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 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 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 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 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