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.