Buddhists observed the rising power of Christianity in Korea and began to copy their tactics, building bigger and more elaborate worship centers and sort of proselyting. Also promising worldly wealth as a blessing from attending the Buddhist temple (common in Korea). Interesting conversation.

Last night, we were eating dinner with our recent convert girl (Hye Jung) and her family. She asked an interesting question. She asked "Does the fact that God knows my future and everything that's going to happen mean that my future is locked?" Very difficult to answer, especially when you factor in Korean language deficiencies. Still, we assigned her some scripture homework that will hopefully provide a focus for her studies into that question.

Gyeongju is still beautiful. Our bathroom is fixed. Yay!

I love you all!

Elder Bocchino

Monday, August 17, 2009

Climb Every Mountain...

When you reach a mountain, climb it, study, ponder, pray...



and you will conquer it!


Hadong Bridge, on the border with Taejon Mission:











Elder Bocchino on P-Day:



Playing Jangee

Whew. What a frustrating day/last few days. The people who live below us are having a problem with water dripping from our bathroom to theirs. They hired guys to come into OUR apartment and tear up our bathroom. They wanted us to give them a key so we could leave and do missionary work. No way. This happened a few months ago and the apartment was later broken into. The missionaries changed the lock a few months ago. So....we've been in the house all day. We're without a working bathroom for a few days.

Other than that, another wonderful Sunday with our wonderful Branch. We were able to go to a member's house last week and do some yard work. Really fun since we don't do that much as missionaries. It's been hotter recently, but still not as bad as Taegu. I took Elder Green hitchhiking for the first time the other day. Good times. We went through the park and played a traditional game called "Jangee" with some seniors. It's like chess. Really fun, really crazy.

Running out of time. The Church is true! Love you!!!!!!!!!!!!! Elder Bocchino

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Amazing Sacheon Performance

Here are the links to the video of Elder Bocchino and Elder McKenna performing at a Sacheon Branch activity:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBNyBcNJI0Y

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IbvexK1MUY

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sacheon Photos 3

More from Sacheon:












Sacheon Photos 2

More from Sacheon:

















Photos of Sacheon

Note from Elder B.'s parents:
We recently received some photos from Sacheon, where Joshua served earlier. He accidentally reformatted his memory card and lost many of his photos. The Andersen family kindly sent us some photos that they managed to reconstruct, which are below. We're so very grateful to them for that wonderful kindness!












Sunday, August 9, 2009

Gyungju Ward

Elder Green and I are working it in Gyungju! Gyungju is very beautiful, tucked into a valley surrounded by rolling green mountains. It's been misty and wet this past week, so I've kind of felt like I'm in Washington again. Definitely not as hot as Taegu! There aren't too many big buildings in Gyungju because the local government wants to preserve the "traditional feeling" of the ancient Shilla capital. This has caused the city to spread out across the valley, with universities and larger apartment buildings on the outskirts. It makes missionary work harder, but the town really is charming. A nice evening walk along the river or through the tree-filled park is pretty sublime. The people are nice and have seen missionaries around for years. It reminds me of Sacheon...though it still doesn't occupy the same special spot in my heart that Sacheon does. :)

We had church meetings yesterday. The Branch has about 30ish people coming out each week. Not bad at all. A good number of youth too. Great people, very nice and welcoming. Very warm. I LOVE the small branches. We meet with a high school girl (Hyae Jung) and her family on Saturday and Sunday nights and they feed us. The girl was baptized a few months ago. They're great! My MTC companion, Elder Heaton, was one of the first missionaries they started meeting. Missionaries love them. The mom cooks delicious food and we hang out with them, play card games, and teach about the gospel. Great family.

The Branch President is a convert of 3 years. He's a powerfully built man about 5.5 feet tall. Great personality, very warm and funny. The whole Branch seems great. When I got up to give my introduction talk yesterday, I felt accepted and appreciated. Great people. Oh, note of interest: this is my trainer's (Elder Jeff Hinton) greenie area. He's excited for me. This is also my MTC companion's (Elder Heaton) greenie area. I'm taking the place of the last senior (Elder Kim) who is also in my dongee. Since he's half-Korean and super smart, he was really good at Korean, so I'm intimidated trying to fill his shoes.

Korea is great!!! Hard to believe I have about 11 months until I'm home. Love you guys! The Gospel of Jesus Christ is true! Elder Bocchino

Sunday, August 2, 2009

From Taegu to Gyungju

I've been transferred from the Taegu Seusong Ward to Gyungju. I'm out of the Taegu heat! But, I'm also out of the big city and back into the rural. It's a change all right, as I was just getting used to the big, fast paced city. GYUNGJU is a very very famous little city in Korea. It was the ancient capital of the Shilla Dynasty. It's about an hour west of Ulsan, an hour south of Pohang - pretty much a ways away from anywhere ("a geographical oddity!!" - George Clooney). It is soooooo beautiful. A lot of the buildings in the town proper are limited to a height of only several floors and most of them have traditional roofs. It is a modern town, but they try to preserve a traditional look. Everyone is obsessed with history due to the city's historical nature. (Sheela) The Korean drama shows depicting the old days are pretty popular here.

The Branch has about 20-30 members who regularly attend church each Sunday. I hear they're great and I'm excited to meet them. We just had an English class here an hour ago, and the seniors in the class have known missionaries for a long time and are very friendly with us. I'm excited to spend time with them as well.

It was a confusing and surprising transfer weekend for me at first, because it was completely unexpected and I was just getting used to a new routine in a big city. But it's getting better. It's not as hot here and it is so beautiful. My new companion is Elder Green from Kaysville, Utah. He's going into his 5th transfer in country (he's been in country for about 5 months) and I'm going into my 8th transfer (10 months in country). He's nice, and pretty good at Korean too.

We're anxious to get started. Thanks for your prayers and support. It helps! Love, Elder Bocchino

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Seeking Spiritual Confirmation

An inebriated Buddhist stopped us on the street yesterday and told me I should study English. I told him he should study Christianity. That's kind of how we left it..... ^^ )

We had President interviews this week...looks like I'm staying, probably with Elder Seal...we're not sure though. This week we had a sit down with our Catholic investigator (Bro. Kim jay hong) and the Zone Leaders. Elder Asay (ZL) originally found Bro. Kim and is heading back to the US soon. Kim is @ 30 years old. He loves the Church and the Book of Mormon but still has some questions. He's so close to getting baptized, but is still seeking the answer and confirmation to do so. Can't argue with that. Meanwhile he's pounding through the Book of Mormon and coming to Church. He's great.

Really really hot here. Some members took us out to a really nice shabu shabu soup restaraunt the other night. Really nice. The man was a Colonel in the Korean Army, and they're very nice people. Their son is on a mission right now in the California Sacramento mission. He told me of how his family came into the Church. His father was a newspaper editor in Taegu back in the 60s. He wrote an article on the Church and interviewed the Korea Mission President back then, and gave the Church good reviews. Later, when missionaries knocked on his door, he invited them to teach his family. They were all baptized about a month later. What an amazing story! I told him it was a miracle. He assured me that I can find prepared people. He said that I shouldn't focus on baptizing lots of people or worry about stats, but that I should work hard and follow my mission president's counsel. I agree!

This member used to be a "house boy" for the elders back then. They had someone to clean for them, do laundry, and shine shoes...needless to say, we don't have that anymore.

Taegu is great! I'm on the downhill slope of the mission...time is flying. I love you guys!!!!!!!!!Elder Bocchino

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Choir Concert in Taegu

So, it's still hot and still really really wet. Last Monday we had a dinner appointment with a member family in the ward. Great people. We enjoyed participating in Family Home Evening with them. It was very organized, then we busted out the cards and got the kids riled up. :)

Last Saturday we had a really cool concert at the church stake center. A church choir from Seoul came down, plus the Taegu Stake choir and a young single adult mini orchestra group performed. It was way cool! It was cute to hear them sing some Disney songs in English.

We've continued meeting with our investigator who is Catholic. He says he knows the Church is true and wants to bear testimony to the Ward this coming Fast Sunday, but he has a few concerns. He is a great person and it is so awesome to be able to meet with him and feel the Spirit as we discuss Gospel topics. Great! He's been reading the Book of Mormon and is in Alma. He's finding all the teachings that support the Bible and he is amazed by it!

I gave a talk in District Meeting last week about "desire". Missionaries talk about "desire" a lot. My studies led me to the conclusion that "desire" is closely linked to, and actually comes from our love for God and fellow men. I gave a cruddy talk, but the studying I had to do was great!

There was a crazy lady who stopped us on the street and wanted us to get some "letters" on to the US military base through our foreign branch (yeah right). She wasn't happy when we said no. So yeah, times are great. Elder Kemmerer's Korean companion had to go for military reserves training, so he is with us for a few days. Last night we went to the downtown in Taegu - it was a party. Crazy stuff! We hung out with some dudes who sell cell phones.

Love you guys! Thank you for the love!!!! Elder Bocchino

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Progress Despite Political Distractions

Another hot, humid, muggy, rainy week here in Taegu. We had Zone Conference. We also met with an investigator who is close to joining the Church. He is Catholic and has been meeting missionaries for a while. His name is Kim Jay Hohng. We met him with a member (who is a Korean Air Force Officer) and talked. They ended up just disputing about politics forever and my comp and I had to go home. Our investigator has some anti-American political leanings (the member does not). It was interesting, but the spiritual message we wanted to share ended up being pretty weak due to the distraction. It happens. He came to church yesterday, though. He came last Sunday on Fast Sunday and was really impressed with our willingness to let anyone get up in our meetings and bear testimony and express their feelings. He wanted to do that this week, but we told him to wait until next Fast Sunday. Really great guy.

I learned about some Korean politics this week. Apparently Taegu is the most conservative city in Korea. Gwangju is the most liberal, and the two cities don't really get along (Gwangju is kind of far away in Taejon mission and in the SW corner of Korea). Interesting.

On Saturday, we had another stressful English class for kids, and then we had a baptismal service for a little girl in the ward. We helped set up for it, couldn't get the hot water to work, and sang some hymns during the service. Disaster! lol

It's soooo muggy here. I'm sweating as I write this. Oh!!! I heard that Bro. Gwak (the college student investigator back in Sacheon) was supposed to get baptized yesterday! I assume it went down but I'll check tonight. He stopped smoking and has maintained! It's great!

We're doing great here! I technically have less than a year left on the mish, but July 30th will be my "I've been a missionary for a year" mark. Time is flying. I'm loving it! Taegu is filled with tree-lined roads and tall apartment buildings. I still really really really miss Sacheon, but Taegu is a nice city.

Oh, we heard this week that David Archuleta (American Idol runner up) thinks he's "already on a mission" as he tours the country selling his cds. We were pretty disappointed.

The Church is true and everyone needs the Gospel! Let's offer it to them! Elder Bocchino

Monday, July 6, 2009

Happy 4th of July!


I just wrote a long email and lost it, so I will try to sum up:

We went to the Camp Walker Army Base and got rained out. We ate at Taco Bell - it was great!

Talked to an inebriated American named "Ken". Talked about crazy stuff...got his contact info...will contact him again and see if he remembers us.

Restarted English class this week. It's rough.

Talked to some missionaries in the Seoul West Mission over the phone. I'm glad I'm in Pusan...Seoul West sounds like a fun-free zone.

I love you guys! I love America!

God Bless, Elder Bocchino

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monsoon Season

Whew! A hot week in Taegu! It's monsoon season now, so the rain is pouring and it's hot/humid.

Yesterday I was at church all day. We went to the Korean Ward meetings, then we went to the US military Branch sacrament meeting, then we had other missionary meetings. It was a day of meetings! The Foreign Branch was cool...it was weird to be around so many foreigners. They were really nice, especially to two American boys who miss home! :)

After church we were invited to a foreign member's house for dinner. They are a Cuban family and yes, we ate Cuban food! We hung out with the two boys who are preparing to send in their mission papers. They're pretty tight. The food was great. The whole experience reminded me of Dad and his family, very East coast and ethnic. It was fun.

Other than that we're just exploring the area. Last week we went up to Costco. It was weird walking around a Costco in Korea. Oh yeah, it's hot here. Four guys sleeping together in one room, mosquitoes, ghetto fans, cockroaches....it's the life! We kill the cockroaches when we see them, and sprinkle boric acid around the areas under the sinks. I have a mosquito net but am not using it yet. It's weird being back in the big city again. I'm getting kind of used to it, but it will take some time. This weekend we're hoping to go to Camp Walker for July 4th....we'll see what happens. I love you guys! Elder Bocchino

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sacheon Branch Photos

The Andersen family graciously shared some recent photos of a Sacheon Branch activity. Their daughter, Suzi, commented as follows:

1) Elder Bocchino, Elder McKenna and everyone chillin' on the back porch. The young guy talking to my dad is getting baptized on July 10th. And that's Hans (Suzi's brother) on the far left.



2) These are a few of the branch members and Bro. Andersen (my father, cooking on the grill) eating at the music night get-together. This is on the back porch of the church building.



3) Hans was sharing, in detail, about the new Star Trek movie. Elder Bocchino REALLY wanted to know. We gave him a movie poster (and, thanks to Hans, the first 10 minutes, too!).



4) Branch members munching on the goodies. Elder McKenna is right in front of the camera, and that's Elder Bocchino's leg on the far left. Haha.


5) This is the branch president's son and one of the MANY adorable Korean children!! We call him Cookie since his Korean name sounds like cookie and we keep forgetting his real name.


Thanks to the Andersen family for sharing these photos!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

TAEGU

I've been transferred to Taegu! It's the third largest city in South Korea and the second largest city in our mission. It's also very hot. I'm now a "senior" missionary, with Elder Seal from Ogden, Utah as my junior companion. He's a nice guy. My area in Taegu is huge and is called Su-sung, or Seusung. It serves as the Stake Center, with a large Korean Ward and the US military foreign branch. I'm pretty excited.

It's hot here (did I mention that?).

It was sooooooooo hard to leave Sacheon. I felt like the Branch was my home away from home, family away from family. I love them and will do whatever it takes to get back there to visit before I end the mission! I'm really going to miss the beautiful, dirty, crazy south-western corner of our mission.

A large group of missionaries went home this week. I'm pretty sad. I had a number of really good friends in that group.

I'm really excited to serve here. It should be fun. Please pray for me to survive the heat!!!!!! Taegu is known as one of the hottest places in Korea in the summer. :) Love, Elder Bocchino

Monday, June 15, 2009

Searching the rice paddies

I accidentally reformatted my memory card this week...losing all the pictures I've taken of this area. Yes, the hitchiking extravaganzas, the border with Taejon...I know, I know...I'm so depressed. I'm taking lots of pics again to try to make up for it, but there's just no way...

Last P-day we went to Hadong, saw the awesome river and bridge to Taejon mission. I may or may not have crossed over into the neighboring province...no one will ever know. It was pretty amazing! Oops, no pics of it. I'll see if I can get some from my companion.

Last week we went up to look for some less active members in rural rice paddie areas between Samcheonpo and Sacheon. We ended up finding a member working at a family vacation place/fishing store. He went to church over 15 years ago when he was in high school. When we explained that we were missionaries, he remembered about the church and talked to us for a while. He wanted a Book of Mormon and asked us to come again. It was so interesting...he can't really remember what the church is about. We were so excited to find him - missionaries haven't touched his records for YEARS.

Our college student investigator, Bro. Gwak, said he wants to be baptized this month. We're working on stopping smoking. He's a really great guy.

Man, it's getting so hot here...sooooooooo hot. Muggy too. The mosquitos are starting to come out. I hope you all are doing well...I love you guys! Elder Bocchino

Monday, June 8, 2009

"We're not scared - we have America on our side!" - A Korean fisherman

A pretty standard week in Sacheon. Not too much going on, pretty hot, lots of rejection. :)

We had interviews with the mission President this week. Looks like I'll be leaving Sacheon (I've been here for three transfers).

We met with one investigator, Bro. Yoon (the academy owner) and read 1 Nephi 13 with him. Talked about Nephi's prophecy of the discovery/colonization of America and the Great Apostasy of the Christian Church. Pretty interesting, but I think it's more powerful to Americans or Westerners. ;)

I was talking to a fisherman who picked us up in his truck while hitchhiking the other day, and asked him if he was scared of N. Korea. He turned off the radio, turned back to me and said (in Korean) "NO! We have America on our side! Do you know Iraq? Saddam Hussein? He freakin' died! Do you know Panama? Noriega? The US military went in and grabbed him! One guy! Nah, we're not scared." I appreciated his confidence, but was grateful when he turned his eyes back to the road...

I love Sacheon and am sad to go. The Branch is amazing, and I want to enjoy my remaining time here. I love it!

We're getting ready to hitchike out to the city of Hadong, right on our river border with Taejon mission. Fun! Elder Bocchino

Monday, June 1, 2009

EPIC Hitchhiking to Namhae

We just arrived at the post office in Sacheon by way of hitchhiking (as usual). What's not usual is that we were picked up by a party bus. Party buses drive people around on tours and are notorious for blasting techno music for the middle-aged Korean women who like do dance and go crazy in the aisle. Weird stuff. This one was empty, but the driver was CRANKING the Asian techno and some weird music videos. It was awesome! Made for a good story to tell other missionaries.

The highlight of this week was an EPIC, 7 hour hitchhiking extravaganza all over our area, and to the extreme Western part of our area that borders the Taejon mission. We started at noon where we usually hitchhike, said a prayer, and went off. We saw beautiful scenery as we made our way across a dramatic bridge north of Samcheonpo and moved West into the mountains of Hadong, an area for which we had no maps in our house! Very dramatic and beautiful country. Some of the mountain roads reminded me of Washington State. After hours of asking community information centers about some of our less active members out there (and dealing with a Presbyterian lady who didn't like our church), we made our way down to the backside of the big island Namhae. We went to a Coast Guard station and they drove us to another community center. Then we walked across the bridge and on to Namhae itself. I felt like someone should be welcoming us to Jurassic Park or something. Namhae has BEAUTIFUL green mountains and great views. We hitchhiked to the main city of Namhae-eup, where we asked the community center people about 20ish members who live on Namhae. After some prodding, they agreed to tell us if the people were still living at the addresses we had or not. It helped us clear up our records! We hitchhiked back up through Namhae, over the Samcheonpo bridge, and into Samcheonpo. We were dropped off at the same corner where we had prayed, seven hours earlier. It was seven hours of sweat, frustrating conversations with community centers, and high adventure. We counted later, and calculated that we were picked up by 11 different cars during our journey. Epic.

The rest of the week was filled with appointments that fell through, expectations not met. Disappointing. Bro. Bay (whose wife really really REALLY doesn't like our church) wasn't able to meet with us much this week. We'll see if we can do it next week. We met with a nice Filipino lady named Mylene who wants to meet with us and talk about the gospel. She is very humble and met missionaries about a year ago.

The work is moving along here. I'm loving it! N. Korea is making noise and we're still worried a little bit about evacuation, but not so much. Love you guys! Elder Bocchino