Sunday, July 4, 2010

Farewell to The Land of the Morning Calm

Happy Independence Day!!!

This is my last email home from Korea. Crazy.

Yesterday (Sunday) was kind of sad. It was hard to say goodbye to everyone. Last night we gathered at the Church to have a final party because Sister Linford, Elder Oxborrow and I are all going home and we've all served here in Bangojin. We shared final testimonies and ate food together. It was a really memorable time.

I've made a lot of great friends here in Korea, and I've really enjoyed my time in this country. Yesterday at church I shared a scripture about how I feel: Enos 1:26

I told the church members that when I first came to Korea, I had a hard time with a lot of things. The language, culture, heat/humidity, missionary work and lifestyle, companions, the food... But as I've labored here for the past two years, I've also experienced a change of heart. I've learned a little of the language (I'll never be fluent probably), I love the food, I love the people! I feel that I can call Korea "우리 나라" ("our nation") and I will always want to call it that. I wanted the friends I have here to understand that, and I think they did. I hope they did. I love Korea. I've rejoiced in the opportunity I've had to share the gospel with my brothers and sisters here! The work has been hard, and I've received a lot of rejection, but they are still my brothers and sisters and I love them all the same. It has been an amazing experience.

I promised some members that I would do a few things:
1) I would go home and work to live the gospel and continue doing missionary work;
2) I would continue studying Korean and never forget about this country; and
3) I would come back to Korea...kind of soon.
I think those are some good goals to start with.

Tomorrow I'll go back to Gyeongju and say goodbye to friends there, and then it's off to Pusan and Seoul. I'm almost home!

I'll have stories for you all in a few days!

Love you!! The Gospel is true!

Elder Bocchino

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ulsan District Conference

Another week gone - time is flying.

Oh, a bit of sad news. Korea was eliminated from the World Cup. The whole nation was pretty bent out of shape about it. The US also lost. :( and so did England. So I have NO ONE to root for.

Bangojin is great! We had the Ulsan District Conference last Sunday and President Jennings came, along with Elder Ringwood of the Quorum of the Seventy. Elder Ringwood was in North Korea last week overseeing the Church's donation of over 1,000 apple trees there, and then he swung down here for a few missionary meetings and the District Conference. He had served as the Seoul West Mission President a few years ago, so he was able to speak to the church members in Korean. Some good experiences at those meetings! At the missionary meeting we talked a lot about discouragement and miracles that we don't see. Basically how to deal with rejection and also with not seeing the fruits of our labors. Sad, but true.

On P-day, we went to a cave outside of the city. It was pretty touristy, but it was pretty cold inside (good activity on a hot and humid day). There was also an ice cave that we visited. Pretty fun all in all. Seeing all the foggy, green hills and rice fields reminded me that I'm gonna miss Korea when I leave. I leave in 15 days by the way.

This next week will be spent trying to meet people for the last time, and spend time with some families that I've grown close to. Next week I should be able to go back to Gyeongju and see some friends. Hopefully I can help someone get closer to Christ before I end my mission. It's been an incredible experience.

The gospel is true!

Love, Elder Bocchino

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Iron Festival, World Cup, Gyeongju, and splits

Hey! I have 18 days until I'm back in the US! Time is flying.

Last weekend, we volunteered at the Iron Festival where we celebrated traditional Korean iron smelting. Turns out that the Koreans first discovered iron on their peninsula here in Ulsan. This really is the industrial capital of Korea. Pohang is the steel exporter, and Ulsan makes ships, cars, oil rigs and refines oil. There are also some nuclear power plants here. Heavy industry.

Korea lost to Argentina last week in the World Cup, but they also tied Nigeria, so it looks like they'll advance! Koreans are excited!

On Sunday, we watched the Joseph Smith Movie with Korean subtitles. It's the first time the Koreans have seen it, though it's been out in the US for years. Good movie, and I think the members were able to learn a lot more about the Prophet Joseph Smith through it.

On P-Day, we went up to my old area of Gyeongju and took a look at the Seokuram grotto. It's a cave at the top of a mountain with a Buddha statue in it that is very very old. Pretty impressive views (if it wasn't so hazy) and cool hike.

Last week we cleaned the Hogae church - lots of heavy lifting - very sweaty work. It's getting really hot and humid here.

I went on splits last week with the Zone Leaders. We had some interesting meetings with less active church members in the ZL area.

It looks like I'll be able to go on splits with Elder Oxborrow (he's in gyeongju and is going home with me on the 10th) for my last week in country. That means that we should be doing meal appointments in Gyeongju and here in Bangojin for that week, as we both know people in both areas.

Not much else to report...time is flying!

Love you! Elder Bocchino

Sunday, June 13, 2010

World Cup

Wow! World Cup is here! Once every four years most people in the world (except Americans) tune in for the World Cup...a soccer battle between nations. Koreans are crazy about soccer! The other night was the opening Korea vs. Greece game starting at 8:30 pm here in Korea. They set up outdoor viewing locations all over Korea (all over Bangojin!) and settled in for the epic battle. We were in a restaurant when Korea scored its first goal. That was a thrill! Koreans have a way of making these things feel like the whole country is in it together. Every goal scored is a victory for every Korean man, woman and child. Kim Yun Ah's olympic skating gold was a victory for every Korean as well. It's part of their culture, the culture of "ooh-rlee" or "we/us". It's great! It also illustrates Korea's constant need to prove itself on the world stage.

When we had to go home, we found they had set up a projector with the game in our apartment parking lot! So we could watch it from our front door!

Ended up as a shutout: 2 - 0 Korean victory!! Next game is Thursday against Argentina.

As for other news, the North Asia Area authorities are rolling out plans for local churches to track down lost members and try to figure out how to help these people and fix our records, finally. After two years of this, I'm headed home, and now they're coming out with the official programs...figures. lol.

The ZL's should be having a baptism in a few weeks and the sisters will have one in Hogae next month. Good things are happening.

A few days ago we talked to an older man in a store who had met with missionaries when he was younger in Seoul (he's 62 now). He shared with us his life story, of being carried on his mom's back as they fled from Seoul during the Korean war. They ended up in Pusan and then back in Seoul later on. I believe he went to Japan to learn how to be an engineer. Korea didn't have the ability to train engineers at that time. Koreans suffered greatly during those years. This country used to be so poor and backward, and they were a Japanese colony. It's a miracle they're where they are today. His story made me think of my grandmother who fled China as a young child, and both of my grandfathers who served in Korea. The preceding generations around the world have suffered a lot. Helps me to be grateful for all that I have, and all that the senior generations have helped provide.

Time is getting short! It's an indescribable feeling!

Love you!!! Elder Bocchino

Friday, June 4, 2010

Conferences, elections, and rumors or war

Time is running out for me here in Korea......about 5 ish weeks left. Crazy!

Yesterday at Zone Conference I gave my "death talk" (the talk you give before you leave the mission). I had 3 minutes, so I mentioned how challenging it was to come to Korea and shared 1 Corinthians 1:26-27 and Doctrine and Covenants 35:13. Then I testified that the Gospel is true! Short, but I think I mentioned the important things.

Sunday was our Branch Conference. We had 93 people at Sacrament Meeting! President Jennings came to preside and we all had a great time. We learned a lot. I had to help translate in nursery with the Canadian family. Still hard, even after almost two years in country. ugh!

Tensions are still kind of high in Korea. It's looking less likely that war will break out anytime soon, but people are still worried. They held local elections yesterday and I think that the President's ruling conservative party did really well. By the way, the Socialist Labor Party is really strong here in Ulsan and in university campuses across Korea...interesting. Our investigator (coffee shop guy) used to work for them in college and has some interesting stories. (He's against them now.

Today we're going back to the dolphin/whale museum because most of the people in Ulsan now are new and haven't been there. it should be fun!!!!!!

I've still got time left. Trying to finish strong!!!

Love, Elder Bocchino

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Evacuation plans, acting on faith, and unity in families

While tensions with North Korea are increasing, the Korean people remain calm and collected. Everyone agrees that the North knows it can't afford to start a war, therefore people aren't too worried about it. We (missionaries) do have established evacuation procedures that we will follow if necessary.

Kyung Jin (coffee shop guy) remains skeptical of organized religion. This has allowed him to have an open-ish mind while investigating our Church, but has also made him just skeptical of all religions in general. He is a great guy with lots of questions about faith and God, and I really hope he begins to experiment with faith and acting on what he's learning from the Book of Mormon.

We will start meeting with a member, Brother Lee, whose son should be getting baptized soon. Brother Lee and his wife are at least bringing the son to church on Sundays (even if he doesn't want to go), which is really good. I'm constantly reminded of the need for unity in families and the blessings associated with living the gospel as families.

We had a District Leaders' Meeting in Pusan yesterday (on transfer day) and talked about how we're going to deal with losing so many missionaries. Our numbers are getting slashed from about 120 when I came to Korea to probably 70 when I leave. Big change.

I said goodbye to some friends yesterday as they're going home. One of them was Elder Mckenna, with whom I served in Sacheon. We had some really great experiences together. That will be me in 6 weeks. Strange. Time is flying.

The Gospel is true!!! Love, Elder Bocchino

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Strengthening Families Together

Well, another hot and humid couple of weeks have flown by.

Recently, the big news has been North Korea's sinking of a South Korean ship, killing over 40 South Korean sailors. We're keeping our ears and eyes open as the whole country wonders what will happen next. Ulsan is a big target for the North, as the Hyundai Heavy Industries factories are prepared to produce naval ships, and the Hyundai Motors factories are ready to make jeeps and tanks if war breaks out. I'm not too worried right now, but we're still vigilant and I get a little jumpy when the city tests it's air raid sirens. :)

Last week, we went up to an old elementary school and saw a reptile/snake exhibit they have there. It was really fun and we got some good pics. I got to hold a HUGE snake at one point (I'll send you those pics later) and it urinated on me. Gross!

Bangojin Branch is doing great. We had a great meeting with Brother Lee today (his son is 9 years old and preparing to be baptized) and we had a great time. We read the Book of Mormon together and I felt the quiet influence of the Spirit. I know that as we help him and his wife strengthen their faith, they will be better able to help their son accept the Gospel. It brings up memories of my own baptismal experience.....thanks to my Mom and Dad and various Church leaders, I was able to begin living the Gospel and progress to where I am today. I remember that, and vow not to give up on this young man (Dohng-Guhn) no matter how squirrely he is. :)

Time is flying by! Transfer calls are tonight...we're not sure what will happen. I have one transfer left!!!

Love you guys! The Gospel is true!!!

Elder Bocchino

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hey, it's getting hot and humid here.

We had a great baptism a few weeks ago. The young man (Joon-yung) is the son of a member. He's still 8 years old, so he's not considered an investigator but we were still able to help him and teach him. It felt good. I was happy to see the baptism.

Now we've got another young man who is nine years old and is the son of some other members. His Dad wants us to teach him and have him baptized soon, which will be great!

Kyong Jin (coffee shop owner) is still great and is reading the Book of Mormon from the beginning...nice guy. We're really hoping to get him out to church soon.

Kyung Hwahn (the college student we used to hang out with) has gone to Vancouver, Canada to study for 9 months. We made a deal that we'll meet up in Seattle when I get back. I'm excited!

Min Gyu (the son of a part member family) is leaving for military service today. We had our final appointment with him and his family on tuesday night. It was kind of sad.

Yesterday was "Children's Day" in Korea. It is a national holiday and the focus is on the kids. We met up at a carnival event with some members, and then we went and made kim bap with some other members and washed their dog - it was fun!

At Zone Meeting on Monday, I gave a talk about helping our Part Member families in the Church (where just one spouse is a member of the church). The focus in our Church is now on "rescuing" people under the new "To the Rescue" program. We talked about the importance of rescuing these part member families. The most important thing is to help them understand the blessings promised to families who make and keep eternal covenants together . When they realize this and gain a testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel, then you can baptize the non member family members and assist them in finding the path to eternal life works so much better. Like two oars pulling the rowboat instead of one. Good times.

The Gospel is true!


Elder Bocchino

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010


Sorry for the lack of emails lately.

Things are good! The Branch seems to be shrinking a little, as members are moving away. We're hoping to get some less active members back to church though. A team of sister missionaries is now working with us in Bangojin, so we're working together to help some of the members here. Some exciting things are happening.

We've started teaching the son of a member as he is preparing to get baptized this Saturday. He's still eight years old, so he's not our investigator, but his mom still wants us to help him prepare. His Dad is not a member of the Church, but his mom was baptized a few years ago and has taught him a lot. He's a good kid and we're excited for his baptism on Saturday.

General Conference was great! Love, Elder Bocchino

Living By Faith

Spring has arrived in Korea! The cherry blossoms are out, the birds are singing...and the weather is turning hotter. :(

Yesterday we went to Gyeongju (my old stomping grounds) and met with about 10 other missionaries to see the beautiful flowers and trees. It was really fun and we came together as a Zone. Everyone had a great time! I was able to see a few friends I had made in Gyeongju and remember the good times.

This past week, we met with KyungJin (the coffee shop guy). He's doing good! He's really skeptical of organized religion, but has a lot of sincere questions about our beliefs. He was talking about the difference between reading good words in the scriptures and actually having those teachings penetrate your heart. (the difference is the Spirit - we must study in faith and invite the Spirit to testify of the truthfulness of what we're studying). We invited him to read in the Book of Mormon: Alma 32. It's about the test of faith, and how we exercise faith in things which are believed but not seen or known. When we exercise this faith, the Lord blesses us. It is after the trial of our faith that we see the miracles and can receive the witness of the Holy Ghost. That is the pattern established by God. I hope that he can read about that and feel the power of the Spirit. I think we can all exercise more faith and be more believing. We should all live by faith rather than fear. I learned that this past week and will try to apply it! Hooray for learning by the Spirit! :)

Church members and missionaries in Korea will gather this weekend to watch General Conference. It's a week late due to needed translation. I'm excited to hear the teachings and learn from them!

Transfer calls are tonight, so I could get a surprise call to leave Bangojin. That would be sad. We'll see!

13 weeks left! The Gospel is true! Love, Elder Bocchino

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Mormons Made Simple

Sorry for not writing last's been a little slow but also kind of busy at the same time.

Two weeks ago, I went on splits for a day with Elder Wells (he's my dongee and is now a ZL here in Ulsan). It was really fun and we shared lots of memories from the MTC. We tried to visit some less active church members and bring them banana bread that Elder Moore and I had made, but they weren't home. Then we visited a man who had randomly approached Elder Murray and I several months ago.

His name is Gyung-Jin and he came up to us one morning and asked if we were "Mormon missionaries". He spoke very good English. He said that he'd read the Book of Mormon and learned a lot about our church from an LDS friend 6 years ago while serving in the Korean military. He remembered a lot of stories from the Book of Mormon and expressed an interest in learning about it again. We kind of put him on the back burner for a few weeks while we got busy with transfers and other things...but luckily, Elder Wells and I were able to visit him. He runs a coffee shop in a busy part of our area. He was very happy to see us and gladly received the Book of Mormon that we gave him. His family was originally Baptist but has become disappointed with the Christian churches in Korea and currently doesn't attend church. He currently is kind of cynical about religion and is not sure what to believe. We shared some scriptures from the Book of Mormon with him, and he invited us to return and talk more. Elder Moore and I returned the other day, and had a great time! I guess that a famous Korean singer committed suicide the other day, so he asked questions about the afterlife. He was asking very in depth questions.....very interesting guy. It's interesting because for every question he asked, I could think of an answer in the Book of Mormon (of course there are similar answers in the Bible as well). That experience strengthened my testimony of the truth that the Book of Mormon answers the questions of our souls.

He told us how he's been pretty skeptical of religion these days, due to some troubling issues in his family over the past year or so. "Then, you guys showed up and started teaching about God" he said. "I think it might be a sign" he added.

Wow, no matter how he accepts the message we teach in the coming weeks, this experience has already strengthened my faith and assured me that the Lord loves us. He loves Gyung-Jin - the coffee shop owner, and He loves me. I know that there are people who are seeking for truth but know not where to find it. He's found it. I just hope he can realize it.

Gyung Jin spent some time studying in China and the U.S., and even spent some time in Portland, OR! (cool huh? we talked about Mt. Hood)

Final note, this site is pretty interesting: "". Good, simple explanations. The missionary video gives a good overview of what kind of program I'm in.

The Gospel is true! Love, Elder Bocchino

Friday, March 19, 2010

Be Strong and of Good Courage

The weather can't seem to make up its mind....cold one day warm the next. It has been beautiful though, and it is usually great weather to walk around in.

We had a day of EPIC basketball with some college students. One of them was MinGyu (the nonmember son of Sister Hoh). Elder Moore and I schooled them all (even though I'm not very good) and we all had a great time. We were pretty tired the next day! haha It was a good release and bball is actually a great way to visit with students. I just hope they have at least some interest in learning about Christ.

We had some new attendees at our English Class this past week. Two new women came...they're math teachers. Also, an interesting young man met us last weekend. He's two years younger than us (so he calls us "big brother"...age is everything here) and is studying Military Science at an ROTC type college. He's very focused on his goals and doesn't even really want to get married. This also means that he doesn't have too much room for God in his busy life either....I'm hoping that's a phase. :) Interesting kid.

On PDay we went to a whale museum at this place that used to be a whaling town near Ulsan. It's called Jangsaengpo. It was interesting. One museum focused on whale life and ecology, and even had live dolphins in a tank! We saw them fight and butt heads underwater! The museum next to it was all about hunting, killing and processing whales for various products. Strange juxtaposition.

I guess this whaling town was active up until 1986ish when whaling was banned by the international community. Interesting, because the streets of Ulsan are still lined with "whale meat" restaurants. (I hear that the Japanese still do some whaling...somehow). Yep, I've eaten whale (that's right hippies!) The soup it was in wasn't very good but the meat, when cooked, tastes like beef. I hear that it is gross when raw (I believe it). Koreans also eat raw beef sometimes....I avoid it.

So the other night we had our weekly appointment with Sister Hoh and her family (including MinGyu bball kid). We ate dinner, played cards, and had a great time. They're a great family. :) Before we left, my companion shared Doctrine and Covenants 6:36 about turning to the Lord. This reminded me of another scripture, which I shared - Joshua 1:9:

"Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."

Before I left on the mission, Dad wrote this in the front of my scriptures. It's one of my favorite scriptures and I love the message of trusting in the Lord and not being afraid. Fear is the opposite of Faith.

This message motivates me to stop being fearful and just go to share the gospel with my brothers and sisters here in Korea. God was with the children of Israel then, and He is with us today!

Korea's a great place, God bless it!


Elder Bocchino

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's All About Service

It snowed! We woke up to a winter wonderland yesterday! I guess it's spring. Weird weather...

This week, my new companion, Elder Moore and I have seen some cool things together. We were searching for less active church members the other day on our way to eat dinner with some members. We knocked on an apartment door fully expecting one lady to have moved, but she answered the door! She said it had been a long time since she had last seen the missionaries or attended church. She was very nice. We obtained her phone number and have asked the sister missionaries to visit with her also. Maybe we will bake her some cookies. We almost never find these people. When we do, it's a question of finding a way to serve them.

On Saturday night, we gathered in the church building and watched the movie, The Prince of Egypt, with church members. The activity was fun! A young man attended who is our age. His name is Kyung-Hwan. He recently completed his military service and is attending our English class. Hopefully, he will want to know more about the gospel as well.

Several days ago, we had English class and played ping pong with our new friend, Kyung Hwan. Koreans LOVE playing ping pong and usually learn how to play well during their military service. Afterward, we again searched for another less active family. Just like the last time, we unexpectedly found the lady we sought! She invited us into her home and introduced us to her daughter and one of her sons. They might be coming out to English class this weekend! This lady had not met missionaries for about three years. We're trying to find a way in which we can serve her and her family. Her husband works very far away in another city for Hyundai.

We've had several opportunities to eat meals with members this week, for which we are grateful. We're trying to build good relationships with the Branch. It's all about service, and we're trying to find ways to serve these wonderful people.

It's been a fun week and we're staying busy. I know the gospel is true. Love, Elder Bocchino

Monday, March 1, 2010

Transfer calls came and went. I'll be staying here in Bangojin, Ulsan. I'll be getting Elder Moore who came to Korea 6 weeks after me. We're both about the same "mission age" and know what's going on in terms of missionary work, so it should be fun!

The weather can't seem to make up its mind and is going from sunny and pleasant to gray and cold over and over. Spring is trying hard to arrive.

Our Ulsan District soccer tournament that was scheduled for last Monday and was expected to bring in dozens of members, less active members and investigators was canceled due to rain. No word yet on a possible rescheduling. :(

So there is this great family. Sister Ho is a member and so is her daughter (sur-ghee). Her husband (bro. Shin) and her son (min-gyu) are not members. Her husband is a high-up in Hyundai Heavy Industries and her son is a college student/soon-to-be conscript soldier who is the same age as me. The family has been meeting with missionaries weekly for years (ever since Sis. Ho's baptism) and the father knows everything there is to know about our church and our teachings. He cites pressure at business gatherings regarding drinking alcohol as a primary obstacle to his baptism. Korea has this problem: at any social/business gathering, there is tremendous pressure to drink alcohol. Korean college students drink more than I ever imagined. It becomes a huge obstacle to their understanding/acceptance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It usually goes something like this:

(I'm a weird foreigner trying to speak Korean)

I approach some Korean college students saying "hey, what's up? yeah, I'm a missionary.....I'm teaching people about Jesus Christ". (and try hard NOT to look like I'm flirting with the girls)

They give me funny looks and say they're not interested/just ignore me all together.........and go back to thinking about alcohol and Starcraft.........

....and then SOMETIMES they realize "hey! this guy is an English speaker!!!"......(others just continue to ignore).......

............and then they speak to me in English for practice.................

....and then we drop the "gospel" part and just invite them to our free English class.....

....and then they don't show up to that because they have an appointment at a bar.

This is a problem, but we try to get around it by being more "cool" or "hip" in order to have better conversations with young people. Sometimes it works out...but it's hard.

Even young people who are interested in our Gospel message feel intense pressure to disobey commandments and drink alcohol or smoke at any social function. It's sad.

Brother Shin (the HHI high up) isn't a student, but still has this problem. There is one bright spot: at least he has interest in the message that Christ taught! Often in Korea it goes something like this: The older people aren't interested and tell us to "go teach the younger people". The younger people are "busy with school" or just have interest in worldly things like alcohol and sex. So we lose both. Kinda like when the Christians tell us to "teach those crazy Buddhists".................and the Buddhists tell us to go and talk about our common beliefs with the Christians. Quite the paradox.

This family is great. We visit with them every week and are trying to help them all, member and non member alike, come closer to Christ. It's frustrating sometimes. If only this family could unite and live the restored Gospel together, they would be able to receive countless blessings....among them the opportunity to live together forever as a family. I know their home would be blessed with more peace and love. I think they know this, but then there are those pesky "obstacles".....which seem kind of silly when you contrast them with the blessings that the Lord has promised His followers (eternal family relationships, etc).

The Koreans are great. Those worldly students, stubborn elderly, Buddhists and Presbyterians. They're frustrating, but great. Heck, even the children of Israel witnessed God's power in saving them from the Egyptians and then wanted to worship a golden calf instead, right?? It's all about teaching them with patience and love....I think....

When I'm rejected a lot and wonder "why in the world are there missionaries in Korea???!!!", I think about the revelation given to Joseph Smith in 1830 found in The Doctrine and Covenants Section 29 Verse 7:

"And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts"

I'll keep looking for those who hear the words of the Savior and harden not their hearts.....those who hear "Restored Gospel" and perk up with interest. Those are the people with whom I want to talk in my remaining 4 months in Korea!

The Gospel is amazingly true.


Elder Bocchino

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It's been a hotter week here in Korea. Looks like Spring has come a little early. Bad news, because that means the mosquitoes aren't far behind.

The Bangojin Branch is doing great! Sister Lee is still solid, and the Ulsan District held District Conference last Sunday. We were able to hear from District leaders and President Jennings (our Mission President). The Korean church members are always impressed whenever President Jennings speaks, because he is so accomplished at speaking Korean. The Korean people really appreciate that. I heard that approximately 225 people attended the conference, which was a great turnout! We hope to become a stake within the next few years.

Other big news: There will now be only three Missions in Korea instead of four. The Seoul West and Seoul missions will combine to form the Seoul Mission (effective July 2010) under the leadership of the current Seoul Mission President. Also, the (former) Seoul West Mission will move one stake into the Taejon Mission next month. The Busan Mission was slated to get the big southwestern city of Gwangju, but our President rejected it, citing cultural differences that would prove problematic. I was a little sad when I heard that, as I really really want to go to Gwangju someday. The people there are really nice.

Needless to say, some Korean church members are a little worried about this and questioning the progress of the church here in Korea.

While this is a slow time in Bangojin, we're having a good time and working to try to find people who want to learn more about Jesus Christ. We're getting more and more interest in our English classes, and are anticipating meeting some new people in the coming week or two. Should be exciting!

Even though it's hard, I'm thankful that I can serve people and testify of the Savior every day. That's enough for me! The gospel is true! Love, Elder Bocchino

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy Lunar New Year!!!

We may not have had a white Christmas here, but we had a white Lunar New Year! It was awesome! Just a trace of snow but it makes the hills look beautiful! They say it almost never snows in Ulsan.... Well, the Lunar New Year ("Chinese" New year) was fun! We had 31 people at church on Sunday (big day, considering it was lunar new year). Sister Kim (the one who went to the temple for the first time) is headed back to the states. Sister Lee is doing well.

On Monday, we went back to my old stomping grounds of Gyeongju to play games and watched "Up". Great movie! On Tuesday, we ate the traditional new years meal of Duk Gook at a member's house and were able to see Korea win the gold in the Olympics speed skating. It was great! Koreans are still way happy about it! :)

We're hoping to meet a newcomer to English class either tomorrow or Saturday, we'll see. Maybe he'll want to learn about the Gospel! That's what we're hoping.

Lunar New Year was great, but it also meant that very little happened in the way of missionary work, as everyone left Ulsan to go to their hometowns. On the New Year holiday, they gather to the husband's oldest brother's house and play card games, a traditional stick game, and eat food. It's great! I love you guys! The Gospel is true!! Love, Elder Bocchino

Thursday, February 4, 2010

It's been an interesting week, with unseasonably warm weather. I'm not complaining, just worried about how hot it's going to get in the spring/summer!!!

Last Saturday we had a pretty full English class!!! We've been focusing on getting new people to our English class in the church so we can introduce them to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's been successful, as we're getting new people at every class! After class, we went to spend time with some members, and visited Sister Lee in the mart where she works. It was a good night spent with people we serve and have come to love. Good feelings all around!

On Sunday, both Elder Murray and I were asked to give 5 minute talks/testimonies to fill up time at the church meeting. I spoke about missionary work (of course). When we (as missionaries) go out and talk to people of other faiths, the subject of prophets usually comes up. We make the bold claim that a prophet (such as Moses of old) lives on the earth today and directs us according to the word of God. Though this claim is bold, it is not weird or un-Christian. If we read the scriptures (Old Testament, New testament, and Book of Mormon) we see many examples of God calling prophets to lead His children. It is a pattern established out of love. It is also a truth that has unfortunately been lost to many Christians today, who seem to forget the prophetic calling of Peter, James and John, as well as the rest of the original Twelve.

I know that there is a prophet of God on the earth today. I take comfort in knowing that this is an expression of God's love, and that if I follow the prophet's words, I will be blessed in knowing which paths to walk in these confusing times (just like Israel of old!).

On Wednesday night, we spent time with Sister Kim, who will be returning to America in a few weeks where she lives with her Korean-American husband. While we were spending time with her, her older brother began asking questions about our church. Sister Kim is staying with her mother and brother, who are not members of our church. Her father also passed away a few months ago. We were able to explain a little about our church and give him a Book of Mormon to read, all while National Treasure 2 was playing on the television! lol While we were helping with dishes in the kitchen, I peeked around the corner and saw him reading the introduction at the beginning of the Book of Mormon. Before we left, we showed them a new short video produced buy the headquarters in Seoul that tells people a little about our church and how it came to Korea. It was a pretty great experience. Sister Kim was able to bear her testimony of the things we said (she has been a member for only two years). She was so happy that we were able to talk to her brother about the church, and she wants us to work with him. She wants very much for her mother and brother to start coming out to church before she leaves to go back to America. We will try very hard to help her out with that!

Last week, we had Zone Conference. It was interesting. We set a mission goal of 200 baptisms for this year (2010). The Busan Mission baptized 108 people in 2009, so it will be a challenge. More important than numbers, however, are the people those numbers represent. We'll work on serving PEOPLE who will accept this gospel and agree to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

It's been a good week! I look forward to the week ahead! The gospel is true! Love, Elder Bocchino

PS: Yep, it was my birthday last week. I don't feel like it, but I'm 21 years old now! (22 in Korean age) We had a District get-together and I got a few presents. The missionaries are really nice like that! Sister Park had her birthday on Feb 4, so we all hung out together as a zone and played games. It was fun!!!

Love you guys! Elder Bocchino

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Revisiting Gyeongju!!!

I'm back in Gyeongju!!!! For the day...thought I'd come back to my old area and spend some time with friends I made here. I miss this place.

I don't have much time. This last week has been good!!! We've gotten some good contacts from people...hopefully we'll be able to meet with them again.

At church, we were able to answer some questions that a recent convert had about the timelines of the Bible and the Book of Mormon and how they match up. It was a pretty good class.

Sister Lee is still doing great!!! She really had a strong conversion experience and continues to diligently live the gospel.

We made flyers for our English class and are trying to get a lot of people to come. We're trying to make a good new start and do some missionary work through our English class. We'll see how it goes.

Next week we'll have Zone Conference.

sorry...I really don't have time.........the mission is great! Love, Elder Bocchino

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Still here in Bangojin!

On Saturday we did have an unusual day. In the morning we played soccer with the ward men/boys and then ate at a member's restaurant. Then my comp and I took two of the boys to play basketball at the Young Men basketball tournament in the ZL area Shinjung. Way fun!!! We're hoping to do that again in a few weeks and include some other branches. Playing basketball is a great tool we can use to build relationships with young men here in Korea. They're funny when they play b-ball.

On Sunday night (Sister Corrigan's last night) we had an awesome dinner appointment with some members. We had spaghetti, real salad (with cucumbers!), fruit salad, Costco pizza and cheesecake. Amazing. That's all I can say. The American-ness of the meal was somewhat offset because we ate while sitting on the floor, but it was still great. The wife told lots of funny stories making fun of her husband for dating a lot when they were younger (prior to marriage). They're hilarious and really great members.

Our Branch Mission Leader has been in America for a few weeks, so we've been teaching Gospel Principles class in his absence. That means watching movies hahaha.....we watched The Testaments over the past two Sundays - good movie.

Yesterday we went to the mission home for a meeting for all district leaders in the mission. It was interesting, despite being mostly administrative.

Yep, really nothing crazy to report. This transfer is ending, but Elder Murray and I will be staying together here in Bangojin for another transfer. Love, Elder Bocchino

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Emergency Response Meeting

We're gonna try to get into a university or community center weight room for our P-day today. I'd love to pump some iron.

Sister Lee is still doing great! We watched The Testaments (movie) with her and she loved it. She is very spiritually sensitive and really feels that God is happy with the choices and decisions she's made. She has a wonderfully strong testimony of this gospel and constantly hungers for more knowledge. She also works two jobs to support her son and daughter, and is an angel to the missionaries. What a wonderful woman and an inspiration for me to do better!

A member who was baptized, maybe two years ago, went to serve in the Temple for the first time last week. A great experience! It's great to see the members here in Bangojin deepening their faith and working to apply the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives. She had some questions after she went, so we went with the Sister missionaries to meet with her. Great discussions!

Last Sunday, the Branch had a practice "emergency response" meeting to test the emergency calling plan, and all gathered to the church building that night. We ate kimchi pancakes and ramen and had a great time! Way fun! I just hope we don't have to do that for real, like I'm sure churches in Haiti had to do...please keep the Haitian people in your prayers!

We set up an appointment with a potentially great university student investigator last night, and got punked. We'll see if we can find some other time to meet him. Still working on trying to find less active members! Always interesting...I'm pretty sure I'm beefing up my resume for whenever I apply to work for a private detective agency...seriously.

We've been having some very interesting and spiritual district meetings lately, thanks to the district members. I've been learning a lot from the missionaries I'm around, and they're seeing a lot of baptisms and interesting experiences. Last week, we attended the baptism of two girls and a middle-aged woman. I was able to interview them and found them worthy for baptism. President Jennings was able to attend the service, and gave a great talk!

Ulsan is doing great! We're still working on becoming a Stake. Things are good! The Gospel is true!!!! Love, Elder Bocchino

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Slump Day!!!

If the going-home schedule doesn't change with the changing pdays, today is my SLUMP DAY. That means 6 months until I'm in America!

So, a very cold week in Ulsan. It apparently snowed buckets in Beijing, Seoul, Taegu and even the little town of Yongchon (where Elder Singleton is) but it was just very cold rain in Ulsan. Disappointing.

It's been pretty hard to actually have appointments with people over the last few weeks due to the plethora of holidays, but we've still had some interesting experiences. Sister Lee continues to progress since her baptism and is so happy to be living a gospel-centered life. We met with her, her daughter and her son the other day and ate seafood soup with them (yep, definitely ate some tentacles and other things I couldn't identify). The daughter is a college student who the sister missionaries want to meet. The son is a really shy high school student. Sister Lee really wanted us to help them and wants them to join the church.

Sister Kim (a member who was baptized a year and a half ago) is going to the temple for the first time tomorrow night. We're helping her prepare for that. We're also teaching the Gospel Principles class since the teacher is visiting America for a month. That's fun! The Sisters' baptism (Sister Ooh) was confirmed last Sunday.

Yesterday, we had District Meeting. It was great! We discussed the Book of Mormon and Faith. It was also my companion's year-in-country mark. So we ate WHALE MEAT SOUP. Tasted kind of like beef...but fishy.

Tomorrow we have interviews with the mission president, then I'll interview 3 of the Shinjung Sisters' investigators who want to be baptized this Saturday.

With the difficulty in meeting people recently, the spiritual high points have been district meetings and Sister Lee. We hit a low last week when Elder Matsurra and I were on splits. Searching for less actives, we ran into a father who didn't like that we knocked on his door, so he yelled at us in Korean low-form* and slammed the door in our faces. At one point, this man had invited missionaries into his house to teach his daughter and allowed her to be baptized, but now for some reason felt perfectly fine making us feel like trash and let us freeze on his porch. The day had been full of disappointments and discouragement for us, and I wanted to talk to him again. I almost knocked on his door again because I wanted a confrontation so badly (and had some uncharitable thoughts). Instead, Elder Matsurra and I just stood there...cooled down...and then just laughed with each other. Elder Matsurra has a chuckle that's contagious. The cute puppy downstairs also lifted our spirits. I'm pretty sure I repented later for my angry thoughts. ^^

Discouragement, Doubt, Fear...all are opposed to Faith. I testify that as we live faithfully we have no need to fear, and by exercising our faith we invite the Holy Ghost and legions of angels to work by our side. I'll try better to remember that next time!

The Gospel is true! Love, Elder Bocchino

ps the lunar new year isn't in's in bad!

*note from Sis. Bocchino: we inquired about Korean low form, and were told "Korean low form is a form you can use when speaking to someone younger than you (usually quite a bit younger than you and usually only if you have enough age to make it work), or with a romantic interest, or with family, or to animals, or when you're really really angry (at someone younger ish than you.) and then it's kinda like a very rude hand cuts."