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 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:

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