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

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