This week was weird for us. We had transfer meeting on tuesday. President had another trainee and I bear our testimonies' and share one of our recent converts conversion story's. I am getting better at speaking in front of people. It was pretty funny because President threw the Monterey district, in our zone, for a loop. The old district leader got transfered to Freemont to be a zone leader. They then failed to call the new district leader up to the new leader's meeting. Elder Miller and I had no idea who it would be until we were actually at transfer meeting. Elder Miller informed the Elder about an hour before our Zone Leadership meeting. Needless to say the new district leader is nervous. Kind of funny, but he'll do great.

Thanksgiving was excellent. We went to the Campbell's house with one of our recent converts and her family. The 20 year old daughter and the daughter's boyfriend are investigators. It is kind of sad because they are slipping away. Their mom is an excellent example for them, but they just won't commit. But I digress. Thanksgiving was great. The family appreciated being there and the Campbells are "ward renowned" cooks. Their pie was an acceptable substitute.

Friday wasn't real fun since I woke up with a 100+ degree fever. I slept till 12 and it went away, but I still felt funky.
The week was slow since it was a holiday. We just did a lot of service. Always fun doing service.

This transfer will be focused on finding investigators, and getting in the doors of more less actives. Since we baptized 2 last transfer and could only teach about 3 less actives consistently, our teaching pool is waning. We will work on bolstering it back up this transfer. We have some good prospects and are working with members to get referalls.

That was this week. Pretty uneventful, but our fridge is stocked so I'm happy.

All quiet on the western front.

-Elder Richards

Pictures from last monday's aquarium visit.

Ocean out back made me feel at home. Aside from it being cold out...

How to Be a Member Missionary

I've been meaning to do this for a while, but just haven't had time. This is my write up of the Preach my Gospel fireside that President Watkins gave with Elder Packer (area authority, not Boyd K.). This fireside was all about how members can get involved in missionary work. Since we don't tract anymore, the rescue test employs a greater use of members in finding. We have been bringing the fireside to members to help them catch the missionary spirit. We used a lot from chapter 9.
Developing the Faith to Find
"The doctrines and principles in this chapter will strengthen your faith that the Lord is
preparing people to receive you and the restored gospel. He will lead you to them or
He will lead them to you." (PMG pg 155)

This is a reassuring paragraph. It also applies to members. The Lord is certainly preparing people and either they will be lead to us or He will lead us to them. It goes with the house analogy. In an investigator's life, the Lord builds the foundation. He is always letting them have experiences and meet people that will prepare the investigator to hear the gospel. The members then come in and build the walls. They are responsible for the social conversion. Fellowshipping the member and being a general positive influence for them help build up a good view of the gospel. The missionaries then come in and top it off with the roof. We are responsible for the teaching. We can be bolder then a member can be, and the members don't have to worry about the teaching since that isn't their job. If something goes wrong in the teaching, you can always blame it on the missionaries. We get transfered anyway (that was President Watkins' interjection). There are always difficulties and obstacles that members have with sharing the gospel, and Elder Packer gave 5 "arrows" that we can put in our quiver to help us. 

"2 And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me;"  (2 Nephi 21:2)

1 Pray for missionary experiences everyday. 

As we pray for missionary experiences, they will happen. They will not be grand manifestations of someone coming up to you and saying "I want to be baptized!" They will come more subtlety, but they will happen. An opportunity where a friend asks "what did you do this weekend?" or "Why don't you do that?" are excellent opportunities to share the gospel. Those are missionary experiences. We are no longer in the days of "help the missionaries find the right people." We are in the days of "help me find the right person." Although we missionaries still love and are grateful for the prayers.

2 Use the Ward Council
This point highlights that we can bring names to the ward council members and they can bring them up. Ward councils now are all about helping people and making sure the needs of people are met, and less about which auxiliary is which and calendaring. Letting the ward council know of needs of people is a great way to help with member missionary work.

3 Feed My Sheep
This point is interesting. Elder Packer suggested that we make a list of 100 names, ranging from our best friend in the world, to the cashier at the grocery store whose name we don't know. Throw out any preconceived notions of "they wouldn't be interested." Just write down names. Then take this list and prayerfully select a few names. Elder Packer listed 3 or 4 examples of how people off his list have been baptized. Not everyone will be prepared enough for that, but opportunities will come. 

4 Invite People to Everything
This point helps members build those walls of fellowship. It helps people interact with other members and feel that spirit, even if it isn't a gospel centered event. Christmas is coming up and between choir performances, the First Presidency broadcast, ward christmas parties and all the other stuff going on make great things to invite non-members too. I am challenging everyone reading this letter to bring at least one non-member to something this christmas season. The more you invite, the more bridges are built, and the more apt they are to investigate the gospel more seriously.

5 Invite people to Sacrament
If people are ready, invite them to sacrament. Sacrament is one of the best places to feel the spirit. It helps people learn and grow, and receive answers to prayers. Elder Packer threw out a stat that some huge percentage of people who attend sacrament are baptized (sorry, don't remember the number). Sacrament meeting is the best way to help a person know more about the church. When they are confused or ask you some deep doctrine question, turn that into a sacrament invite. Say something like, "I don't really know that, but you can learn things like that at church with me this sunday." Something along those lines. Turn everything into an invite. Another point Elder Packer made about invites is that many people are flattered to receive them. Inviting someone to see you give a talk, teach a lesson, or see a child's baptism or ordination, is an honor. When we are invited to a catholic baptism, a christening, a Bar-Mitzvah, or some other religious event, we are flattered. It goes both ways. 

Remember that no effort is wasted.
No Effort Is Wasted
When people choose not to investigate the restored gospel, your work is not wasted.
Your consistent efforts in serving and teaching as many people as you can is one way
God prepares His children to eventually receive His servants. He often reaches out to His
children through you. Even when people do not accept the opportunity to learn the
gospel, your service and words are evidence of God’s love for them and may plant seeds
that future missionaries and members of the Church will harvest.
When people do not accept the gospel, do not be discouraged. You have raised a
warning voice. You have given them a clear choice. Disciples of Christ feel sorrow when
people choose not to repent, but they maintain a vision of who they are and what they are
doing. They continue to diligently move forward. (PMG pg 170)

We've been teaching people that for a couple weeks now, and we've seen returns from it. I know that as the members are involved in missionary work, the work progresses even quicker. It is the best way to do missionary work.

Have a good week and remember to pray for missionary experiences. 

-Elder James Richards

The Second Transfer.

Well this week starts the new transfer! I have been on my mission for about 2 months. My trainer, Elder Miller, is staying with me, since the new training program has us on a 12-week course. He will most likely be transferred at the end of next transfer. This transfer has been a highly successful one. Elder Miller can't remember the last time he had 2 baptisms in 1 transfer. We are hovering right around 17 lessons. We got over 20 once. This next transfer's goal will be to give the extra push to try and consistently reach 20 lessons. Not many areas in the zone (or the mission for that matter) can do that. We are planning a temple trip to the Oakland temple for baptisms for our recent converts and others, and a visitors center trip for some investigators and less actives. President Watkins allows us to take investigators to the visitors center, or see our converts get their other temple work done after they have been a member for a year. It is an exciting prospect to think that I could be at the temple in a year with some of the people we recently baptized. 

Today we went to the Monterey aquarium with our recent convert and her family. It was pretty cool. Lots of sharks and fish, and I got to pet a bat ray. It was good for the mom to get out of their little east-side house, and the kids to run around and see all the fish and stuff. The ocean smell brought me home.

-Elder Richards

To Sincerely Listen Again

Hello all,

This week has been great. We taught a ton of lessons, got some new investigators, but more importantly, got another baptism. Gina was baptized on the 12th (I voted for the 11th) and confirmed yesterday. She was nervous and anxious and excited before the baptism. After she was happy and calm. I love seeing the conversion people make. We use the words "convert" and "conversion" for a reason. When people accept the gospel it is an incredible change in their lives. They work to their baptism day and satan does so much to try to derail them, but when they make it, there is nothing sweeter. 
Yesterday I went to the outgoing fireside in San Jose. It was really cool. The missionaries leaving bare their testimony and there are some musical numbers. You can tell some of them are really scared to leave. I got to see a few missionaries that flew out with me and they are doing well. Next week we won't be the newest missionaries anymore. I'm almost done with my first transfer...
The apartment is a mission apartment, but it isn't too bad. I am always either eating leftovers or making some type of something. I don't really ever eat much frozen food. We always get a ton of bread for some reason... My backpack already ripped. A sister in the ward sewed it up for me. I figured mom would probably be disappointed I didn't know how to do it.
-Elder Richards

After the Baptism

Wild turkeys in Marina. We'll see if they are still there after Thursday...

Gina's Baptism!

My trainer, Elder Miller, and his two trainees

Get ready for another ridiculous week.

The work is moving forward nicely. While our numbers weren't as high as last week, we worked just as hard. We gave a lot of service, which is part of our "Rescue test," or the program that was put into place when they got rid of tracting. We have also been working through a less active list and contacting our referrals.  We have a baptism scheduled for saturday and satan doesn't want to let this one go. He is throwing so much stuff in our investigator's way. Yesterday being an example of how hectic things have been. We called her before church, and she was having a mini-meltdown about her baptism this week. She was scared because she knows it is true, but it is a huge change for her. She ended up missing our sacrament. We went over there, talked her down, and convinced her to go to the Salinas 1st ward sacrament meeting. She went and loved it. Her children were also fairly well behaved. Probably better then I was as a crazy 3 year old. We will be working very hard so nothing satan throws at her will derail her this week. It seems like everything that can go wrong, does go wrong, the week before an invesigator is baptized.

We worked so hard on getting her and her family to church, and we were also greatful for the people that were in church. We had a less active there for the 3rd sunday in a row. He is this great German guy who likes to ask the ridiculously difficult questions. He keeps us on our toes. We also had a 25 year old guy, who is also less active, in church. We have been teaching him since I got here. Tonight we are going by to teach him about the priesthood, since he hasn't been ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood yet. This is a big part of the rescue test. We try to help less actives back to church. So far, it has been working pretty well.

This week we have an appointment with a referral that we set up. We left a message and she actually called us back. Amazing. It should be a very busy week.

 The work is moving forward well here. I know that we are seeing the benefits from the members continued support and prayers for missionary expiriences. Working with members and the ward council is what drives the work here. It is WAY better then tracting.

Love you all,

-Elder Richards