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