Good last week.

Well, this last week was great. The ward was sad to see me go, which is a miracle. When I came in, it was a hard place to be a missionary. No one wanted anything to do with us. We really turned it around. Our Bishop was very appreciative, and everyone on our ward counsel came up to wish me well. Since the area next to us got white washed and sisters are being put in, our ward mission leader asked us if we were being whitewashed. We said no, Elder Son is still staying, and his immediate reply was "good, that would have been terrible!" That is amazing to me. If you had asked him 6 months ago if he wanted Elders out of the area he would have said yes in a heartbeat. He would have said that when I first got here too. Elder Son will do amazing things here. Those sisters in the other ward will also support sister work in our ward, and a senior couple just landed in our building, so the ward has access to 6 missionaries, and they can use all 6. That is a huge turn around from just 4 months ago. 

We picked up a part-member family this week as an investigator. This is the kind of family that the ward council goes "Wow you taught them??" It was really cool, and a great lesson. They also came to my outgoing fireside. It was an excellent week. A perfect end. I'm leaving with about 12 investigators and 4 of those will go to the sisters. The area will basically be split and both companionships will have lots of work to do. It is really exciting. 

I don't really have much more to say. I have loved my mission so much. I have mixed feelings about going home. It is incredibly hard to leave, but I'm excited to tackle new things. This is the happiest chapter in my life and it's coming to a close. I'm sure there are many more good things ahead. 

Signing off for the last time,

-Elder James Richards

Last week??

Well, this is my last full week. That's weird. 

This past week was great. We got our Iraqi investigator to church and he loved it. We really need to find an Arabic speaker to help us ever so often, but we're doing good with the teaching. I'm learning to recognize the names of certain prophets and numbers in Arabic.

We picked up two new, pretty solid investigators this past week. One is named Victor. He is 15 and is a pretty cool kid. He lives in a pretty hood neighborhood, but he's a really good kid. He's really trying. Will help  him out a lot. We also picked up an investigator named Erica. She's got a pretty big family, so we're going to try to start teaching her husband and some of her kids too. We were knocking on the door of a former investigator and we street contacted Erica. She was super friendly and invited us back. We went back a few days later and had a great lesson. 

We've set some big goals for this week and are driving hard to achieve them. 

-Elder James Richards

D&C 88:73

So this week was my last mission leadership council meeting, and my last stake missionary correlation meeting. The Stake President's name for the San Jose South stake is President Green. We had an ultra-positive SMCM with him, his counselors, President Watkins, and the HC over missionary work. From what I hear the last few hadn't been so positive, but the work is really moving now. The last MLC meeting was different. This one was the first on I'd been to with Sister Training Leaders. My last one in Pleasanton was right before the STLs were called. 

This week went great for us. Elder Baldwin, Elder Horlacher (one of the APs that I served in Fremont with,) and I set a goal for each of us to get at least one new date per week for the rest of the transfer. Elder Baldwin and his companion's got theirs with 3 hours of setting this goal. Elder Horlacher and companion got one on Sunday afternoon. That one is amazing since the they are the assistants and usually have between 2 and 3 hours to proselyte each day. Elder Son and I were visiting potentials like crazy, trying to set a baptismal date. We set up an appointment with one for Monday (today) and as we are walking out, we see two kids sitting on the porch at the apartment opposite of the person we were visiting. We almost walked away, but we decided to go talk to them. We end up sitting down with them, teaching the restoration, and setting a baptismal date with both of them! Oscar and Brian, October 5th. We get out of that lesson at about 830 at night, and we weren't going to turn in until 9. We do a little contacting at a shopping center. We walk by a bus stop and this guy asks us if the buses still run. They weren't, so we directed him to the light rail, so he could get to where he needed to go. I've become a champion of VTA public transit. We get to talking to him and end up inviting him to be baptized. He commits to October 5th! Super nice guy, and he actually lives in the Dry Creek area that has been struggling, so we were really excited for that. They're going by to teach him this week. At this point it's 857, so we go home, walk in and say "hey you have a baptismal date" to the Dry Creek Elders. They were confused for a second. Oh and we set our goal to get new dates on friday afternoon. So the zone ended up with 6 new dates in about 48 hours. 

We also found a family that we hope to start teaching this week. We were driving around, trying to visit with our investigators on Sunday afternoon. We see a guy sitting on his porch, so I pulled over and we talked to him. He said come back in an hour. We go back, and we talk to the wife. They were busy, they have a newborn baby, but she invited us to come back. Complete family, Mom, Dad and at least 3 kids. It is so hard to find complete families out here, it's ridiculous. We're really excited. 

Earlier this week I went on an exchange with Elder Horlacher into the assistants area. President Watkins is hilarious. I was making calls to get the stock seat back in his Miata. It's passed inspection at Laguna Seca and he had a good track day, but he described it as being as comfortable as a toilet seat. Then he had me make a call to a European dealership so they could fix his 1960 Austin Healy Sprite. This is all after he took us and 3 sisters to get lunch in his 1970's-ish VW bus that is an awful lime green color. I'm of the opinion that if you're going to buy vintage Euro cars, you should buy good ones, like an old Aston Martin or something. But to each his own I guess... That day I went with Elder Horlacher, and it was cool to be back with him. I've been on like 4 exchanges with him since I was his District Leader and then Zone Leader when we were in Fremont/Newark. 

The mission is going crazy. This last week we had 22 baptisms. This week we have 22 scheduled. It's amazing. At this rate 2013 could be higher then 2012. That will be the first year of increase in CA-SJM since '07.  And now the San Jose South zone is poised to contribute. We're very committed to making this not an armpit area. The members love the missionaries. Which, considering some of the things that previous missionaries have done here in this stake, is nothing short of a miracle. It was nice to see the zone finally take off. All it took, was a little more work and a little more faith. 

Holy long letter...

-Elder James Richards

VW Bus pics. Note my sweet new brown shoes.


So this week, Pleasanton broke their baptismal record for 1 year. and they did it in about 8 months. Pretty cool.

We had a pretty good week this past week. We talked to Bernie on the phone and she was out and about, so she's recovering from her surgery well, and we should be able to meet with her this week. We've got another lesson set up with a referral from a member. She's already been to church and her daughter went to young womens and absolutely loved it. We've got a lot of work going and the ward is catching up to us. They're really helping us find more people to teach, which is great. We've got an appointment set up with another part member family this week. 

We have this one investigator that has been very diligent about reading the Book of Mormon. We knock on the door and he goes and grabs his Book of Mormon and talks to us about how he liked 2 Nephi 4. He kept saying Nephi was the man. It's pretty cool to see him starting to grasp it. 

This week was good. We did more missionary work, I fixed more bikes for President, and life goes on. I can say that I've worked on at least 30 of the bikes that are floating around the mission, either putting them together or fixing them. President isn't going to know what to do when I leave.

Have a good week.

-Elder Richards

back to that again...

Well, back to ZL grind. I was enjoying getting to sleep on time on Sunday evenings, but that doesn't happen any more. This is a big zone. Lots of numbers.

This last week was good. We had a member invite his friend to church, and she is really great. She and her daughter were there and she is really looking. We're meeting with them this week. One of our investigators has been out after having back surgery, but she has been in really good contact with us, and we'll text scriptures and such every so often. 

Our mission here has been going up and up every week. We're up over 100 baptismal dates now. I don't know if we've ever been over 100 in the time that I've been here. The work really is hastening. 

So, sorry my emails are getting more and more lame. But you all know me. so... yea. Life is good. Life is busy. Busy is good. We're praying hard to get a few people in the water before the end of the transfer. That is all.

-Elder James Richards

What a week.

So this week was transfers and a lot of craziness went down. President Watkins couldn't leave me well enough alone, and so I'm a zone leader again this transfer. For my last transfer... It's also super weird because I'm still with Elder Son, and the other zone leader (who is Elder Baldwin by the way) is in a different ward in the stake. This last week was dedicated to figuring out how this split-ZL thing works. We've got things more normal now, but we were scrambling for a bit there. This zone is one of the biggest with 25 missionaries in it. We aren't super big geographically, but we live in the weird armpit of the zone that they made so they could split up downtown into a few different wards. It will be a different transfer this transfer. Other crazy things are happening, like sisters covering wards from multiple stakes, areas splitting, and some general madness. 

This week we set a baptismal date with one of our investigators. His name is Adrian and he's wanting to turn his life around, and already has for a few months. He did some short time in prison and was on all manner of substances. He's been out for a while and been clean for a few months. He said he needs some more. That's where the Gospel comes in. He seems very sincere and we're meeting with him again this week. He was one of our miracles this week. The date is for September 14th, so we're praying and working hard to help him make that date.

We were also able to go up to Bill's baptism this last Saturday. He was very excited to see Elder Baldwin and me. I was able to be a witness and as soon as Bill came out of the water, he was very emotional. The first thing he said was "Thank you Jesus. It's been a long time." He was able to be baptized and not have it create a rift between him and his son, who is basically the only family he has left. A member family was instrumental in making this happen. When he was getting close while I was there, we asked the ward council to assign Home Teachers. One of the members in there volunteered and fulfilled his role faithfully. Bill became the family's adopted Grandpa. They were in good contact even after he dropped Elder Baldwin and I. They gave him books to read and talked to him about the church. Bill knew it was true about 5 days into us teaching him, he just had so much opposition coming from all sides. He was able to overcome it though, really with the help of those members. It was awesome to see. In the Pleasanton Stake Mission Plan, one of the initiatives was to have investigators home taught before baptism. It was a combination of a lot of things that brought Bill here, but without those members, he wouldn't have been baptized. He only had to be dunked once, which was something I had been praying for for weeks. 

This was a really inspiring week for us. Despite all the things we had to do out of our area, we were still able to reach our weekly goals, and find Adrian and set that date with him. Now we have even more potentials and will be good for finding this week too. This area is starting to move even more then it was. It's exciting.

-Elder James Richards

The missionaries that taught Bill, Bill, his son, The members, and Elder Son (he snuck in).

Pretty cool, all my posterity was at transfer meeting. My sons and grandsons. Elder Son is on my right.

It begins.

So, today we start the 6 week push. We're going as hard as we can for 6 weeks. It's going to be madness. The mission is going crazy right now. We have more baptisms set up for Friday and Saturday then we've had in a long time. One of those is Bill Wentworth in the good old Pleasanton 2nd ward. We got a ride, so Elder Baldwin and I are going back up for it on Saturday. We're both super excited for it. In our area we've got a lot of potentials with youth. Some kids just had some great experiences at Zion's camp and girls camp and so we're hoping to start teaching them. We've got a lot of people that we're teaching and some are very close. They just need to commit to a date.  We're praying for miracles this transfer and expecting them. Our goals are high, but are very reachable. 

I don't really know what else to say. All out for the last six weeks. I can sleep when I get on the plane :)

-Elder Richards