Neuvo año


So, it is crazy that 2012 is over tonight. The full calendar year in my mission is ending. Next year there will be a part of it where I'm not a missionary. Scary prospect. 

This past year was awesome. Salinas, Newark, and Pleasanton have all been good. Got to be with great missionaries, and meet great people. There was great success in seeing people like Elijah get baptized, Samson leaving on his mission, the Fremont zone turn around, baptisms in Salinas, reactivations all over, and tons of hours served. Certainly one, if not the, best years of my life. 

Now we are looking at 2013, and some amazing developments. Fremont and Pleasanton (the two lowest baptizing from last year) are looking at the most baptisms in the first part of 2013. Incredible turn around. Elder Bingham, in Newark, is still working with people that we taught and has a lot committed for baptism. Here in Pleasanton, the sisters have a baptism of a family of 4 on Friday. Then next week Elder Platt and his companion have a baptism of a 17 year old boy who's mother had been quite anti. After him going to church for two years, his mother finally caved in, and he will be baptized on the 12th. There are also two more scheduled for next week. We have a family of 4 that we are teaching. It looks like they'll probably be baptized in February or March. By the end of the month of January, we will have baptized 7 as a zone. In 2012, the zone baptized 14. We're looking at a big year for Pleasanton. There is a spark in the air in Pleasanton, and members and missionaries alike are realizing that there is work to be done and work that can be done, so it is a really good time to be here.

One of my goals for the new year is to finish the Book of Mormon 5 times in the year. I've only finished it once on the mission so far, so I'd like to read it more. I'm in Helaman now and I'm reading about Nephi and Lehi. They were amazing missionaries. They were bold, caring, knowledgeable, and they followed the spirit. I'm going to try even harder in 2013 to work at those things. 

We have an investigator named Bill, who we've been working with, who has read the majority of the Book of Mormon. He believes it is true. He's a great guy, but he's 89 and has limited mobility, which makes things difficult. He can get out sometimes though, so we're trying to find a way to get him to church. He's already got a testimony of the Book of Mormon and great faith in Christ. He's a great guy, so hopefully he'll be baptized soon as well.  

This week we picked up a new Investigator as well. His name is Ben and he's in his 60s. He's studied religion all his life and has been a pastor and an elder and lots of different things in his church. A member brought him to the ward Christmas party and we talked to him for a while there. We're going to try and see again him tonight. It should be really interesting to teach him.

We now have 7 investigators in this area. Considering we had 0 when I got here, that's not too bad. 2013 is looking good. 

Have a happy new year!

-Elder James Richards


So to answer some questions, yes, I am still a zone leader. Pleasanton right now is the lowest baptizing zone in the mission. It was recently passed by Fremont, because they had some good looking zone leader or something like that. We're super excited for next year though. We're looking at a few families that have committed to baptism in the first 2 months. That would be awesome. 

No, the weather here is not good. It is cold. Last week it was in the 40s and rainy. I'm going to buy another coat today. 

We do touch the Oakland mission here. Danville and San Ramon are out of the mission, but Dublin is in our stake. Livermore is a different stake, but also in the mission. It is funny because my roommate from school is from Danville, and the singles ward here pulls from the Danville and Livermore stakes as well. Not sure what happened to him, but I'll see if the missionaries there know him.

This week was tough. Elder Baldwin and I were both sick for different parts of the week. We both seem to be on the up and up now, and are excited for this coming week. We are going to be working a lot of leads that our Bishop gave us. There are a lot of children in this ward who haven't been baptized. We are going to work there to try to find some new people to teach. Bishops are always a great resource, because they know everyone. We're excited for this week. 

Last night, the stake had a youth choir performance that was really good. The cool thing was that there were a ton of non-members there. We have been inviting people to this and pushing it for the last 2 weeks, and the turn out was excellent. A lady came up to us and expressed interest in coming to church with her friend next Sunday. She's in the Sister's area, so we told them to keep an eye out this coming week. 

Sorry this letter is lame, but coldness and sickness don't make for much news. We're really excited for this coming week though. It should be a great one. We're going to work hard to find some new investigators and reach the goals and standards of excellence that we have. 

A cool side note, the Fremont zone had 2 baptisms last week, 1 the week before, and 1 coming up this week. That will be four in 3 weeks. Pretty good when the stake baptized 14 the whole rest of the year. They're not done either. There should be a few more coming up soon. Now we just need to get Pleasanton rolling. 

In closing, the fun fact of the day is that Pleasanton is the most affluent mid-sized city in America. I'm being fed well. Maybe too well...

-Elder James Richards

I'm still alive

New Address:
3955 Vineyard Ave # 67
Pleasanton, CA 94566

So today is my first PDay in Pleasanton. It is very different from my wards in Salinas and Newark. Instead of salad fields, we have vineyards. Instead of former gang bangers, we have the number 2 guy at Safeway Grocery stores. Instead of the ghetto eastside, we have a nuts expensive gated neighborhood called Ruby Hill. It is pretty different. Money is in the Pleasanton Second Ward.

Pleasanton is a historically slow area. It is funny, because Pleasanton was the zone we were always competing with while we were in Fremont. Now we compete with Fremont. It is looking really good though. In my area, they had two baptisms last transfer. The ward really, really likes us. We also picked up 5 new investigators this last week. One is a guy who has lived in Pleasanton forever. He is sitting on this multi-million dollar plot of land between a ritzy neighborhood and a golf course. He probably traded 20 dollars and a horse for it. Leave it to me to find hillbillies in one of the richest wards in California. He's a really nice guy. His name is Bill and we found him street contacting. We went over and talked to him and he's had some rough medical things happen in his life. He has a lot of faith. Hopefully, we can get him to church soon. The other 4 new investigators were a family. They are a half Nicaraguan, Half Filipino family. They've met with missionaries in the past and have had super positive experiences,  so we are really excited. We're going back Thursday for another appointment. It is really cool to have a family to teach. They're great. Very chatty though. We have some other potentials we are trying. One guy named Guy is a referral from a member. He has a lot of money. And his daughter said she wanted to start going to a church, so that is cool. 

My new companion's name is Elder Baldwin. He's from Preston, Idaho and he's been out 8 months. He's a cool kid, and actually played Lacrosse in High school. We've been doing a lot of work. 
Elder Bingham is still in Newark and he is actually training a new missionary. He was nervous about training, but it sounds like he's doing good. The biggest disappointment about getting transferred  was that I missed Samson's mission farewell by a week. Apparently, the place was packed. Elder Platt is actually also here in Pleasanton, in the Third ward, so we see him a lot. 

This transfer, we're going to work hard to help bring the zone up. It's been tough in Pleasanton, but President has put a really good group of missionaries up here. We're looking to start the coming year strong, hopefully with a few families getting baptized right off the bat. That would be huge. We had a zone fast the other night to help build up the members of the zone. We're fortunate in that we have some work, but there are a few companionships that have next to nothing. We're going to help them find some people to teach. It'll be another slog to get this going, but it's been done before, we can do it again. 

Last night we ate dinner with a family, and the son had his girlfriend there. She served in the FLL mission and only got home a month ago. She knew Elder K and Neely really well. She said Elder K is dating her trainer. Smooth. 

Also, Mom got me sick. I read her letter and then that night had a fever of like 101.5. Spreading germs through the mail. tsk tsk. Not really though, I had a sore throat that morning, and I wasn't out for six days. I still have a crazy cough though. Wal-tussin is doing great. I'm too cheap for regular Robitussin. It brought me back to days when I would have a cough and Mom would make me take the medicine, even though it was the most vile liquid ever. I'd never get the whole cup down in one gulp and she'd make me drink the little bit left, always saying "I'm not going to have your cough keep me awake!" I was always a bitter 6 year old. Good times. 

So Emails will be on Mondays now. Happy Christmas.

-Elder James Richards

A very Tagalog Thanksgiving

So don't worry about my Thanksgiving. We ate three times. At the last house we had a lot of Filipino food at our Ward Mission Leader's house. Us and his daughter's boyfriend were the only white boys. It inspired a children's book that I am going to write, entitled, "A Very Tagalog Thanksgiving."

This week was a good week for us. We had both of the investigators that are committed to be baptized in church. Nick had to leave shortly after the sacrament, but we were excited to see him there. Sharon is basically active, so it doesn't take any teeth pulling on our part to get her there. She has a lot of family that are members. You know, big Tongan family. Her uncle will be blessing a baby in our ward this coming Sunday, and they've actually asked us to stand in on the blessing. That will be a different kind of experience. I don't think I've ever met the uncle either. Sharon was set for the 8th, but she expressed a concern that she doesn't want to be rushing in to it. She didn't understand too much about baptism, so we just taught about it and why it is important. We haven't moved the date yet, so we're going to follow up with her tomorrow at our lesson. She's been doing great otherwise though. She is good friends with a fairly active young woman, who used to not be active, so it is good for her too.

This last week I went rogue. And went out of the mission. I was on an exchange with Elder Horlacher, who is in the ASL branch. Since they are the only ASL missionaries in the bay area, they have a little more leniency with where they can travel. We went to Hayward, which is like half way between Newark and Oakland. The cool experience of that day was that we were able to give a deaf lady a blessing. I anointed and Elder Horlacher translated, but then he gave the blessing. I left my hands on her head, he took his off and signed the blessing so she could see, and when he was done, he put his hands back on her head. It was an amazing expirience. Even though no "words" were said, I could really feel the spirit as I had my hands on her head and watched the other Elder sign the blessing. It was exactly the same feeling as if the blessing had been in english. Really powerful.

This week on Black Friday we got a new investigator. His name is Scott and he's a late 30's, early 40's black guy that is super cool. We had an appointment with another potential that we were bringing our WML to and the appointment fell through. I felt like we should visit Scott, who we'd been trying to see, without success for a month. We went by, and he was there! We didn't teach him a super formal lesson, just talked. He has been taught by missionaries in the past, but his depression hampered his ability to meet. He's better now, and has a better grasp on agency and certain things happen then I do. We said hi to him on Sunday and he said he requested work off so he could make it this coming Sunday. We're teaching him on Thursday.

So, this week is most likely my last in Newark. Transfers are next week and I'll know on Saturday if I'm leaving. So unless I go to two of the other stakes in Alameda, you probably won't get an email until the following Monday. There is a lot of good stuff going on, and I'll definitely have to come back for some baptisms, like Sharon and Nick and hopefully even Scott.

One last cool thing that I can think of, Is that Richard picked up the phone! I felt prompted to call, and did, and he answered. He's living in San Jose now, and sounded fairly happy to talk to me, so I'm going to call him again, and refer him to missionaries down there. It'll be ironic if he is in Elder Howard's area, since we are the missionaries that started teaching him.

Also, there is a Notre Dame football star, Manti Teo, or something like that, that is cousins to one of the members in my ward here. They said they are scheming to get to the National Championship game, which is at Dolphin Stadium this year.

This week was good. Have a good week, and if I get transfered, have another good week.

-Elder Richards

So you're not a member?

This past week the zone went nuts. We now have 9 people comitted to be baptized and 1 was baptized on Saturday. To give you a context the zone has 14 baptism YTD. We're looking at a HUGE December. It really is the missionaries here excercising faith. All of a sudden, two companionships have positioned themselves very well to hit the 3 baptism by the end of the year goal. Other companionships (including us) can get it with a small amount of digging. In a week's time, that goal went from lofty, to very attainable. It is pretty neat how inspired goals can work. We're working hard to get all those people that have comitted to the waters, and working hard to find more.

This week I went on a split with the spanish Elders, since one of them was sick. We were able to invite that investigator to be baptized, and she said yes. She actually walked 2 miles to get to church last Sunday. She is impressive and is really trying to follow Christ. I'm understanding a decent amount of spanish. When asked me where my jacket was I was able to respond. Pretty cool.

As far as our own area goes, we've had some great success this week. Yesterday, we met with a Tongan young woman named Sharon. She has been in church the last 3 weeks, and we all thought she was a member... She decided to start going because her grandparents were originally members. She grew up Methodist. She loves going to church and loves YW. Our WMLs wife is actually a young woman leader, so we taught her at their house last night. We invited her to be baptized and she accepted for December 8th. Thats a week after transfers, so if I end up getting moved, I'll have to come back for the baptism. She was excited though, so it's pretty cool.

We also had a member refer us to her friends, two Philipino women. One is older, and barely speaks english, and one is middle aged, but really felt the spirit. She's excited for our next lesson. Our ward mission leader gave her a ride home, and she told him that she felt terrible that whole day, and when she talked with she felt better. We'll invite her to be baptized again this next lesson, and we really feel like she'll say yes.

Soo this week was good. I got Mom's card today, but haven't had a chance to read the letter yet, so thank you. Check out There is supposed to be a huge internet campaign rolling out soon.

Happy Thanksgiving

-Elder James Richards

We're here to Just Serve.


So this is late because we had some unplanned service. We were walking out of district meeting at a church in Fremont and someone came up and asked if they could park their moving truck there because it didn't fit in the apartment complex they were moving the person in to. They were going to just UHaul it into the complex. We said they could park there and ask if they needed help. They said yes, and so four of us helped them move stuff from their big truck, to the smaller uhaul, and then into the guy's apartment. It was weird, for as many times as I've helped people move, I've never helped a professional moving company. It went really smoothly. We invited the man that moved in to the ward that he would be in and he said he would go. He was grateful. The people from the moving company also insisted on paying us or buying us lunch or donating to the church, so we just gave them the Bishop's number so they could work that out. Pretty cool service opportunity. And that is why this Email is late.

This last week was good. On Saturday, we were having an awful day. No one liked us, and no one let us in, etc. We were as Job. We then went and visited a less active member we hadn't really planned on. She let us in and her 14 year old son who is not a member was there. We taught him a lesson and invited him to be baptized and he said yes! It went from a bad day to a good day very quickly. His name is Nick and he's a good kid. He splits a lot of time between his dad's house and his mom's so we can only teach him on the weekends.

Samson is getting ready to go on his mission and is going to the temple on Friday. I'm proud of the kid. He's had more opposition than anyone and he could have easily not gone. It's been cool to help him in his prep. Kind of like our elders helped me out.

Thanks for all the mail, sorry this is short, but we've got to get some stuff done before dinner.

-Elder Richards.

Happy Election day!


Hope all is going well. I'm sure everyone is excited for the election to be over tonight. We are. Not that anyone is being belligerent or anything, but because the "are you voting for Romney??" questions are getting old.

Anyway, last week was pretty good. It was great to see one guy that we reactivated ask when there would be a temple prep class, and another lady there in church. She hasn't missed a day in over a month and is doing very well. It really is cool when you get to reactivate people. I hope they can get to the temple sometime soon, that would be really cool. It's been awesome to be able to help bring people back to church. The rescue really is important, and these people that have come back have been such a blessing in my life.

Today was Zone Training Meeting. It's a monthly meeting with the whole zone. Normally it is the zone leaderS that handle it, but it's just me, so I was on my own. It worked out really well. We talked about quickening our pace. There will be a ton of new missionaries coming in the first two months of next year, and we need stuff for them to do. We have so many units, not everyone English one will have two sets of missionaries, but some will. In our zone, I could see 3 extra companionships coming in. That would be really cool.

This past week we made some strides with a few of our investigators. The Russell's committed to come to church, but they got sick. Sad Face. But tomorrow we have a church tour scheduled with them, so that would be huge. We need to start moving more with them. Getting them to church is a huge priority this week. With Bev, she actually committed to come to church! This week that is. She had her granddaughter over night this past Sunday. It's no small thing that Bev has committed. She is the kind of person that won't commit very easily, but when she does, she follows through with it. We have an appointment with her on Thursday. We also have an appointment tomorrow with one of Samson's friends who came to church a few weeks ago. I feel like we do a lot of work through Samson, so he'll be missed when he leaves on his mission on December 12th.

This past Sunday, Elijah got up to bear his testimony. We got to sacrament late, because we had our stake missionary correlation meeting with the stake president, but we were just in time to see Elijah get up and share his testimony. He got up and expressed appreciation for Samson and his family and what an example they were to him and then talked about how he wants to be like Samson when he goes out on his mission. It was awesome. Elijah is a junior now, but he wants to go on his mission. He's still going to seminary and everything. He's awesome.

Speaking of seminary, the whole zone is going to seminary tomorrow. Our high councilor over missionary work, Brother Wirthlin, and us are giving a presentation and we are inviting every student to hand out a copy of the Book of Mormon before the end of the year. We've got five cases of BOMs in our apartment for it. Brother Wirthlin dreamed it up, and I think it is a great idea, especially with all the youth that have been taught (and baptized) in the last few months. We have the best stake leaders here.

Thanks for all the love an support.

Have a good week.
-Elder James Richards



This week has been really good. My new companion's name is Elder Bingham. He's from Syracuse, Utah, and has actually been out for 2 transfers. He started his mission in the Ogden mission as a trial because of some health worries. He did well, went to the MTC and now he's here. Pretty cool guy.

We had an odd week last week. With me being sick, and Elder Bingham not being here until thursday, we had a different kind of week. We had some really cool things happen though. A less active member that we work with called us out of the blue on thursday to tell us that she had officially quit coffee. We had talked to her a few weeks ago about attending the temple and she really wants to go. She was so excited to have been able to give up the coffee and fight through the withdrawls.

Another less active (or used to be less active) member got home from New Mexico and came to church all on his own. We had no idea he was even back. Before he left for New Mexico, he'd been coming every week. He's really incredible. He found the church through his then-wife and her family. After the wife made some choices that lead to the divorce, he wasn't sure whether or not he wanted to come to church after he moved back out here. He could have been very bitter against the church, but he's turned the other way and really embraced the church here.

Last night we went over to the Russell's. They are the family that we teach. They are doing really well, and we were able to talk a lot about the Gospel and find some of their concerns, which was an answer to prayers. They said they'd be at the trunk or treat tomorrow, which will be big if they come. We need to get them to church, and helping them meet more people will help a lot. It is cool to be able to teach a whole family, but juggling everyone's individual schedules and concerns has been really difficult.

After we email today, we are going to two appointments. One is with a kid we contacted in to. Hopefully he's there. Another is with Mario, whom we have taught already. Today, we are going to invite him to be baptized. He's 17 and really quiet, but he's looking for truth, so it should be great.

With being the only Zone Leader in Fremont, came a whole lot more responsibility. I'm the guy that has to coordinate with the stake and work with district leaders and missionaries that struggle. It was a little overwhelming at first, but I think I've got the hang of it.

We're working really hard to get to our 3 baptisms before the end of the year goal. We figure we've got to baptize someone in November to make it attainable. We should be able to help Mario or Eric or another investigator through. President said that with the missionary increase, our numbers are projected to jump from 190 to 250 missionaries. That means 30 new areas! It will be weird, there will probably english wards with mutiple companionships. We're trying hard to bump up the work so that these missionaries have things to do when they come in. We should get the first wave of 18 year olds early next year. It will be a very interesting time to be a missionary. The new training plan that we scoffed at that preps missionaries to turn around and train right after they are done being trained all of a sudden makes a whole lot of sense. It is almost like it was inspired or something...

And some fun news from my last area, Gina moved back to Salinas from Bakersfield, and her 15 year old son lives with her now instead of his Dad. He's getting baptized on the 10th. Pretty cool!

Thanks for all the letters and such.

-Elder James Richards

I'm still here! (and alive...)

There is big news on my end as well. I am still in Bayside, and I am actually training again next transfer. I'll be going solo as a zone leader. I pick up my companion on Thursday. Should be an interesting transfer. Elder Suzuki went back down to the Vietnamese branch in San Jose.

Today at transfer meeting, President Watkins said that the mission department got 7,500 missionary applications last week! He said they usually get about 500 a week. That is incredible. The number of missionaries, especially in the states, is about to explode. Probably means that missions are going to get split in the coming year.

Yesterday was the sickest I've been in a long time. Elder Suzuki and I got food poisoning and were down for the count. It was terrible. The night before, we ate at a Tongan member's house, and they gave us tacos. They tasted good at the time, but beware of Tongan tacos.  We are both feeling way better today. I still haven't eaten anything since Sunday night, but I'm actually starting to get hungry, so I guess that is a good sign. It is nice, because the next two days are pretty chill days. I'm waiting with another elder in the zone that is training, and so we are preparing for the new kids and covering a few appointments.

We are still working with pretty much the same people. One cool thing is that a less active family that we work with, the Thompsons, was in church. Not in our ward, but they made it to church. Her dad was called as the Bishop of another ward in the stake.  Bro Thompson went on a mission and loved his mission. He had a sour experience with someone after he got home, and he stopped coming. His testimony is still there, and he knows he needs to come, he just needs to come. Hopefully this will break the ice for them. They are the coolest couple, they just need to come to church.

Things are going good for me, and we're working hard for the 3 baptisms in the 4th quarter goal.
Hope everything is going good on your end. Have a good week.

-Elder James Richards


So..... I didn't get transfered... yet. Transfers are next week and we
still have no idea who is leaving. We didn't get to a computer on
tuesday because we were really busy. We taught an 17 year old named
Mario. He goes to school at Newark Memorial and we talked to him
outside a member's house. We had a good lesson on tuesday. He is
really quiet though. We also had the opportunity to bring along
Elijah, so that was great to hear him bare testimony.

Last week we had a pretty intense ward activity. It was a medieval
theme, complete with a kilted sword fight. It was cool and we were
able to get a less active member there who we've been working on since
I got here. A very well done activity, and lots of people were in
attendance. Missionaries love activities like that, because we have an
excuse to invite everyone to the church building.

This week, a senior couple landed in the zone. Elder and Sister Orvin
will be working with the ASL branch, and the rescue of members in some
surrounding wards in the stake. They will also help out with a ward in
the San Jose stake that has a n ASL magnet. It will be cool to have
senior missionaries in the zone. They will work really closely with
the current ASL missionaries. They still are learning sign language,
and they still have the dear in the headlights look. Senior
missionaries are the same as regulard missionaries.

Richard didn't get baptized last and has flaked on us a lot. We are
disappointed, but still working on him and are excited for all the new
and potential investigators we have.

Last Pday was fun. We hiked mission peak. It is a 2,000 mile elevation
change over 2.5 miles of switchbacks. Not too bad. I'm in pristine
hill climbing condition. Even though it was only 2,500 feet, we could
see across the bay in to Palo Alto, all of Fremont, Some of San Jose,
and Pleasenton and Livermore. It was a pretty cool hike. We saw a
rattlesnake, some hawks and a few squirrells.

So if you don't get an email from me next week, I've been transfered
and I'll be emailing next Monday, since most places' libraries are
open on Monday. If I don't get transfered, or I get transfered to a
place that emails on tuesday, then you'll get an email at the normal
time. Have a Good week!

-Elder James Richards
One of the districts in the zone

Half-way up with hald the group

Victory Capri Sun at the peak

the comp

The triumphant climbers

A hawk that was chilling. He let us get way too close to him.

Holy Conference!

This week was nuts. We had our temple trip, zone leader council, zone conference, district meeting, and general conference. Lots of time spent in meetings. We did pretty well. Our family didn't come to any sessions of conference, so we had to drop their date. Sad Face. Richard has been harder to reach as well. He's been to church enough times that he can be baptized whenever, but he chose the weekend of the 20th, which we think is great, and we're working for that. Still needs to be interviewed, and since he is on parole, it all depends on that interview. He's doing good though.

Earlier today was our Zone Training Meeting. It is a new meeting that the zone leaders teach. It is a great time to instruct the zone and just have fun. We did an exercise in street contacting, and the Elder that won got a signed picture of Elder Suzuki and I. It was pretty funny. We focused a lot on our goal for quarter 4. President has asked every missionary to have a hand in 3 baptisms between the beginning of October and the end of the year. That would be big if the mission gets even half that.

My favorite talk was Elder Christofferson's talk in priesthood session. He talked about becoming men of the Priesthood. We need to become productive, righteous, and capable men and priesthood holders. That goes against the current world view, but we need to step up and not be the stereotype. I really enjoyed priesthood session. Conference was good.

This week is week 5 of the transfer. I have no idea where the last month went. One of us will be moving at the end of the transfer. I could go, since I've been here forever, or Elder Suzuki could go back in to the Vietnamese branch, so we don't know what will happen. Whatever happens will work out. We're just trying to do as much as we can, in the time we have.

The temple was great this week. It is always nice to go up there. Cool thing is, it's 20 minutes from here! If there is traffic however, that's a different story... the temple is an amazing place. I really enjoyed it and the spirit that accompanies it. It really is the house of the Lord. Hopefully the FL temple stays on track for the end of 2013. Elder Platt was actually in our session the other day because Pleasanton came up for the same session. Pretty cool.

This week will be back to normal. Thanks for all the support.

Elder James Richards

A great sandwich

Hello all!

So this coming week will be the nuttiest week of my mission. Yesterday, Monday, was not PDay, since we are going to the Oakland temple on Wednesday. It has been way easier finding a ride here then in my last area. 30 minutes vs 2 hours makes a big difference. We also have Zone Conference, General Conference, and Zone Leader Council this week, so today was the only normal morning we had.

This past week was pretty good. We were able to see Richard before he went to southern California. He is very committed now to giving up coffee. There was a random member at the church when we were teaching Richard there and we invited the member to sit in. He rambled and was really bold. Elder Suzuki and I were getting really antsy, but Richard actually really enjoyed the boldness of the member. He left with a renewed vigor to give up coffee. Elder Suzuki and I left thankful that Richard enjoys the church as much as he does and didn't get turned off at all! He's doing great and the pressure from his family seems to be lessening. We are going to try and set a baptismal date with him for the 13th of October. He's been to church enough times and he's doing good. He'll still need to pass the interview, but he should be good.

Elijah is doing really well. He went to youth conference a few weeks ago and loved it more then any youth has ever loved youth conference. He was bummed because he had to work saturday night, so he had to leave early. There is a family in the ward that picks him up for seminary everyday and he loves seminary. He also blesses the sacrament weekly.

The Russell family is doing good. Teaching a whole family creates it's challenges for the missionaries. There are now 5 people with different concerns instead of just one. Kevin, the husband, loves us, but has been a little turned off to Sunday worship since he put a lot of work into his last church until the pastor got very money-motivated. Kathleen, the wife, is probably the most prepared and is sincerely searching. She committed to come this past Sunday, but something came up... Something always comes up... But they are a great family and are doing really well. They love what we teach them. It is cool to be able to teach a family.

 This past week we started teaching a lady named Bev. She has two neighbors that are members of the church and has known them for the last 30 years. When we were eating dinner at one of the member's houses, they invited Bev. She's been in contact with the church for 30+ years, but has never actually sat down with the missionaries until last week. We were a little wary because we weren't sure if we could be real bold, and extend strong committments, but we talked to the member and she said to just treat her like a normal investigator. I guess we were just intimidated by how much contact she has already had with the church.

Elder Suzuki and I were talking about it and we've been able to help 2 less actives right up to the threshold of activity, and another to being completely active. That is something really cool that the numbers don't reflect.

Also, today, I made the greatest sandwich of life.

Have a good week. I'm including some pictures from mission Pday and Newark days and such.

-Elder James Richards.

Crazy Elders at mission Pday

Elder Suzuki, Samson and I manning the booth at Newark days.

Year 2.

We were able to make our presence known in the community this past week. The annual Newark Days festival was this past week and we manned a booth with different ward members. We were able to hand out a lot of cards and talk to a lot of people. we were also able to generate interest in our activity on the 3rd of November. Since our WML loves photography, he has done free family portraits in the past. He touches the photos, puts them on a CD and we deliver them to the people who got their pictures taken.  It's genius in that it gets people in the church for the photos, and we have an address and we can try to pick them up as investigators. We also talked to a man who was pretty interested in learning about the church, so we're giving him a call today.

Last week we had a powerful experience while contacting. We were walking up the street to our car in one of the sketchier parts of town and I stopped to talk to a lady that was walking up the street with here son in a stroller. We got to talking, and she opened up to us that she was going that day to get an abortion. We talked to her and testified to her that families are forever, that our choices here have consequences in the eternities, and that the family is a unit that God has given us. She was explaining the father was abusive and he was in jail and that she already had a few kids with him, and that her keeping the child would still connect her to him, which she didn't want. As we left her, she had decided not to go ahead with the abortion. We got a number and tried to call her a few times latter in the week, but she dodged us, so we were worried she'd gone through with it. Then, at Newark Days, we saw her and she signed up for the photo event. She seemed happy to see us and was still friendly. We don't know if she went through with it, but we were able to testify to her and help her see the answer. I just hope she stuck to it. Families are so important.

New development: Richard answers his phone now. He told us about some pressures he's been having with his family. His wife and kids aren't the most supportive. They think he will get baptized and flake, or that he will get baptized and "mess up" and that will be some crazy egregious sin. They don't understand the atonement or repentance through Jesus Christ. Richard has decided though to keep coming to church and commit himself to the commandments, so that he can show his family that this is what he really wants. We're working on helping him meet ward members, and so he's met with the Bishop and has met other members. He's doing good and we're hoping to get him in the water in October. He really wants to get baptized.

The family we are teaching is doing well, and the grandma loves the relief society president. We're working on some member fellowshippers for the couple, and the daughter already knows members at her high school. Kind of nice that there is one High School in Newark, so all the members go there.

We've started teaching the 14 year old son of a less active member and he was in church this past week. Richard was as well, so we were excited to have two investigators there and some other Less active members, who at this point, aren't so less active any more. One man, who moved here from New Mexico after he got divorced, is doing great. He was away for a while in New Mexico and here, but he ran into the Spanish missionaries, who gave his info to us. He's been pretty much active since we had dinner with him and two young families. He knows people and even asked us if he had a home teacher and how he could start home teaching again. It's great to see people come back.

Some exciting news from my last area, a man named Tony is getting baptized. He is deaf and had been going to church pretty much every week for something like the last year. He'd been taught by the ASL elders before, but he had concerns and Fremont was so far away from Salinas that it made it hard. Now there are an odd number of ASL missionaries and where does one get sent? Salinas 2nd ward. I'm fairly certain that President didn't know about this, and so it's another testimony to me that where we are placed is inspired. I'm going to try to get a ride and go down to the baptism. Hopefully we can get there, it's a little far.

Yesterday was mission Pday which was fun. We went to a park in San Jose and did some service and play some sports and had a big bbq. I'll send pictures next week, we are crunched for time now because we have an appointment with Richard now.

Have a good week.

Elder James Richards

One. Whole. Year.

This week was pretty good. We taught Richard this week and went over the baptismal interview questions with him. As it turns out, he is on parole. We don't think it is for much longer, but we need to figure out for sure. We knew that, and President Watkins doesn't immediately rule all parole and probation cases out, so we still believe he can still pass the interview and get baptized. He is an amazing person and has already tried to do so much good and change his life. Problem was, he missed church again this last Sunday. Sad face. He still needs to come at least one more time. He's doing good and we should be able to teach him today or tomorrow. He'll be baptized by the end of the transfer, and hopefully by the end of the month.

Also last week, we made a break through with one of the Less actives that we teach. He is in his late 20's and is a returned missionary. He absolutely loved his mission and talks about it all the time with us. A few years after his mission he had an expirience where he was able to baptize a girl he was dating. He leaves to school and finds out that one of the missionaries that had taught the girl, went home, came back, and ruined everything. The girl leaves the church, and the guy that we teach is dealt a huge blow and goes in active. He hasn't really been to church in 3 years. He seems to be trying to move on, but as you can imagine, it is tough for him. It is horrible how one person can ruin so many lives. He volunteered this info for the first time this week, and he knows he really needs to go to church. His testimony is still so strong and he loves his mission. We're seeing him tonight.

Last night was one of the best nights I've had here. First, we went to dinner and the members had invited a non-member neighbor. We talked with her, taught a bit, and are teaching about temples and eternal families this Thursday. Member referrals are the best.

Also last night, we taught a non-member family. They are a referral from a member in walnut creek, who is the Dad's boss and friend. We've seen them a lot, and they already love us, but we were able to finally teach the restoration last night because the friend was able to come down from Walnut Creek. It was one of the most powerful expiriences I've ever had when teaching about the restoration. We were able to teach simply, and clearly, and also powerfully. The family has been prepared and we were able to commit them to be baptized on October 27th. Last night the lesson was with mom, dad, and Grandma. They also have a 15 year old daughter, a 9 year old, a 6 year old and a 1 year old. Hopefully we'll be able to start teaching the kids as well. They are an awesome family. We were able to help a few of their concerns. They were worried about a family member not accepting them as they were baptized. We talked about the power of prayer, being an example, and how important this gospel is. The Grandma, Geri, has a sister that was baptized and very active before she passed away, so Geri knows a ton about the church already. Kevin and Kathleen, the couple, have strong faith and want to do what is right for their family. They're awesome people. I love this family and hopefully I don't get moved before they are baptized, but if I do, I'll be back.

Elijah is doing good. He blessed the sacrament for the first time this past Sunday, and the ward is ecstatic to have two priests.  He is also attending seminary faithfully. He said he fell asleep one day this week, and I couldn't help but laugh. I never did that...

Also this week, Samson, a member here, got his mission call to the Alaska Anchorage Mission. There were tons of people there as he opened it (you know, polynesians) and he is a really example to his family. Not always active, he's turned around a lot, gave up playing time at one of the top Junior College football programs, and is an example to his family that includes his brother who just got home from juvy and his step-dad who samson baptized 2ish years ago. It is interesting that just like everyone in our stake going to the west, everyone here goes to cold places. I've seen two Canadas, a Utica, and now Alaska in the time I've been here. Good thing I didn't leave from the Fremont stake...

Well Newark is doing great. The mission is having a rough time however. We had 0 baptisms last week. It is the first time in at least 5 years. President is hurting, but he is setting a goal for 1 baptism a month, per companionship, for the last quarter of the year. If that happens, or even if we get close, it will double baptisms for the year. Hopefully we can make it happen. Most of the companionships in Fremont actually have potential to do that. President wants us to get things going in the last quarter.

Everything is going great. The members are awesome, the investigators are awesome, Elder Suzuki is awesome, the zone is awesome, and the first year was awesome. Talk to you next week from year 2.

-Elder James Richards

Another Transfer Down

So today was transfer meeting. Two of the Elders in the zone went home and one got transfered. I served with both the Elders that are going home in both this zone and the Monterey zone. Great Elders, and I'm sure I'll see them after the mission. Especially since on of them is a Chem-E at BYU.

This week went great. We were able to see and teach Richard again! His new baptismal date is for the 22nd of September. He is doing great. We taught him the word of wisdom, and we were afriad since he is a heavy coffee drinker. He actually embraced the commandment well, and is trying to quit. We're helping him and he's been doing well. He needs to be in church this sunday, so we're making sure he gets there. Elijah's still doing good, and has been a big example for the 15 year old girl that was just baptized in the spanish branch. He's been faithfully attending seminary this past week. 

This transfer we're going to try and work really hard to help the zone do even better. As for our stake numbers, we've had 12 baptisms this year. Ft Lauderdale with 92 is crazy! We're plugging away and have climbed up from being the lowest baptizing zone. We hope to keep climbing. Baptisms are down this year, but as a reference point, the Menlo Park (west of us) and Monterey stakes are leading the mission with about 45 and 37 baptisms, respectively. Most are hovering around the 20s. The affluency of the area makes it difficult, but the menlo park stake includes Palo Alto, so its not all about that. I've noticed the leaders make a huge difference. In Monterey, the stake president and bishops were always pushing the temple. Making the temple a focus for all of the active, less active, and recently converted members actually really helped missionary work. He're the leaders are starting to catch the missionary spirit, and our stake president loves all the missionaries in the zone, and the high councilman over missionary work is on fire.

Elder Suzuki and I are doing great and are playing the find new investigators game. We have some good potentials who hopefully pan out.
-Elder James Richards

Some Elders from the zone at transfers this morning.

Fre-money Zone.

So this past week was pretty good. Richard won't be getting baptized this weekend because he had the flu and didn't make it to church. Communication with him has been sporadic, since he is terrible at his phone, but the interactions we have had with him have still been promising. He'll be baptized, hopefully before the month is up.

The Fremont zone is doing really well though. The spanish Elders have a baptism the last weekend (the 8th) before one of those elders goes home. She is a 15 year old girl, who Elijah has actually had some influence over. He's been a good example to her. Her uncle, Jose, who is one of the coolest people ever, will recieve the priesthood and be able to baptize her. Other companionships are making break throughs. The ASL elders got someone to committ to baptism in the English ward they cover. He was of the I-need-to-know-everything-first opinion. It is great to see the Elders there doing work, because they are so young in the mission, but are excellent Elders. There are a few companionships still struggling, but we have such a good caliber of missionaries here that things are looking up. There aren't any problem missionaries, and it will be sad to see so many leave next week, since it is transfers. Hopefully, their replacements will work just as hard.

This past week we had 5 less active members that we teach in church. One of them is now toeing the line of activity and strengthening her testimony everyday. One man, Jess, came after we had a great dinner with him and some members. He loved it. It is great to see him there. He joined the church in New Mexico, while he was married. His Ex-wife is a member, who was less than faithful. After he got divorced, he moved out here with his family, none of which are members. It would have been very easy for him to be hidden and not go to church. The spanish Elders street contacted him and he told them he was a member. They referred him to us and we've been working with him since. He has a testimony and is actually very forgiving of some of the things his Ex did to him. He is a great guy and hopefully he'll be coming on a regular basis now.

Elijah starts seminary tomorrow, and we're going to go over the sacrament procedure with him this week. He was late last week, but he had mentioned he was really nervous. He's still going strong. He even walks to church when he can't get a ride.

The ward here is good. It doesn't turn over like back home. In fact, this ward is pretty old. There are some good young families though. Everyone loves us.

I'm including some pictures from Zone Training Meeting and other things. Have a good week.

-Elder James Richards

The Fremont Zone

We're cool.

This cat is my buddy. He wanted to go home with me.

We're dry here.

So this week was kind of tough, but ended really well. We weren't able to see Richard at all, and he skipped church. We're a little worried about him, but he can still make his September 8 date. We are worried about the word of wisdom, since he loves coffee. We've been praying that he'll be prepared to hear it and know it is from the Lord.

Elijah is doing great and starts seminary tomorrow. He's excited to go. He also received the Priesthood yesterday and will be bless the sacrament this coming week, which is really cool. The ward is excited to have two priests now. Also, Samson is waiting on his mission call, and it should come sometime next week. I joke with him that he is going to Ft. Lauderdale, Spanish speaking.

One great thing that is going on, is that the ward loves us. We're getting dinners on dinners now and referrals are even starting to come. Even with all the fall throughs this week, members are still jumping at the chance to help us out with things. It's pretty cool.

On Sunday this week we got in to see a less active member named Nicole. She is a young mother and joined the church while she was married to her Ex-Husband. He was born into the church, but wasn't active, and was in the military. Nicole was baptized while living in Texas while he was on tour in Iraq. It was pretty amazing to hear her talk about all the experiences she had, even trying to drag her long-time member husband to church while she was a convert of a few months. She is currently living with her new husband and her kids, an 11 year old who hasn't been baptized, a 7 year old, and a baby girl. She is a woman of faith and hopefully we'll be able to help her get back in the routine of church.

We were able to help the zone in different capacities this week too. There is one companionship that is really struggling. They are great Elders, but their area is very hard. It is a very small area, and ward, with about 70 active members in it. It is purely residential, which makes street contacting kind of tough.  We were able to go on an exchange with them and help lift their spirits a bit. The Elder that I went with is from Vanuatu, and so on top of all his normal missionary struggles, he's learned English in the field. The companionship has been doing great though in the past few days, and I am glad we were able to have a successful exchange with them. Right now I am on an exchange in the Deaf Branch, so I'm learning some sign today.

Hope everyone is OK after the TS.

-Elder Richards


So this week went great. Elijah's Baptism went as planned. The font was small and he is so tall, so Samson had to dunk him 3 times. It all worked out in the end though. He had a great expirience and was really happy. He's doing well and we are seeing him tonight. He is excited to go to seminary this year. He isn't real excited to wake up that early though. He was also interviewed for the Priesthood on Sunday. His mom was there for the baptism and the confirmation and she is really nice. She liked the service a lot. We are going to see if we can start teaching her soon.

Richard seems to be doing well. He is out of town for 3 days right now, but he was in church on Sunday. He is doing great. The only thing we worry about is coffee. He is an avid coffee drinker, so it might be tough for him to give up. We feel like he is in a place where he has the faith to work on it though.

Also in church yesterday was Samson's friend Hunter. He's an awesome guy, and he has already been to church 4 times in Arizona. We're going to try and start teching him this week as well.  There were also 3 less active members there that we teach that haven't been since I've been here, so we were excited to see them too. There really are some awesome things happening here.

The zone is doing well too. As of right now, the Fremont stake isn't the lowest baptizing in the mission (yay!). We had a few this last weekend, and everyone is working hard to make things happen. There are still a few companionships that struggle, but we're working with them and trying to help them. We've found some more service things for the zone too. Most of our service comes from community projects that are reccurring, like handing out food at the Salvation Army. This lets us serve with people from the community. It also helps us have things to bring investigators too. We had a great time serving with Richard last week.

Everything is going great here. 

-Elder Richards
Elder Richards, EJ, Samson, and Elder Suzuki

Everyone "beating up" Samson

whew, what a week.

So this week was pretty incredible. EJ continues to move and has so many ties to the ward. He's all set for the baptism this Saturday.  We are talking to him about the Aaronic priesthood and seminary. He really looks up to Samson, a guy in our ward who is putting his papers in. He is making other friends and obviously has a connection with his uncle Mathias and their family. Samson and his family are Tongan, EJ is Hawaiian, and Mathias and family are Samoan. When work is slow, find the Polynesians.

Cool thing is, the work isn't slow right now. I wrote a little while ago about a man named Richard who Elder Howard and I found street contacting. He was really hard to get a hold of because of the big gates around his house. We saw him and taught him once and then it was hard to get in contact with him again. Fast forward about two weeks and we saw him Saturday and again yesterday, he came to church Sunday, and he is now scheduled to be baptized on the 8th of September. Some things happened in the last 2 weeks that prepared him even more for the Gospel. We're taking him to the Salvation Army with us on Thursday for our weekly food bank volunteering, and teaching him again on Friday. The thing we really need is a fellowshipper for him, someone to become his friend. We feel he'll get baptized regardless, but he needs a friend that will help him stick too it. Fellowshipping is kind of the beast in this ward. It can be tough at times, but we're finding that more and more members are willing to help.

The members are getting excited for the work. Samson was the football star a year ago at Newark Memorial High, and I'm convinced he knows everyone between the ages of 18 and 23 in Newark. He and a friend, who is a non-member, have taken it upon themselves to try to get as many people as they can in church on Sunday. We are way excited for that. His friend, Hunter, tried to walk on to the football team at Arizona State became close to an LDS family down there. They took to him to church a few times and to some church activities, and even called Samson to ask him to keep it going, since Hunter moved back to Newark. We should be able to start teaching him this week. Other members have been getting in on the action. The family that fed us last night actually tried to invite some families over for dinner. The second Counselor in the Bishopric brought a whole family to church last Sunday.

The Zone is doing well too. At the end of this week, with our baptism, and some others in he zone, we'll pass up another stake so we won't be the lowest baptizing in the mission. I know it doesn't really mean anything, but it is kind of nice. We had a missionary fireside on Sunday that was excellent. Converts and reactivated members bore their testimonies, and the High Councilor over missionary work, Bro. Wirthlin, said we tripled attendance from the last one. Pretty good stuff happening. And in case you were wondering, he is Elder Wirthlin's grandson. Fun fact.

Have a good week!

-Elder James Richards

Dunk 'em.

So this week was cool in that we actually moved a baptismal date up. I've never done that before... EJ's new baptismal date is now for the 18th. It has been really cool to be able to teach him. He is already friends with a lot of the young men and young women, he has a firend baptizing him, and his uncle confirming him. We play basketball with him every monday and keep contact up with him pretty much daily. This is like the example of how an investigator's process should be. He is doing really well, and is even talking of seminary after school starts. We're super excited for next weekend. We've only got a few of the "smaller" commandments to teach him, but he'll be good to go.

This week has felt like a zone leader. We were down in San Jose for a leadership meeting on Friday, we've been coordinating different things for different companionships, and we've just been trying to get the Zone motivated. Together, the zone set a goal for 4 baptisms in the month of August. The stake only has 8 the whole rest of the year. There are 3 that are all but locked up, but the 4th will take some stretching. It will be amazing if we can get these 4.

This last week Elder Suzuki and I organized a little devotional to start our fast on saturday night. We just met at one of the buildings here and gave some thoughts and testimonies. I learned from my trainer, way back in the day, that it is the little things that help the Zone so much, and an example goes a long way. Elder Suzuki is a zone leader, and I'd be lost without him, even though I know more then the average new ZL by virtue of my first 3 transfers.

We met with the High Councilor in charge of missionary work this past week, and he is great. His name is Brother Wirthlin, and he happens to be Elder Wirthlin's grandson. He is excited to try to get the work moving. He brought up an interesting point in why our numbers are so low sometimes. We are the smallest stake in the mission. With 1 big wards, 4 tiny wards, and 2 branches, it can make things tough. We're working with what we've got though, and are still excited.

Glad to hear things are going well.

-Elder James Richards

Big Changes.

So this week brought about some big changes. I now have a new companion. His name is Elder Suzuki and he is a cool guy. He is a vietnamese speaking elder, but since there is only one vietnamese branch, they cycle some of the Elders into the english program. Another change is that we have a car now. Good old silver malibu. Also,we are zone leaders in fremont... Yes I was suprised too. I got a call last friday to come up to the new leader meeting and the rest is history. It will be a good oppurtunity to serve and I've already got a large concept of what is required from watching Elder Miller Zone Lead back in Salinas. We've got a good group of missionaries and we are really going to work to turn around the "fremont stigma" that exists in the mission. Should be an interesting new chapter.

Things in our area are doing great. Elijah continues to do great, and he is on course for his baptism. He came to church this past week, so he has already been twice. He is doing great and is watching our example and the example of a guy in the ward who is putting his paper's in. Elijah has even talked about how cool it would be to serve a mission. He's a really good kid.

This week will be focused on finding new investigators. Outside of Elijah we have about 1 decently solid investigator and a bunch of shakey one. We will probably need to drop a few soon, since the just aren't  progressing.

The less active work still goes well. It has been tough lately since people have been going out of town though. Everyone will be back around mid-August.

This transfer will be great. I'm excited not only for our area, but for the whole zone. We're all working hard. President always talks about taking oppurtunities to up our game. Every new area, every new companion, and even every new transfer, we have an oppurtunity to reinvent ourselves and do even better than we did before.

-Elder Richards
Elder Mageno, My previous Zone Leader in Fremont. He is "dying" (going home) tomorrow.

My district.

The district "killing" Elder Mageno.

Elder Mageno breaks free.

Whew. What a week.

So this week was awesome, and tiring.
Thursday we got two new investigators.  One we found about a month ago while contacting. We gave him a Book of Mormon and finally got in touch with him. I talked about him a bit last week. He is doing good. We taught him the restoration and he liked it. He is looking for a church that is a good fit for him.
The other new investigator's name is EJ. He is 16 and we met him at a fourth of July party that one of the members had. EJ is a member's nephew. On Wednesday, Elder Howard and I were biking quickly to an appointment. EJ called my name and said hi and I called back and we rode off to the appointment. It took me a while to remember who he was. Later that day, we saw him, on the same street, and he said hi again. This time we were able to stop and talk to him. We set up an appointment for thursday. We went by with a member and it went great. We invited him to be baptized and he accepted for september 9th. We have been doing great at keeping up the contact with him. He was in church yesterday, and enjoyed the sunday school class and young men's lesson. Not many investigator's I've had have come to church the first week after we started teaching them. We also played basketball with him and some members of the ward yesterday, and had a lesson with him earlier this morning. He is doing awesome, and is excited to be learning and meeting with us, as well as being excited to be baptized.
We also got two new investigators this morning as well. We taught a man named Jamal and his two kids (one is 8 and one is 7). He wasn't overly interested in joining, he just wanted to know more. He also really wants his kids to know more about God. We think the key is getting all of them to church. The kids will like it, and they are already close with a member family. We were excited to get in with them.
It is really nice to have some new people to teach. We had some that weren't really moving, but now it seems like we have a bunch of people to teach, with even more potentials. It is also nice to have someone working towards baptism. This stake is one of the toughest in the mission, but right now, you wouldn't know it. There are 13 people getting ready for baptism in the stake, the most out of other stake in the mission. As the missionaries here have been working hard, and have been more obedient, the Lord, and the members, are trusting us more. The fruits of prays and labors are starting to pay off. We just need to help get these people into the water. It is amazing to see how the zone has turned around.
We are still teaching tons of less active members as well. We had one guy there on sunday, and he hasn't been here in the whole time that Elder Howard has been here. His work schedule changed a while ago, so he has been able to come, and this Sunday, we finally got him there. 
We were exhausted at the end of the week, but it was a great week. This week has already started off really well.
Well the computer is going super slow, so this will be the end of the letter

-Elder James Richards

Miracle. No not hockey.

We'll we had some miracles and things happen last week, that set us up nicely for this week. No new investigators yet, but there should be some that come this week.
We had one potential investigator, named Richard, who lives in a gated house, so we could never get to the door. We met him a few weeks ago contacting, gave him a Book of Mormon, and asked if we could go by. He gave us an address, but we could never get past the gate. Yesterday (Pday), we were walking to the Spanish Elder's apartment, so we could get a ride to the stores, and we walked by the house. As it turns out, the gate was open. We went Inside, knocked on the door, and we saw Richard. He was busy, but gave us a phone number and told us to come back some morning this week. Now we have a phone number to call which makes things a bit easier. I was so glad I was wearing the normal proselytizing clothes, like we are supposed to on Pday. If I hadn't been he wouldn't have recognized us or been happy to see us. Miracles for obedience.
Also yesterday, we were playing soccer at our normal spot, and two kids asked if they could play. One of them, Niko, is actually a former investigator. Elder Howard and the previous elder taught him, but then he got sent to Juvy. He wasn't supposed to be out for 6 months, but it has only been 4. He is a 16 year old Tongan, and is cousins with some members in our ward, one of which is getting his mission papers all finalized. Hopefully we'll be able to start teaching Niko this week as well.
We've seen a lot of great things happen this week. It has been a testimony builder to me that the Lord really does recognize our work and our obedience. They tell us that the members "check us out" to make sure we are good missionaries who can be trusted with referrals, and I feel the Lord is same way sometimes. He doesn't reward the missionary for being obedient, he rewards the person with an obedient missionary. We like to get caught up and think all the investigators and baptisms and such are for us, but it is all for them. It is just up to us to do our best for these individuals.
Everything is going well here. Thank you for all the support.
-Elder Richards

Tengo Viente Anos.

Yesterday was a good day. We did what we do every Pday, played soccer. So my cleats continue to prove to be a good investment. We then went over to the LaBurge's for dinner and that was cool. They gave me a sweet Newark hoodie. Sister LaBurge offered to make any cake I wanted. I thought of the swedish almond one, but I figured she didn't know how to make it. So I settled for an awesome peanut-butter cake. It was almost as good, but not quite haha. I get another brithday dinner this week, on sunday, but it is combined with Elder Howard, since his birthday is the 16th. Funny that our birthdays are a week apart.
This past week was more of the same. We are really trying to find some new investigators. We really only have one. We are going through formers, and part member families, and trying all we can to find some new people. Hopefully that work will pay off. We've built up the area in pretty much every other aspect. The ward loves us now, there are a lot of less actives to teach, we get some weekly service opportunities, and we can get all the contacts we need to reach our goal.
The fourth was pretty fun. Newark has these huge signs that say "Newark has ZERO TOLERANCE for illegal fireworks" that are all over all the entries to the city. What a joke. It felt like a war zone on wednesday. There were more illegals going up then I've seen in the whole time in Plantation. There were average Joes shooting off Central Park caliber fireworks. Newark is the only city in the Bay Area that allows any type of fireworks. The rules are like back home, if it flies in the air, it is no bueno.  We didn't shoot any off. We just watched one of the members blow stuff up. It was good fun.
Overall, a good birthday, and a good Fourth. Hopefully this week we can find some new investigators.
Thank you for all the mail and such.
-Elder Richards

I can ride my bike with no handlebars.

     Random tidbit of the week: I am becoming very proficient at riding my bike with no handlebars. No handlebars.
     Anyway, first off, I can't believe I am 20 is less than a week. When I went into the MTC I felt like my birthday was ages away, now here it is. Pretty soon it will be a year in the field and then it is all down hill from there. Crazy how time flies.
     Bayside is doing well. We are teaching a lot of less active members, but are really hurting for investigators. It has been really tough to find people. I think we will start to try to focus more on part member families. Finding the families who are less active and non-member and help bring them back. The ward really likes us now, so that is good. We are figuring Elder Howard is out of here in a month, which is crazy.
     This week was a leadership meeting down in San Jose. I shared Robbie's C.S. Lewis quote when we were talking about how to help and inspire our districts to be obedient. It is now being circulated around the mission. Robbie gets a cookie.

     "No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it not by lying down. A man who gives into the temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it; and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation really means - the only complete realist." - C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)

     We have a very young district this transfer, with 1/6 missionaries being over a year in the mission. They are all doing great and there will be one or more baptisms in the transfer. Hopefully one of them can be ours. We are working with a woman named Nanette, who is the mother of a prospective missionary. She has had a rough time with drugs and such, and is now suffering the consequences, health wise. She is getting ever-closer to baptism, and she really enjoys our visits, so hopefully we can help her to become more converted to the gospel. It will help her so much, because she has some feelings of guilt for things she has done in the past.
     This stake has been tough. It is losing a lot of members with a stake president and a bishop that have been in forever. The focus seems to be trying to hold on to people that are already here, instead of finding and rescuing. It can make it difficult for us. there have only been 6 convert baptisms this year in the stake, the lowest in the mission. Most stakes in the mission are up around 15-20 with Monterey and Menlo Park both over 30. The stake isn't all to blame for the lack of success though. Many times missionaries get up here and see the work is hard, so they get lazy or goof off. That is why I am glad there are a bunch of young, bright-eyed and bushy tailed missionaries in my district. We're working to lose the Fremont stigma.
     Thanks for all of the letters and support. Have a happy 4th.

-Elder James Richards

This is the loudest library ever.

So I was happy when I heard to Heat won! I knew they were going to win while I was out here. Didn't get to watch, but I'm sure it was cool to see.
In other news, I busted up my ankle yesterday playing basketball. It swelled up nicely, and I had a lump the size of a small to medium orange protruding from my ankle. Bummer was, it happened in about the 3rd game, so I didn't get to play much. It is fine now, and I was on the bike at the end of the night yesterday. I'm only hobbling a little bit now.

This week was the week of teaching Less actives. All of our investigators decided to be sick or work an un-godly amount of hours this week. So, we made up for it by teaching a ton of Less-Active lessons. We found a really nice family to teach. They are very recently married, both members and both just kind of got out of the routine of going to church. He is actually a returned missionary. We have dinner with them tomorrow. We are going to try to help him remember the times he had on his mission, and help him see how necessary the gospel still is to him and his family. This area has so many RMs and people that have been through the temple that are less active. In my last area, there were 3 less actives that were Elders. Here there are so many. It is kind of scary. It makes you realize that enduring to the end really should be to the end, not just a mission or the temple or a sealing.

Our district is doing well so far this transfer. Right now, it is incredibly young. There is only one missionary over a year, and Elder Howard and I are the next longest out. One elder has been out 2 transfers and is training a new elder. It is kind of nice though, because everyone is willing to work. The Fremont stake is a very hard place to be a missionary, so work is required. All the members of the district have and are really bringing their area's up. It kind of is a testament to how far work and attitude can go in a tough area.

Well, have fun this week. Thanks for the love and support.

-Elder James Richards

In the Heat of the Moment.

This week was the last week of the transfer. I can't believe I've already finished a transfer here in Newark. That went quick...
This past week was more of the same, with a few nice differences. On Sunday, we got 2 investigators to church, the ones we barbecued with a few weeks ago. One of them comes pretty consistently, but the other one hasn't been there since I've been here, so it was nice. They are doing well, and we are trying to take them to the temple visitor's center this week. That is a great resource that we have up here.
We also had a good street contact with a man named Richard, and we are going by his house tonight. The Zone goal last week was for the whole zone to place a whole case of Book of Mormons. We started talking to him and gave him a Book of Mormon. He said he would try to come to church this coming Sunday and said we could go by his house sometime. It was pretty cool because we've had trouble finding people to teach here. We've been teaching lots of less actives, but not many non-members. He seemed really genuine, so we'll see how it goes.
The downside of last week was that is was so hot! It got over 95, and some people are saying it was over 100. And it isn't like Florida where everyone has an AC unit. It only lasted a day though, and then the wind from the bay started up again and it cooled everything down.
For Pday yesterday, we went across the bay over to the peninsula and hung out with missionaries in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. We were up on Stanford's campus, and it was really nice. I was glad I was walking around as a missionary there instead of a student though.
-Elder James Richards

Hola Hermanos

So this week was tough, but it was a good one. We were still able to hit a lot of our goals, and it is nice to know that we were able to keep going and not crumble under the pressure.
This week we picked up an interesting investigator. She is the mother of a guy who was baptized about 3 years ago. He is now working with his bishop in the singles ward to put his papers in for his mission. Pretty cool that he has decided to go. There is also another guy who is in the ward here who just turned 19. He is taking a break from his college football and puts his papers in soon. Lots of missionaries are leaving from Newark/ Fremont.
We are still working with Brian. We are going to invite him to be baptized today. Sometimes even if they don't bite on a date, the invite brings out tons of concerns, so it should help. Brian is a funny guy, and his childrens book and song are really taking off. He should have them published pretty soon.
This week was also our stake conference. The stake center here is huge. It was designed to hold 6-8 wards. Members have been telling me that there is another build a few minutes north of the mission border that is even bigger. Back in the day, Fremont used to be 2 stakes. Newark even used to have 2 wards. The conference was good. Elder Alan Packer came and talked to us. He talked about hearing the voice of the spirit amongst confusion and other influences. When we recognize it, we become familiar with it, so it is easier to pick out.
Other fun things, Elder Platt baptized a man that we started teaching in the last week I was there. He is an Iraqi that teaches arabic in the DLI in Monterey. They are killing it down in Salinas.
Hope you all have a good week with your summers.
-Elder Richards

our bbq yesterday with two of our investigators; Brian and Mike