Monday, March 30, 2009

Namhae Island

Well howdy folks!!! I'm starting transfer number 5 in Korea (I've been in country for about 5 1/2 months). My new companion is named Elder "E Tay Hee"....or Elder "Lee" if you want. He's a Korean from Seoul who has about 3 months left in his mission. I was expecting a "younger" senior, but things change. He's a cool guy and I think we're going to have a lot of fun. This will be my second transfer in Samcheonpo, and I'm so excited!

On Sunday, the Branch President took my companion and me out on a drive to the island Namhae (where he lives). We drove over the "most beautiful bridge in Korea" and saw AMAZING views. It was sooooooo awesome! The island is huge. There used to be a Branch out there, but it was closed down and combined w/ our current Sacheon Branch. We looked out over a bay and saw a city in the neighboring Taejon mission. It is so strange for us, it's like a different country over there because we're never allowed to go outside of our own mission area.

We're working w/ a girl investigator (Lee Meen Gyung) to follow the Word of Wisdom and give up drinking. We're also excited because another investigator (young man: Gwak Chae Hyun) says he wants to be baptized "whenever".

We will be able to see General Conference in two weeks up at the Stake Center (hopefully in English!) and in a few weeks we'll be going to Pusan for another joint Zone Conference. The Asia North doctor will be coming in to talk about health and meet w/ anyone who needs help.

As for North Korea, we've heard nothing new. The seasons are changing, spring is upon us here in Korea, and the cherry blossoms are out! We'll probably be going to Chinhae for a huge cherry blossom festival, where we get to see tons of trees covered in the beautiful whitish pinkish flowers. Amazing.

I love you all! Korea rocks and the Church is true!!!!!!!!!! Elder Bocchino

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hello from the most beautiful area in the Pusan Mission! It's getting warm here, and Spring is definitely on it's way. Not much new to report. We thought we might have to go to court and be witnesses in a sexual harassment thing we witnessed on a bus ride...but looks like that's resolved now. Very disturbing experience. We're heading into Pusan tomorrow night to sleep over in Hayundae before the big conference on Wednesday. Elder Stevenson (sp?), the first counselor in the Asia North Area Presidency, is coming to do a Mission tour. We've been instructed to read 2 Nephi chapters 2 and 9, so I'm assuming we'll be talking about Christ's Atonement. I'm really excited. The meeting will include Pusan, Gaya, and Gyungnam zones. (I'm in Gyungnam). On Tuesday he's up in Taegu with Gyungbuk and Shilla zones.

Next email is after transfers........should be interesting! The Church is amazingly true!

Elder Bocchino

Monday, March 16, 2009

Masan Stake Conference/Civil Defense Test

I've been having a blast here at Masan Stake Conference. It's been awesome! We had 8 elders sleep together on sat. night, and 6 last night. Elder Evans (N. Asia Area President) spoke at several sessions, as did his counselor Elder Choi, and our mission pres. (in KOREAN) and our mission "mom" (the mission president's wife). It was pretty amazing!

Elder Evans talked a lot about families and how we should strengthen them. He talked about never pulling away from wayward children, and always forgiving. He said when someone is offended and refuses to forgive, it is their spiritual progression which stops, not that of the offender. We should always strive to love and forgive within our own families. He shared some general personal experiences with us. It was an amazing time, I wish you guys could have been there. His last words in that talk were "Never pull away". I know that's true, but so hard to do. His talks really comforted me.

There have been some tensions with N. Korea, and all missionaries in the Pusan Mission were instructed to review our evacuation procedures the other night. When I was up in the city of Masan the other day, I ran into some US naval reservists who said they had flown into the nearby US base to do some exercises and "saber-rattling". Interesting. The next day we witnessed a massive test of the civil defense and air raid alert systems as sirens sounded all over the city and all traffic stopped. All people were told to stop moving and there were civil defense guards posted on the street corners to enforce this. At one point, an emergency vehicle came screaming down the street, lights and sirens flashing, with a man on the loudspeaker yelling at everybody to get out of the way....dozens of people started yelling and running away......we were pretty confused. For about 15 minutes the city stood still....then another siren sounded and the exercise was over. We've been told that this took place yesterday in other cities around Korea.Bottom line: N. Korea is up to the usual business, but Koreans are prepared.. My companion and I updated our foreigner cards with our new info today so that we can evacuate more easily if necessary.

Last week we had interviews with the Mission President. I should be staying in Sacheon next transfer....maybe with a very young senior.

Love, Elder Bocchino

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Good Shepherd

Whew, it's getting warm here in Sacheon/Samcheonpo. We went to a lake and a zoo up in a bigger city called Chinju. It was really fun! We saw lions, tigers, bears, (oh my) monkeys, camels, donkeys, deer......and a really angry seal who didn't like me. The monkeys were funny and really really smart. We fed one of them candy. Probably not the best thing to do, but in Korea no one cares I guess. The camels looked sick and like they wanted to spit on us. We were pretty wussy around them.

The zoo had a beautiful view! The area around here is covered in green mountains (big hills really). Very beautiful! It reminds me of Washington. The ocean and inlets are also breathtaking. I love serving here. It's fun to go up into big apt. buildings and see the views of the massive rice fields that surround Samcheonpo and Sacheon.

Last week, I went on splits with my Zone Leader for one day to a big city called Chahngwon. It's a "planned city" with wide American-style streets, shopping malls, and a lot of people. It's meant to be the back-up capital for South Korea should Seoul come under attack. By the way, Korea just beat Japan in baseball and everyone's proud of it.

We're hearing that the draw-down of missionary numbers in Korea should be happening a LOT sooner than expected, probably this summer. We'll go from around 120 now to about 78 missionaries very soon. Enough for one team for each ward in the mission....I'm not sure about some of the smaller branches like here in Sacheon. Apparently they're pushing more missionaries to Brazil. It'll make for a pretty tough mission for the next year and a half ish.......speaking of which, in a few days, I'll have been in Korea for 5 months....crazy to think about.

My comp and I went to the Stake Center in Masan last Sunday for a Stake Bishopric/Branch Presidency meeting. It was pretty fun. I was able to meet the former Pusan Mission President (Pres. Sohng) who is now a "Welfare Missionary" in Korea. He's a powerful man and a big help to the Church here in Korea.

This weekend is Stake Conference in Masan. The Asia North Area President (Pres. Evans) and his Korean 2nd Counselor will be speaking, along with our mission president, his wife and others. It should be really fun, and we're looking at spending one or two nights with the missionaries in Masan. Should be a party! I miss being around missionaries like I was in the big city of Pusan, but being here in Sacheon has benefits.

At a recent Zone Conference, we talked about following Christ's example as the Good Shepherd. We are called by Christ to act in His stead as shepherds over His flock. We are not to act as mere hirelings who care not for the sheep, but as loving and diligent shepherds who direct all of their energy and activities to ensure the well-being and safety of the flock. The speaker quoted Talmadge's Jesus the Christ in this contrast, and it really hit me. I'm thankful to act in Christ's stead and serve the good people of Korea! It's been an amazing experience so far and I'm sure it will continue to bless my life.

Thanks all! I love you guys! Elder Bocchino

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Ferry Trip

Hello! This past week we went out to an island with an investigator, his family, and a bunch of kids who attend the academy he owns. Koreans are kind of obsessed with school. They attend normal school during the morning and night, and attend "academy" at any other time. At these academies they learn a lot of different things, but mostly English. The group that went with us was mostly younger kids around 12 ish..maybe younger. It was really fun.

We got on a ferry and took a beautiful 30 min trip out to this mountainous island, where we could hike, go fishing and play soccer. It was a blast, even though I didn't catch any fish. The kids were really fun to hang out with. We like to go to that academy and visit them every week. We talk to the kids, play cards with them, and then meet with the owner to talk about the gospel. It's one of my most favorite things to do here.

The Branch is still ridiculously small, but soooooo much fun. We had Family Home Evening last night (Sun. night) with some of the youth and a member. We held it at his combination meat shop/home and had a really good lesson about Joseph Smith's experience. That experience kicked off the Restoration of Christ's Gospel and this Church, so we figure it's pretty important to focus on. I love reading Joseph's own account of what happened, I can really feel the Spirit when I do.

Samcheonpo/Sacheon is still rockin! We're having a blast down here. Today we'll go to a big bathouse that has an open balcony for us to chill on and look out over the ocean. I'm excited.
Take care and God Bless! Elder Bocchino