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