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.