Good last week.

Well, this last week was great. The ward was sad to see me go, which is a miracle. When I came in, it was a hard place to be a missionary. No one wanted anything to do with us. We really turned it around. Our Bishop was very appreciative, and everyone on our ward counsel came up to wish me well. Since the area next to us got white washed and sisters are being put in, our ward mission leader asked us if we were being whitewashed. We said no, Elder Son is still staying, and his immediate reply was "good, that would have been terrible!" That is amazing to me. If you had asked him 6 months ago if he wanted Elders out of the area he would have said yes in a heartbeat. He would have said that when I first got here too. Elder Son will do amazing things here. Those sisters in the other ward will also support sister work in our ward, and a senior couple just landed in our building, so the ward has access to 6 missionaries, and they can use all 6. That is a huge turn around from just 4 months ago. 

We picked up a part-member family this week as an investigator. This is the kind of family that the ward council goes "Wow you taught them??" It was really cool, and a great lesson. They also came to my outgoing fireside. It was an excellent week. A perfect end. I'm leaving with about 12 investigators and 4 of those will go to the sisters. The area will basically be split and both companionships will have lots of work to do. It is really exciting. 

I don't really have much more to say. I have loved my mission so much. I have mixed feelings about going home. It is incredibly hard to leave, but I'm excited to tackle new things. This is the happiest chapter in my life and it's coming to a close. I'm sure there are many more good things ahead. 

Signing off for the last time,

-Elder James Richards

Last week??

Well, this is my last full week. That's weird. 

This past week was great. We got our Iraqi investigator to church and he loved it. We really need to find an Arabic speaker to help us ever so often, but we're doing good with the teaching. I'm learning to recognize the names of certain prophets and numbers in Arabic.

We picked up two new, pretty solid investigators this past week. One is named Victor. He is 15 and is a pretty cool kid. He lives in a pretty hood neighborhood, but he's a really good kid. He's really trying. Will help  him out a lot. We also picked up an investigator named Erica. She's got a pretty big family, so we're going to try to start teaching her husband and some of her kids too. We were knocking on the door of a former investigator and we street contacted Erica. She was super friendly and invited us back. We went back a few days later and had a great lesson. 

We've set some big goals for this week and are driving hard to achieve them. 

-Elder James Richards

D&C 88:73

So this week was my last mission leadership council meeting, and my last stake missionary correlation meeting. The Stake President's name for the San Jose South stake is President Green. We had an ultra-positive SMCM with him, his counselors, President Watkins, and the HC over missionary work. From what I hear the last few hadn't been so positive, but the work is really moving now. The last MLC meeting was different. This one was the first on I'd been to with Sister Training Leaders. My last one in Pleasanton was right before the STLs were called. 

This week went great for us. Elder Baldwin, Elder Horlacher (one of the APs that I served in Fremont with,) and I set a goal for each of us to get at least one new date per week for the rest of the transfer. Elder Baldwin and his companion's got theirs with 3 hours of setting this goal. Elder Horlacher and companion got one on Sunday afternoon. That one is amazing since the they are the assistants and usually have between 2 and 3 hours to proselyte each day. Elder Son and I were visiting potentials like crazy, trying to set a baptismal date. We set up an appointment with one for Monday (today) and as we are walking out, we see two kids sitting on the porch at the apartment opposite of the person we were visiting. We almost walked away, but we decided to go talk to them. We end up sitting down with them, teaching the restoration, and setting a baptismal date with both of them! Oscar and Brian, October 5th. We get out of that lesson at about 830 at night, and we weren't going to turn in until 9. We do a little contacting at a shopping center. We walk by a bus stop and this guy asks us if the buses still run. They weren't, so we directed him to the light rail, so he could get to where he needed to go. I've become a champion of VTA public transit. We get to talking to him and end up inviting him to be baptized. He commits to October 5th! Super nice guy, and he actually lives in the Dry Creek area that has been struggling, so we were really excited for that. They're going by to teach him this week. At this point it's 857, so we go home, walk in and say "hey you have a baptismal date" to the Dry Creek Elders. They were confused for a second. Oh and we set our goal to get new dates on friday afternoon. So the zone ended up with 6 new dates in about 48 hours. 

We also found a family that we hope to start teaching this week. We were driving around, trying to visit with our investigators on Sunday afternoon. We see a guy sitting on his porch, so I pulled over and we talked to him. He said come back in an hour. We go back, and we talk to the wife. They were busy, they have a newborn baby, but she invited us to come back. Complete family, Mom, Dad and at least 3 kids. It is so hard to find complete families out here, it's ridiculous. We're really excited. 

Earlier this week I went on an exchange with Elder Horlacher into the assistants area. President Watkins is hilarious. I was making calls to get the stock seat back in his Miata. It's passed inspection at Laguna Seca and he had a good track day, but he described it as being as comfortable as a toilet seat. Then he had me make a call to a European dealership so they could fix his 1960 Austin Healy Sprite. This is all after he took us and 3 sisters to get lunch in his 1970's-ish VW bus that is an awful lime green color. I'm of the opinion that if you're going to buy vintage Euro cars, you should buy good ones, like an old Aston Martin or something. But to each his own I guess... That day I went with Elder Horlacher, and it was cool to be back with him. I've been on like 4 exchanges with him since I was his District Leader and then Zone Leader when we were in Fremont/Newark. 

The mission is going crazy. This last week we had 22 baptisms. This week we have 22 scheduled. It's amazing. At this rate 2013 could be higher then 2012. That will be the first year of increase in CA-SJM since '07.  And now the San Jose South zone is poised to contribute. We're very committed to making this not an armpit area. The members love the missionaries. Which, considering some of the things that previous missionaries have done here in this stake, is nothing short of a miracle. It was nice to see the zone finally take off. All it took, was a little more work and a little more faith. 

Holy long letter...

-Elder James Richards

VW Bus pics. Note my sweet new brown shoes.


So this week, Pleasanton broke their baptismal record for 1 year. and they did it in about 8 months. Pretty cool.

We had a pretty good week this past week. We talked to Bernie on the phone and she was out and about, so she's recovering from her surgery well, and we should be able to meet with her this week. We've got another lesson set up with a referral from a member. She's already been to church and her daughter went to young womens and absolutely loved it. We've got a lot of work going and the ward is catching up to us. They're really helping us find more people to teach, which is great. We've got an appointment set up with another part member family this week. 

We have this one investigator that has been very diligent about reading the Book of Mormon. We knock on the door and he goes and grabs his Book of Mormon and talks to us about how he liked 2 Nephi 4. He kept saying Nephi was the man. It's pretty cool to see him starting to grasp it. 

This week was good. We did more missionary work, I fixed more bikes for President, and life goes on. I can say that I've worked on at least 30 of the bikes that are floating around the mission, either putting them together or fixing them. President isn't going to know what to do when I leave.

Have a good week.

-Elder Richards

back to that again...

Well, back to ZL grind. I was enjoying getting to sleep on time on Sunday evenings, but that doesn't happen any more. This is a big zone. Lots of numbers.

This last week was good. We had a member invite his friend to church, and she is really great. She and her daughter were there and she is really looking. We're meeting with them this week. One of our investigators has been out after having back surgery, but she has been in really good contact with us, and we'll text scriptures and such every so often. 

Our mission here has been going up and up every week. We're up over 100 baptismal dates now. I don't know if we've ever been over 100 in the time that I've been here. The work really is hastening. 

So, sorry my emails are getting more and more lame. But you all know me. so... yea. Life is good. Life is busy. Busy is good. We're praying hard to get a few people in the water before the end of the transfer. That is all.

-Elder James Richards

What a week.

So this week was transfers and a lot of craziness went down. President Watkins couldn't leave me well enough alone, and so I'm a zone leader again this transfer. For my last transfer... It's also super weird because I'm still with Elder Son, and the other zone leader (who is Elder Baldwin by the way) is in a different ward in the stake. This last week was dedicated to figuring out how this split-ZL thing works. We've got things more normal now, but we were scrambling for a bit there. This zone is one of the biggest with 25 missionaries in it. We aren't super big geographically, but we live in the weird armpit of the zone that they made so they could split up downtown into a few different wards. It will be a different transfer this transfer. Other crazy things are happening, like sisters covering wards from multiple stakes, areas splitting, and some general madness. 

This week we set a baptismal date with one of our investigators. His name is Adrian and he's wanting to turn his life around, and already has for a few months. He did some short time in prison and was on all manner of substances. He's been out for a while and been clean for a few months. He said he needs some more. That's where the Gospel comes in. He seems very sincere and we're meeting with him again this week. He was one of our miracles this week. The date is for September 14th, so we're praying and working hard to help him make that date.

We were also able to go up to Bill's baptism this last Saturday. He was very excited to see Elder Baldwin and me. I was able to be a witness and as soon as Bill came out of the water, he was very emotional. The first thing he said was "Thank you Jesus. It's been a long time." He was able to be baptized and not have it create a rift between him and his son, who is basically the only family he has left. A member family was instrumental in making this happen. When he was getting close while I was there, we asked the ward council to assign Home Teachers. One of the members in there volunteered and fulfilled his role faithfully. Bill became the family's adopted Grandpa. They were in good contact even after he dropped Elder Baldwin and I. They gave him books to read and talked to him about the church. Bill knew it was true about 5 days into us teaching him, he just had so much opposition coming from all sides. He was able to overcome it though, really with the help of those members. It was awesome to see. In the Pleasanton Stake Mission Plan, one of the initiatives was to have investigators home taught before baptism. It was a combination of a lot of things that brought Bill here, but without those members, he wouldn't have been baptized. He only had to be dunked once, which was something I had been praying for for weeks. 

This was a really inspiring week for us. Despite all the things we had to do out of our area, we were still able to reach our weekly goals, and find Adrian and set that date with him. Now we have even more potentials and will be good for finding this week too. This area is starting to move even more then it was. It's exciting.

-Elder James Richards

The missionaries that taught Bill, Bill, his son, The members, and Elder Son (he snuck in).

Pretty cool, all my posterity was at transfer meeting. My sons and grandsons. Elder Son is on my right.

It begins.

So, today we start the 6 week push. We're going as hard as we can for 6 weeks. It's going to be madness. The mission is going crazy right now. We have more baptisms set up for Friday and Saturday then we've had in a long time. One of those is Bill Wentworth in the good old Pleasanton 2nd ward. We got a ride, so Elder Baldwin and I are going back up for it on Saturday. We're both super excited for it. In our area we've got a lot of potentials with youth. Some kids just had some great experiences at Zion's camp and girls camp and so we're hoping to start teaching them. We've got a lot of people that we're teaching and some are very close. They just need to commit to a date.  We're praying for miracles this transfer and expecting them. Our goals are high, but are very reachable. 

I don't really know what else to say. All out for the last six weeks. I can sleep when I get on the plane :)

-Elder Richards

Runnin', Runnin',

So this transfer will be awesome. The goal for our zone is 36 baptisms. That will be big. We're adapting some things from other zones and setting our own goals. I think it's really attainable and it will be exciting for my last transfer. We're going to go at a ridiculous pace.

I got some exciting news from my last area. Bill (the 90 year old investigator that I taught) is getting baptized! I was super excited to hear that. One of my old companions, Elder Bingham, is up there and they're doing crazy things. It's so great to see all of the success all around the mission. The work is hastening. 

This past week we had an unexpected investigator show up in church. We hadn't even taught him that week and we went by to invite him to church. He wasn't home so we left a note. Then, I look back in sacrament meeting and he was there! I was thrilled. His name is Mario and he's the roommate of a fairly recent convert. He's from Mexico.

This week we're working hard to find new people to teach. In conjunction with our baptism goal, we're working for 4 new investigators every week. That's a lot, but it's doable in our area. This week is the last week of the current transfer, so it's setup week so that we can hit the ground running in the start of August.

-Elder James Richard

You did what?

So this week was great. We reached a lot of our goals. We taught a lot of investigator lessons and had some in church. There's a great energy in the mission right now. We have been improving, but we feel like we can do more. There is a stake right now that is shooting for 42 baptisms for the month. In FTL that sounds low, but 42 will be half of what that stake got last year. There are two zones in that stake, and one zone is doing it. They got about a third of the new investigators that the whole mission got in just their zone. My goal is to take some of their practices and adapt them to our district and our area. We're going to post up some big things before I go home. 

This week another person walked in to church. She was being taught up in Menlo Park, and recently moved here. We're meeting with her this week.

Sorry for the really short letter. This week was one of the most productive I've had in a long time and this coming week will be even better. The Lord is blessing us big time in our work. The work really is hastening. 

-Elder James Richards

veinte y uno

So I officially feel like an old fart.  I'm older than 40% of the sisters in my zone and almost all the Elders. Way older then everyone in the apartment. It's weird, I've never felt like the old one in my life. 

This week was great. We continued the finding blitz with 2 more new investigators. One of them walked into church on Sunday after church was over. We were actually on our way home and our WML called us. We went back and were able to talk to her about some different concepts. We're teaching her on Thursday. 

We have a ton of lessons already set up this week, which is a huge answer to prayers. We have lots of investigators, but some have been hard to get a hold of. We have appointments set up with most of them already. This should be a big week for us, assuming everyone doesn't decide to cancel on us. We've got so many people to teach it's incredible. If we could just teach all of them in the same week, we'd be on fire. We're also getting more investigators to church. Our goal this week is 5, which may be more then I've ever gotten in a single week. 

This week we also got a less active young man to church. Since our ward is so young, we have 2 active young men, and both are out of town. We went over and talked about how the priesthood needed this boy, and he came. It was pretty cool. 

We're are making great progress, and it is great to see Elder Son growing. He was like me when he was first out; shell shocked at the fact that he'd be here for 2 years. Now he's growing a lot and becoming more confident in his abilities. It's good to see and he's a great missionary. 

Thank you for all the birthday wishes,

-Elder Richards


So this past week, every day we were on a bike, it was over 100 degrees. This week, the high is 82 for the whole week. That's better.

This week was great. We taught a lady named Bernie on Saturday. It was our second lesson and we took a member that was perfect for her. They really hit it off and the member gave Bernie a ride to church on Sunday. It was great to have some investigators in Sacrament again. She's doing great and has questions, but has already had spiritual experiences and is searching. We're going to hopefully be setting a baptismal date on Wednesday. 

We continue to have tons of investigators. We decided to do the most patriotic thing ever on the 4th of July. Teach an African and a Mexican the gospel. So we did. There is a member here who is a refugee from the Congo. He set us up a lesson with his roommate and we were able to start teaching him. It is an exercise in listening, since the member speaks with a thick french/ African accent, and the investigator has a Mexican accent. We understand what they're saying... for the most part. 

This week we were also able to make a mini break through with an investigator we've been teaching for a while. She came to the 4th of July breakfast, so we were able to introduce her to Bishop and a few other members of the ward. We were also able to show her the chapel and commit her to come to church this coming week. She volunteers at an old folks home smack in the middle of our church time, so she'll be coming to the sacrament meeting of the ward after ours. It's tough, because volunteering is actually a mildly legitimate excuse. But she'll be there and we think church will help her a lot. 

We're doing good and working hard. Elder Son is doing great. He taught really well in our lesson with Bernie. It's amazing though that he graduated in 2013. I feel old in our apartment of an 18 year old, a barely 19 year old and a 19 year old. This is the first time I've felt old in my life. I was always the young one in school. It's different. 

Since Elder Parker left, I'm President's new bike fix it guy. I just picked up a fixie from the mission home that he wants me to fix. 

I'm going to get some clothing items today and a hat for my birthday gift to me. I have some cash, so I shouldn't dip into the card too much, if at all. I need some short sleeve white shirts. I fell on my bike the other day. I only got a 1 inch scratch on my hand as a result, but my handlebars ripped the pocket off of my shirt. I also need to conform to the new missionary dress and grooming standards. Note the Khakis and ditching of backpacks. We're hip now.

-Elder James Richards

My son.

So, my new companion's name is Elder Son. I've been having fun with that. My son Elder Son. He's from Indiana. I've had as many companions from Indiana as I have from Utah. Figure that one out...

We have a ton of work going on right now. We have 11 investigators, which is more then I've ever had at one time. It's almost becoming hard to stay on top of them all, but it's awesome when you look at the week and you already have 8-10 lessons planned out, not including dinner lessons. This week should be a real jump for us. We've set some big goals and are working hard to accomplish them. We're also believing in them. 

These two transfers are going to be the best of my mission. I'm working hard and trying new things and tightening other things up. It's going to be a wild ride.

My district this transfer is awesome. We actually have more sisters in the district then Elders, 5 to 4. It's pretty crazy. I went for my first 15 months without having any sisters in my district. They're a great district. We have the Elders we live, the Samoan sisters and one set of the Spanish sisters. We've got a lot going on in the district, so it's going to be a good transfer for the district as well. We lost all our problem missionaries, and traded a companionship of Elders for the Hermanas. Pretty good trade.

-Elder James Richards.

It's 4 son.

So, Elder Parker is off to the land of Vernal, Ut tomorrow (and he's not excited about vernal, or Utah haha), and I will be training a new missionary next transfer. This is son number 4. Elder Platt and Elder Bingham are also training so I'll have two new grandsons too. Hooray for posterity. 

Yesterday's broadcast was awesome. The internet and technology changes won't really affect me much, but it was a great instruction for ward councils and others. 

I'm past the 21 month mark now. I've still got a lot of work to make this area a producing one, but it will be do able. I'll hopefully have a companion with energy and our district will not have as many problems in it that I need to babysit. The Bishop really trusts us too. Things are going pretty good!

Have a good week.

-Elder Richards


Hello all.

This week has been good. It went by super fast. The Elder Echo Hawk tour was cool. 

Another cool thing happened on Thursday. My companion went to the temple with the other departing missionaries, and we went to go collect them from the mission office. We pull up and standing there is my trainer (Elder Miller). It was pretty cool to catch up with him and talk about good 'ol Salinas days. His job sends him out here sometimes for training and so he gets free mission tours. It's like the third time he's been here, but the first time I've seem him. He called Gina on his phone and I was able to talk to her for a few minutes which was cool. She sounds like she is doing great. It's amazing the changes people make. 

This week is Elder Parker's last week. We're going full steam. The ward likes us, and we are able contribute well in ward council. We have been able to connect with members and gain their trust. We are working with some less actives that are moving forward and we are having more success with investigators. 

This week I've reflected a lot on how the Gospel changes us. One of my favorite quotes in PMG (and dad also included it in his letter) is that "A study of the Gospel will change behavior quicker then a study of behavior will." So true. Both in my life and in the lives of others, I've seen those changes. When you understand the Atonement, you do things differently. You have a drive to better yourself.  You know that the mistakes you make aren't good, but they don't define you. You learn that through the Grace and Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can truly become better and happier people. 

This week was good. have a good one

-Elder Richards

Echo Hawk. Echo, echo, echo...

So yesterday was our mission tour with Elder Echo Hawk. Has been a seventy for less time then I have been on my mission. That was odd to think about. He talked a bit about his Quarterbacking days at BYU. He was also a secretary of Indian affairs in the Obama administration. His talk focused on how the Lord calls us to do things at sometimes in opportune times. It is up to us to answer the call. He also talked a lot about his conversion as a teenager.

This past week was good. One of our investigators is in HI for 4 weeks. She is getting so close. He husband is a member. He was less active until about 4 months ago. Now he's on fire. We invited her to be baptized and we really feel like she would have accepted if she wasn't leaving. We've still got a few concerns, but she's getting close. 

We've got a few potentials. Our bishop told us to look out for a mother and daughter that were coming to church. They were taught up in Redwood city, but moved down here. We didn't see them, so we're following up with our bishop this week. We also gave a blessing to a Less Active member that will be moving into our ward soon with her non-member husband and kids. She has cancer and talked about how she wanted to come back and that her husband was interested. 

Yesterday the Elder Echo Hawk meeting ended up being in Salinas. It was so weird to be back in that chapel over a year later. It felt like I was coming home. I could help but reflect on all the events that happened there. It was pretty cool to be back.

Week was good. 

-Elder James Richards


So this is being sent today due to a scheduling snafu involving us putting together some sister bikes for President and an ill-planned pday trip to Santa Cruz via bus yesterday. Pretty cool, a bus leaves from our area and it's pretty much nonstop. A fun day was had.

This week was a good week. We're really starting to gain the trust of our members, which is great. Since there has been a history of lackluster missionaries in the area, gaining the support of members seems to be a larger struggle then usual. It's going well though. Our ward mission leader and Bishop seem to be taking a sigh of relief. 

This week we had an interesting phone call from a woman wanting to be baptized. We talked to the 2nd counselor in the bishopric, who had talked to her, and he said she had contacted the bishopric about money. We still went to teach, we had our guards up though. In the lesson, she seemed very sincere and really did want to learn about the church. She has a sister that is a member in our ward. She's trying to get out of an abusive relationship now and get on her feet. She was pretty banged up. We set a pretty optimistic baptismal date, and left feeling good. She missed church though, and our appointment last night, so we're a little concerned. I'm so tired of getting the run around from people. We'll see how it goes.

We're working on finding some solid investigators. We have a pretty decent sized pool, but a few are getting close to being dropped. 

This Monday and Tuesday, Elder Echo Hawk will be conducting a mission tour. We'll be meeting with him on Monday, so next week's email will probably be on Tuesday as well. 

-Elder James Richards

What Service?

So we picked up the coolest service ever this week. There is a nonprofit bike shop in our area that President Watkins got us in with. We fix low income and homeless people's on Saturday mornings. They have a big warehouse and they have tons of donated bikes and parts and such. They sell the donated bikes to fund the shop. They have every tool you could ever need. It's some good expirience too. I've learned a lot of fixing bike while I've been out here, so it's cool to be in a shop setting. I'm beginning to think that Elder Parker and I got put together so that we could fix everyone's bikes. President has 10 that he ordered that he wants us to assemble.... haha

This week was a good week for us in Cherry. We picked up two new investigators and got a ton of referrals. As much as previous missionaries shot this area in the foot, it's doing well. Elder Parker has done a good job building it, and the ward was excited when the missionary that I replaced left. We are teaching an older couple who's son joined the church a few years ago. They want to know why their son joined. They are a great family and are actually searching. We taught the plan of salvation last week.

Another one of our investigators come from a part member family. The husband was baptized when he was about 17 and fell away shortly after. Recently, he has started to come back and he's been on fire. They come as a family every week. She's still kind of searching, but she is so close. We just need to help her get there. 

This area is pretty neat. We have most of downtown San Jose. The downtown isn't really that big. It feels Ft lauderdale-esc. The city itself is huge because it just spreads out. It comes with a lot of crazys though. We taught a guy who smoked one to many joints in his younger days. It was amusing. We probably won't go back haha. Such is city life. 

-Elder James Richards


So I am sitting in the family history center of the Cherry Building right now Emailing you. I am in the Cherry Glen ward of the San Jose South stake.

My companion's name is Elder Parker. He has one transfer left and is from Georgia. He's been here for 3 months. We were both sent here to help clean up the area. There were some pretty bad things done here by previous missionaries, and it's killed a lot of the work. I can tell the ward was pretty excited to see that the Elder I replaced has been transferred. I'm a district leader here, and in my district, one of the other ward's was combined with Cherry Glen when the stupid stuff went down, and another ward that under performs. President pulled me in before transfers and talked to me about this assignment. We're doing pretty good. My companion is all about working and so we're doing great. Getting the other areas/missionaries motivated is the key and learning my area, since I only have 5 more weeks with Elder Parker before he goes home. I also have the Samoan sisters in my district, and they are great. They just had a baptism last night of a man who was in his 80s. On of the sisters that came in was the first sister called to speak Samoan in this mission. Up until now, President has had native Samoan speakers in the unit. Of course, while at the baptism, I saw a family that I know from Newark. Its a big small world with Polynesians. Elder Baldwin is my zone leader here so he'll be a good resource in helping clean up the district.

This week was crazy. We were moving into a brand new apartment this week. Wood floors and stainless steal appliances included. We live with the Elders from the Dry Creek ward. We share a car here and bike/ public transportation the rest of the week. We live right next to a light rail station, so it's super convenient. Our area is most of Downtown San Jose. It's a big change from any of my other areas. We are right in the heart of the city. It's pretty cool.

This area is actually more built up then my previous two when I came into them. We have a few people that are pretty close to baptism, we just have to push them over. We'll be inviting a lot of people to be baptized this week.

Now instead of being exiled to the south or the north like I usually am, I'm right in the middle. It's way different, but it'll be great. Have a good week.

-Elder James Richards

What goes here?

Well, seeing as yesterday was mother's day, I don't have too much to say, but in case you missed it, I am getting transferred. No idea where yet, don't know until Tuesday. 

The baptism went well on Saturday. One more step in helping the family get to the temple. Here's a picture.

Pleasanton has been good. It was really hard here at first, but I've really learned diligence. The work is rolling in this area, and I'm leaving it with an investigator that is all but baptized, and another solid one. I'm sad to go, but happy at the same time. New adventures for my last 4 months. 

-Elder James Richards


So this week was the baptism! Jennifer and Christina were baptized by their dad. It's the rescue in action. I was fretting a bit, since the service was sparsely attended. It didn't matter as I watched the girls be baptized and the spirit testified to me that this is it. This is baptism and the baptism that God wants for us. I was so happy for this family.

This coming week a 13 year old girl is getting baptized. The rest of her family are returning/ newly baptized members. I'll actually be the one baptizing her, so I'm pretty excited for that. This is one of the last steps in helping them get to the temple.

We did have some sad news this week. Silaa won't be able to be baptized until the end of summer. His Mother is worried about his level of commitment. She doesn't think he's all in. He is and has a strong testimony. It's a bummer, and this seems to be the trend in the stake. I can't understand for the life of me why these parents won't let their kids join. With EJ's mom in Newark, she saw the changes in him and absolutely loved it. She herself didn't necessarily want to join, be she saw the great impact it was having. It seems like everyone out here has a "my way" mentality and that really hurts these kids who are prepared for the Gospel. Silaa is taking it in stride and is willing to show his parents that he is committed. He still wants to be baptized and was in church yesterday after his mom told him about this. We're just so thankful that she didn't make him wait until he is 18. I hope his Mom keeps up her end because that would mean he will still be baptized before I go home.

Pleasanton is rolling. Have a good week.

-Elder James Richards


Hello all. So this area has been set up nicely. We have two baptisms on the 4th, one on the 11th, and one on the 18th. Silaa is on the 18th. He's doing awesome. 

We started teaching an 18 year old girl this week. She is another student at Amador Valley. The youth here are catching the wave for sure. These priests are so much more prepared then I was, and it was only 3 years ago for me. They're doing amazing things. 

One of the counselors in the stake presidency invited us to a meeting that was for all the young men and young women's presidents in the stake. It was a planning meeting for an activity they plan on having. It will be giving youth real world missionary expiriences. They are assigned another youth as their companion and then they go into someone's home (be they Active, Less-Active, or even non-member) and have dinner and teach a lesson. We're doing a little bit of training with them before they teach. Then the following night, there will be a little fireside open mic thing for them to share their experiences. I think this will be super cool for the youth. 

The ward just sent out a missionary this week to Scotland/Ireland mission. We've been bringing him with us a lot to appointments and he'll make a great missionary. I'll have to bother him through email one of these weeks.

I could be transferred on the Tuesday after Mother's day. That will be less then a week before Silaa gets baptized. It won't be too bad, since I'll be able to come back for it. He could potentially meet the new Elder at his baptism. We'll see though. We had interviews this week with President and the only scenario I took off the table was to finish my mission here. So I'll either be here for 2 more weeks or 8 more and then move on to a short 4th area. He actually talked to me about getting things set for when I go home, which was weird. I'll get in to my BYU stuff this week and see what I need to do. I'd also like to try to have a job lined up when I get home, if that's possible, so keep your eyes out. Could be anything, I don't really care as long as it pays and they'll take me for the 3 months. Still a while until I get home, but if you can keep an eye open and maybe ask around that would be great.

Love you all, have a good week.

-Elder James Richards

Sticky Thai.

So this week we had a scare. Silaa texts us and cancels an appointment. We ask why and he just says it's complicated. Later, he texts us back and wants to meet at his work, because he wants to talk. I was going crazy at this point. I thought he was going to drop us or tell us his mom said no. We walk in to the restaurant he works at. A Thai place. He sits us down, then comes back with some water and says "hey, my mom gave me permission." And then walks off to go wait a another table. We were sooooooo excited. It was not what I was expecting at all. He's going to be baptized on the 18th and was in church yesterday. And he got us Thai sticky rice with mango. It was good. 

We have had a lot of good things going on lately. Yesterday, a priest had a friend in church. He had talked to her about the church at school. She had tons of questions, and he gave her a Book of Mormon. She read it all day, and now has tons more questions. We're going to try to meet with her this week. The youth are on it here. It's been cool, because we started that Book of Mormon competition with the priests and there are some definite fruits of their labors. We have a very healthy youth group, so I'm pretty excited for the work. 

Biking has been good. It's been in the high 80s/low 90s here. Pleasanton isn't like Newark. We're over the hill, so the Bay doesn't really cool us off any. At least we're not over the other hill, in Tracy or Stockton, where it gets really hot. 

We're still progressing towards the baptism with the 9 year olds. We're pretty much at the bottom of the record hunt for a girl in the ward, and no one has been able to produce anything. The stake and family are wanting to rebaptized her, so it's looking like that will happen. She is the daughter of a recent convert, so it will be good for her family to be there and see the baptism. 

I may be out of Pleasanton in 3 weeks. We have interviews this week, so I'm going to ask what President is going to do. We'll see if he volunteers any info. I could stay or go. I don't really care either way. Silaa will be baptized the first week of next transfer, but I can come back, and it won't be too big a deal since it is the first week. We'll see what happens. Either way, my fourth area will be a shorter stay then usual. 

-Elder Richards


So this week was really good. We taught more lessons then we ever had. We had all of our investigators (who also all have baptismal dates) in Sacrament meeting. The three of them will be baptized in the first two weeks of May. Silaa was originally set for this coming Saturday, but he wanted a little more time. We aren't too worried about that because he's read about half of the Book of Mormon and went out this weekend and bought clothes for church. The previous two times he came in shorts and a Tshirt, and this time he came looking like a Priest. He also stayed for all 3 hours, so we got to introduce him to our Priests' Quorum members. There are a lot of guys that age in the ward, so it's great for fellowshipping. 

This week I was able to witness a baptism of an 18 year old boy who had been coming to church for two years. His mother never consented for him to be baptized. It got kind of hairy for a bit there, back in February, so we had to play a lot of damage control as the ZLs. It was so great to see him finally be able to make the covenants that he has been wanting all along. It was a special service, and they filled a stake center size chapel. It was hard to cram everyone in to the primary room to see it. All of his family was there, mother included. His Grandpa was actually really in to in, and attended the Elder Holland meeting a few weeks ago. We'll see if that goes somewhere. The kid who got baptized was so excited. He is sad that he has to wait a year to go to the temple and serve a mission, because that is his biggest desire right now. He'll be a great missionary. Most kids that run in to this kind of opposition fade out, so he's by far the exception, so it's really cool that he made it. 

This week was good. Elder Davis is doing great. He's learning a lot and wasn't intimidated by all the hills we had to bike up.

E'rybody have a good week.

-Elder James Richards

New Transfer.

So, Elder Baldwin left on Tuesday, down to San Jose. My new companion came in on Thursday with all the new missionaries. His name is Elder Davis, and he's from Queen Creek, AZ. There were only 2 english elders that came in this transfer. The ration of sisters to Elders coming in was 5 to 8. Apparently, it will get more crazy pretty soon. You may have heard, but there will now be sister Leadership positions. This will be great. They'll be kind of akin to Zone Leaders, but for sisters. They be able to exchange with companions and areas that are struggling. That will be great, because as a zone Leader, you worry about the sisters, but there isn't much you can do. I'm at an interesting time. I'll start to see everything settle down and then go home. 

So Silaa, the 17 year old friend of a member, is still tracking for the 20th. He really wants to be baptized, and is keeping his commitments. He still needs to be in Church this week, but we're confident that he'll be there. The only thing we worry about is the parents. He says his Dad is ok with it, but his mom is a little worried that it will affect his grades. It shouldn't be a problem, but the stake has a history of parents not giving consent for kids who are ready. There is a guy who is getting baptized this weekend who has been going to church for 2 years. He turned 18 yesterday. It's sad though, because he is easily the exception. Most kids don't make it. We have 2 in our ward that would come but their mom wouldn't let them be baptized, and they dropped off. It doesn't sound like any of that will happen with Silaa, but we're a little antsy because of all the history. When his mom says yes, it will be smooth sailing. 

This past week we went in to Thursday, when Elder Davis got here, with 3 lessons, since I was out of the area for two days. We just taught 17 before Sunday night. No biggie. It's incredible how the area and zone have changed. 

This will be a great transfer. It could be my last here, or I could go one more here. Either way, it will be successful. 

-Elder James Richards

March Madness

So, the last transfer ended yesterday, and crazy things are happening. First off, Elder Baldwin is getting transferred  Not to groundbreaking, we figured he'd be going. Second, I'm training again. Also, the Chinese Elders were just made zone leaders, so it looks like I'll be taking a break from ZLing, which will be kind of nice. I may be a district leader again, which also would be cool, but we'll see. I could be training an 18 year old.... Across the mission there have been a lot of whitewashings, random out of the norm transfers, and just general craziness. We'll know everything at the transfer meeting on Tuesday. 

Elder Baldwin and I are handing the zone over in a great place. The last two weeks the zone averaged over 20 lessons per companionship. That was our vision. It is a jump of about 40 lessons per week, spread across the 5 companionships. We saw a bunch of people baptized, and a bunch more set up. Pleasanton is a middle of the pack stake this year, instead of dead last. It's doing great, so I'm excited to hand it over and focus more on our area. If all goes according to plan, we could have 4, maybe 5 people baptized by the end of the transfer. That's BIG.

Some sad news this week, Bill dropped us. He came out and said he has too much pressures right now. He's in a large amount of debt due to a reverse mortgage on his lot. He needs to pay his property taxes or the bank could seize his lot, and he doesn't have any money. He doesn't have anyone around him competent enough to help him get out of the situation.  His son and another guy are pulling him away from us, but they aren't really helping either. He was almost in tears while we were talking to him. He still appreciates all the people he's met and friendships he's made, so members will stay plugged in. I really believe if he would have been baptized, and followed all the commandments, he would have been helped with this, but it's sad. I'll go visit him towards the end of April to see how he's doing. He still has a testimony, he just needs to put it to use.

Everyone we've been teaching is doing good. This week was spring break, so we weren't able to see Silaa, but he seems like he's still on it. The new missionary is coming in at a good time. 

I really love the emailing friends too. I was able to connect with Samson, from my last area. He was EJ's main fellowshipper, and he's on a mission in Alaska now. He's been out for about 3 months and is loving it. He just got done being trained. He said EJ still wants to go on a mission. I always joked with EJ that he would train my little brother. I hope he gets out.

Have an good week.

-Elder James Richards

Records, Apostles, and Compliments

Well this week was great. The double dose of Elder Holland was a rare treat. In the Pleasanton Stake, he talked about Acts chapter 3, and gave 3 unique insights. If you read it, this will make more sense. 

1) You can't argue with the evidence. The lame man jumping up and down can't be argued with. The lives of the members, the fulfillment of prophecies, the Book of Mormon, the good things that come from the church, are all evidences of the truth. Heap on top of that the personal witnesses and encounters from the spirit, and you have an immense amount of evidence

2) You get more then you give up. The man expected to get a coin from Peter and John. That would have been nice,  and he would have been happy if he'd got one. But he got so much more. The gospel is about initial sacrifices with intense blessings poured out upon us. 

3) You can't kill this. The Pharisees thought they had killed the work with Jesus Christ. But you can't stop it. The stone cut out of mountain without hands (Daniel 2) will roll forth and fill the whole earth, whether some people like it or not. 

Great meetings all around. 

We also had a great week with the work. We started teaching a 16 year old guy names Silaa. His parents are Thai and he's been to church twice. He's been coming with a girl in the ward. He accepted a baptismal date for April 20th! He's very prepared, and we're really excited for this. Bill continues to move in the Gospel, but struggle financially. He's got more problems than any 90 year old deserves. He still wants to be baptized, but tithing is still a big issue. We don't really know what to do for him. 

This week we got a great compliment from the 2nd counselor in the stake presidency, who we had dinner with last night. He tells it like it is, and doesn't sugar coat things, so it was kind of cool to hear. He said the zone has really improved in the last 4 months. And it has. Last week the zone taught a collective 104 lessons, almost a 21 per comp average. That is the first time that has been done. We're super excited. 

We're looking at at least 3 baptisms in our area next transfer. That will be more then I've had in any one transfer. My how this area has changed.

-Elder James Richards

Elder Holland x2 (also 6 months left)

So I go home 6 months from today. That is really scary. 

This coming week we get the double dose of Elder Holland. He will be speaking to the mission on Saturday, and then to the Pleasanton stake on Sunday. This is the second apostle that has come since I've been here. He will also come with Elder Maynes of the presidency of the seventy. This will actually be the third time I've met him.

This week a young man came to church for the second time. He is the friend of one of the young women in the ward. He has been asking her tons of questions. He came 3 weeks ago, and enjoyed it, but then he told the girl he wouldn't be coming back. He's had some friends pulling him the other way. He surprised her when he showed up to church again this past Sunday. We went over and talked to the family about it, and the YW is going to invite him to have the lessons this week. This guy is a good kid, and from what we've heard of him, repentance and the Atonement should really resonate with him. 

This last week was the baptism in the third ward. It always nice to see baptisms in the zone. Pleasanton continues to be a middle of the pack stake in the mission, which is huge, since we had the least baptisms in 2012. We have 7 this year with a few more already lined up. One of them is an 17 year old who turns 18 early next month. His mom has been quite anti, so he's been coming for the last 2 years and couldn't be baptized. He's also in the 3rd ward. We have two dates in our ward, the 9 year old twins, set for May 4th. With those 3, that will be as many as we had last year. The stake is steadily improving, and companionships are able to do more and more.

It is looking like Elder Baldwin will probably be transferred in 2 weeks. There is a chance that I could go, looking at the way my transfers are lining up before I go home, but that isn't as likely. I'll probably be partially on a bike next transfer, since we will probably be going up at least one companionship in the zone. With all the new increase there are a lot of sisters on bikes, so we are trying to spread the cars around a little more. 

This week we received some interesting news. We learned in a letter from the missionary department that we are allowed to Email friends now. That's a pretty big change. We still only have a set amount of time at the computer, so I might have to hand write responses, but it will be nice to be able to email people. 

Have an good week.

-Elder Richards


So this last week went pretty well. Bill came to church again. We are moving towards a March 30th baptismal date, but he hasn't committed yet because he wants to let his son know first. Our Bishop gave him the Lorenzo Snow Priesthood manual, and he read the part about tithing. It was perfect for him. He's doing good.

We should be picking up 2 more 10 year olds in the coming month. One boy is the grandson of a recent convert. He's going to start coming to church with his Grandma, he wants to be baptized, and his mom has given permission for him to be baptized. We're going to start teaching him in the later part of this month. It would be great to have these two baptisms on May 4th, with the 9 year old twins that are getting baptized. It be kind of like a primary baptism day, except for kids over 8. It's funny that we're teaching a bunch of young kids and a 90 year old. Now we just need to find people in between. 

We also did 20/140 last week, and we're the first companionship in P2 to do that twice, so that's pretty cool. 

Yesterday, I was able to do a baptismal interview. It's an interesting process to interview investigators for baptism. Our interviews are pretty low key. The big problems and repentance issues are handled by the mission president, so for the most part the people that the ZLs/DLs interview are ready to go. In all the interviews I've conducted, the spirit confirmed to me over and over, this person is ready. That interview is how we know investigators are ready. If they aren't they wouldn't pass it. The majority of people do. After they are baptized and confirmed is when the real growth occurs. That is why the ward is so important. In my opinion, the ward has more sway on investigators and new members then the missionaries do. This stake is getting pretty good at working with new members. There are big goals to have home teachers before baptism, be ordained to the priesthood within a week of confirmation, hold a calling, get to the temple for baptisms and so on. All of these things help the convert build their testimony. 

We're chugging along in Pleasanton. Have a good week.

-Elder James Richards


stuff. Good stuff.

So, the development this week, Bill came to church! He liked it too. We took Bishop over last Sunday, and he slipped him a white shirt and tie. We took his slacks to the dry cleaner and he looked like a good 'ol High Priest on Sunday. We did get out his biggest concern, which is tithing. He's in a lot of financial stresses lately. We were able to talk about it with him. We left him in a good spot, but he told us in church that he still has some questions. He still want's to be baptized though, so we're shooting for a March 30th date. This was huge, and we were ecstatic. One of the stake's retention initiatives is to have home teachers assigned to the investigator before baptism, so now we can take that to ward council and get them assigned. This stake has been really good at that.

We set a baptismal date with the 9 year old twins we teach for May 4th. They've been coming to church consistently for about 2 months now. The date is kind of far, but that is when the Dad wanted, so that's what we're going for. I'll most likely be here for that, so that will be good.

We've kept the competition with the priests going, and this last week, they brought a friend to seminary. Elder Baldwin and I were super impressed.

There was also a guy in church who is a friend of a young woman in the ward. He went last Saturday, because he though our church was on Saturday. One of the members was there cleaning the building and saw him and talked to him and gave him a Book of Mormon. This week he was able to make it out to church and we talked to him for a bit. He's about 17ish.

Well, this week was great. Probably one of the most productive I've had here in Pleasanton. Hopefully the coming week can be as well. 

-Elder James Richards


So last week, I guess I sounded sad or something, since everyone has commented on it. Let me tell you about this crazy week we just had.

We picked up 3 new investigators. One is a 19ish year old kid named Brian. He was a referral from the spanish sisters, since he said his english is better then his spanish. He's real quiet, so we just got to know him and gave him a Book of Mormon. Our other two investigators are 9 year old twin girls. They are the daughters of less active members who are returning pretty well. They just recently turned 9. We've been teaching them for a while, and we had a date set up for them to be baptized before they turned 9, but that date slid. It's kind of a bummer in that aspect. We tried to get them baptized as soon as possible, since the parents have been dragging their feet for over a year. But, I guess this is the way it was supposed to happen, so I'm ok with that. We'll work really hard to help them get there. We basically had 2 baptisms fall into our lap, which is cool.

Bill is doing good. One day we went over to his house and his crazy little dog got our and we got to chase it all over the golf course behind Bill's house. We caught him before he got too far, and Bill was very grateful. Yesterday, we went over and introduced Bishop to Bill. We had a nice visit, and he really wants to get baptized before Elder Baldwin leaves, but he still won't get over his want of proper clothes, and he still won't let us help him. He still wants to feel independent. He has changed an incredible amount. He believes and has a testimony, we just can't seem to get over the last hurdle. He'll go. Hopefully sooner then later.

This week, we did our 20 lessons/ 140 contacts. I haven't done both of those in the same week the whole time I've been here. I feel like we've got the area to a place where we can do that consistently now. The mission is moving up as well. We're baptizing at the pace the mission was when I first got here, which is huge jump from 2012. All the new missionaries will help that. We got the first 19 year old sister in the zone this past week. It's kind of scary, since she graduated high school in 2011. 

The priests did a great job. They got out 5 copies of the Book of Mormon. We had them share experiences in the beginning of priest quorum and everyone had good things to share. We beat them, but we're going up against them this next week as well. We have a pretty charismatic bunch of priests, so it will be interesting to see what comes of this. 

I'll probably be here 2 more transfers, for the standard 4, and then do my last 3 in another area. I have less time left on the mission than I spent in Newark or Salinas. weird.

Anyway, a pretty good week.

-Elder James Richards

So it begins...

Today we had our transfer meeting. Neither I or Elder Baldwin were transferred. We're sticking around in Pleasanton. This transfer, we have 6 going home, and 29 coming in. This is our first batch of 19/18 year old sisters/ Elders. Not too much happened in Pleasanton, as far as crazy changes go. There were a lot of whitewashings and creating of areas. A sister in the zone is training, so we could have a sister that is younger than me. That's weird.  Elder Platt got transferred to Fremont, and he is Elder Bingham's district leader. Elder Bingham is still in Newark, and is training again, so Fremont is becoming a gathering place for my posterity. 

This week should be a great week for us. We've got a bunch of new potential investigators that we hope to start teaching this week. A few are member referrals that we are chasing. Elder Baldwin and I have set the goal to baptize 3 people this transfer. That will be a big stretch, but we feel like we can do it. One thing we've started is a competition with the priests. We are seeing who can hand out more copies of the Book of Mormon, the priest's quorum or the missionaries. We think they are going to smoke us, but we're going to try hard. It is a really good group of priests. 

One thing we're trying to change is out attitude. We feel like we've been letting ourselves get down, and keeping ourselves there. This is a hard area, but we have work to do. This transfer will be a big one for us. 

Also, as a side note, in addition to Elder Holland speaking to the mission on the 23rd of March, he will be speaking to the Pleasanton stake on the 24th. We get him twice. That will be cool. 

Have a good week, and look for ways to share the Gospel.

-Elder James Richards


So funny story. All the kids were off of school, so we thought yesterday was presidents day. Whoops.

This week we had some interesting developments come forth. First off, Jeffrey R. Holland will be here on March 23rd to do some priesthood leadership training and talk to the mission. That will be way cool. He'll be the second apostle to come through since I've been here. Elder Maynes of the presidency of the seventy will be here as well, and he's been here 3 or 4 times.

This week I learned some more interesting information. Every California mission has seen a dip in baptisms the past few years, ours included. However, this past year, we were the only mission to see an increase in sacrament attendance. I don't think that is a coincidence. The rescue is working. It helps less active members come back, and active-ish members stay. Now we'll work on getting our baptisms up and we'll be golden. 

This week we are going to try to get Bill to a baptism this weekend. There are 2 happening in the Livermore stake, which is adjacent to ours and is about a 20 minute drive. He still wants to have his clothes and other affairs set in order before he goes to church, and still won't let us help, but a baptismal service may be a good way to break the ice with him. He still has an incredible desire to be baptized, so we're hoping that he'll stick to the timetable he set, and that will get him in the water in late March.

This week we are trying to be ultra obedient. Tighten up the little things and exercise more faith. So far it's been going really well. Last night we were discouraged because all our appointments had fallen through, and it was late, and we had nothing to do. I resolved that I would do some missionary work, and at least give out a copy of the Book of Mormon. We just didn't know where. We were getting gas at about 8:30 and there was only one other couple at the gas station, so we went to the pump next to them and started to fill. Then they started talking to us. I was blown away. They are friends of members in our ward, have seen the temple and have even been to the grounds for someone's wedding. We gave them a Book of Mormon and our number, and he gave us his business card. There are always people looking, and we just need to exercise faith to find them.

From what mom has been telling me, it sounds like you've got some interesting missionaries there now. Just remember, the baptismal covenant is set out for everyone. Many times it will be a huge step in faith where we can foresee possible issues or problems, but the added benefit of the Holy Ghost and the atonement in that person's life are the greatest things that we can have in this life to deal with problems. The walls that Satan put up to keep people from getting baptized are incredible, but we can't shrink at them, we've got to push through them. Christ is the one moving forward with us, so it will work out if we put our faith in Him. I think I've said this before, but I'm excited to go home and be a member. You grow up thinking that missionaries have the most influence on peoples' growth and that members are accessory. I've come to learn that it is the exact opposite. The greatest growth will come after baptism. Members have so much impact on what happens in that time. You hit a wall in you're progression, and learning, that simply can't be over come without the first ordinances of the Gospel. 

We're working hard this week in being bold in inviting all to come unto Christ. We're going to find some new investigators.

-Elder James Richards

stuff and things.

So this week was good. We didn't teach as many as last week, but it wasn't too bad. It's funny how attitude and perceptions change once you've hit your goal. I know we can teach 20 here, so 15 looks like kind of a downer week. If we would have taught 15 three weeks ago we would have been on cloud nine. Attitude changes everything.

Yesterday was a big northern California stake conference broadcast with Elder Perry. His talk was great. It was telling the members to get with missionary work. The new influx of missionaries will be hitting in about 2 weeks, so we need to get rolling. I wonder how many companionships the Ft Lauderdale ward will have after everyone lands.

This week we went to San Jose for a Zone Leader Council meeting. When sister Watkins spoke, we brain stormed some out of the box finding ideas. We're going to start a competition with the priests. We're going to see who can hand out more copies of the Book of Mormon per week. And we're going to double what they do. We'll figure out what some prizes can be for when they beat us. I've also been thinking of ways we may be able to implement the blessing of homes here. We don't tract, so it's different, but I may start to offer it more in street contacts and such. If you've got any other finding ideas you've seen, let me know. Finding investigators is the biggest struggle here. 

Bill is still doing good. He still won't accept help from us, but if all goes well, he'll be in church in early March, meaning he can be baptized in late March. We figured out more of the reason as to why he wants to be independent. He was a big deal in the community about 15 years ago. Most people that have been around for a while at least know his name. His wife passed away 12 years ago, and then he had some health problems of his own, so he hasn't been out much as of late. He wants to come back, and be in the community, and meet good people, and he recognizes that the church is a place to do that. He just wants everything to be in order. He wants to look his best for that, which we can respect. We're just going to continue to teach him and help him feel the spirit. He's read the majority of the Book of Mormon, and believes it, knows that we hold the priesthood, and has great faith. We know the Lord will help him get there, even if it takes a little while. 

Hopefully there are more new things to report next week. 
-Elder James Richards

I got bored of writing

So this will be short. But I got pictures to work. yay.

This week was really good. We hit 20 lessons! It was the first time since I've been here, and only the second time the area has ever done it. We're still working with Bill, and he's slowly moving closer. He's starting to accept more help from us. When we can get him to church, we should be able to set a date with him and then baptize him. We're also trying to pick up a few 9 year olds. Children of various active and less active members in the ward. Hopefully good things will come from that. 

This past week we met a less active man named Gerry. We have half of a tiny little town called Sunol in our area. He lives down there. He recently moved in with his son, and he's been a member for 8ish years. He's been to the temple. He isn't afraid to be open about his religion and show people what he knows. His family aren't members, but were incredibly nice, and invited us to join them for dinner. Hopefully, we can try to start teaching all of them. Gerry is an old timey rancher, metal machinist, type guy, so he doesn't fit the "typical mormon" mold. I love people like that. It's refreshing. The church isn't about funeral potatoes and Jello. It's about bettering our lives through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The judging people on their appearances, or even their actions, and saying, "they wouldn't be interested" or "they wouldn't be good members" is totally bogus. The Gospel is for everyone.  There are so many different people, from so many different backgrounds. I'm sure you've seen that with all the baptisms and such back home. I hope that we can get our ward to reach out and fellowship people that are different from them. It's been a little tough here, but it's starting to roll. Our Young Women's president is a super example of fellowship and member missionary work. She is reaching out to bring non-members to girls camp, and inviting part-member families to dinner with us and everything. The ward council is really starting to like us, since they see that we are really working, really trying.    

Well, the working quickening every week. The stone is rolling.

-Elder James Richards

Me and Elder Fisher. I'm wearing some of my Christmas gifts. Yes, those are Filipino pajamas, given to me by my previous ward mission leader and his wife.

Most of the zone at transfers

Elder Baldwin, me and Elder Platt in our Indie Album cover shot.

A dog that lives outside of our investigator's house. We have affectionately named him Ullrich. Or Ully for short. He's like the dog from over the hedge. "play play play"

Family photo. Me and my sons (trainees), Elder Bingham and Elder Platt, as well as my grandson, Elder Billin (Elder Bingham's trainee)

The subject goes here.

This week was more of the same. Bill is doing better and better. Turns out he drives, and he found some connections so that he could get his car looked at and fixed. Hopefully all goes well with that. He likes to be independent, so this will probably be a huge step towards him coming to church. When we were there on Sunday, he showed us some antique books he had, and I was holding a bible from 1845. It was pretty incredible. He has a testimony of the gospel, and it is growing. First, he said he couldn't physically go to church. Now, he knows he can and wants to, he just wants everything to be right. He's a good 'ol boy, so he can be stubborn in not accepting help sometimes. 

Today Mary, the lady who was baptized the week before I got here, went in for surgery. They are looking at the masses she has on her lungs, and if necessary, are pulling them out. She's been nervous, but she and her family are doing so well in the gospel. Her husband, who has been less active for a while, is doing really well. We're working with him so that he can bless the sacrament some time. They have 2 daughters who are members, but we can't find the records for one of them. Today we called the mission office and the sister called Salt lake, and they still can't find the record. She may have to be rebaptized, which we don't really want to happen, but it looks like it may come to that. The consolation is that her father may be able to baptize her this time. 

We're also working with a semi active family to get their twin daughters baptized before they turn nine in March. We're in a really weird situation where we could have 3 convert baptisms that we are trying to avoid. Hopefully, these two are baptized before they turn 9 and Kiara's record can be found. 

This week we're trying to reach our standards of excellence with 20 lessons taught. This area has hovered around 11 in the past, and we taught 14 last week. We have a lot set up this week with different less active members and a few more investigators then we've had in the past. It's been hard to find new investigators here. As far as amount of people living within the boundaries, this is by far the smallest area I've had. It makes member work so important. Sometimes I feel like that hasn't caught on too well here. One thing this mission, with these programs, and this area is doing for me is making me excited to be a super member. The way it should be working is the members are the finders and the missionaries are the teachers, and I'm excited to go home and do that. I've learned that missionary work from a member standpoint isn't scary at all. When we are afraid to speak up is when we fail. I missed so many opportunities to share what I knew when I was at home. Hopefully all of you are taking full advantage of the times you have been given to share the gospel. 

Pleasanton is still tough. It will be tougher than Fremont to turn the zone around, but it's going. We're working with companionships and stake leaders to keep up, and build, the momentum that we have going. We've got 5 more committed to be baptized, and hopefully a few on the way. 

Youth are the best. I talked to Elijah the other day, and he's still doing good, still going to seminary. When I left, he was planning on a mission after high school, and really wanting to go to BYU-HI, and as far as I know, nothing has changed. 

Hope everyone has a good week.

-Elder James Richards

New Transfer

So, it's a new transfer. That went fast. This coming transfer is only 5 weeks to help everyone get on the same schedule as the MTC. So that means I'll actually get home a week early. Sept 18th instead of Sept 25th. 

This week was a really good week. And a stressful week. Some things happened that we've had to do a little damage control over. No one being disobedient or doing anything really stupid, just some hot headed comments from an Elder who didn't have a full picture of what happened. I'm super grateful for stake leaders that are understanding. We also have an Elder who is struggling. He is having some depression issues that are really making him sick. We've had to help that companionship and split with them a few times. He seems to be doing better and today he is going down to San Jose for some counseling. As far as being a Zone Leader, this was probably one of the more stressful weeks. None of that mattered though when we had a baptism of another family on Saturday. Awesome experience. And we had a miracle, because we had the family that we've been teaching showed up. We haven't taught them in two weeks and they made it to the baptism. It was such an answer to prayers. This week we should be able to reset the dates they had and start working towards their own baptism. 

We continue to teach Bill, the 89 year old rancher that never left Pleasanton. He's incredible. Thursday we came in and he said "those four boys of Mosiah are like you guys." He's read so much of the Book of Mormon, and he gets it too. We gave him a blessing so that he will be able to attend church, and we found his main concerns that keep him from coming. He also said yes to the baptismal invitation, he just didn't want to set a date, so we're working to that. The oldest person I've seen get baptized is 91, so this is pretty close. He believes the Book of Mormon, and the Restoration, and that we have the Priesthood and everything. Now we just need him to get to know people. 

Elder Baldwin and I have resolved that this will be the transfer that we work harder then we have before. Pleasanton is hard, so we're going to give it absolutely everything this transfer. We're trying for two baptisms this transfer. We have two 9 year old boys that we hope pan out, along with the possibility of Bill and the Metante family. It will be a stretch to get them there this transfer, but we're working for it. We want success in Pleasanton to continue. 

Also, for the past while we've been working with a family. The Mom got baptized a week before I got here, the husband was baptized in Honduras about 20 years ago, and the two daughters were baptized about 4 years ago. This past week was the first time the Dad has been to church in a few years. All of them were there together as a family. Alex, the husband, was in a suit, and they all stayed for all three hours. We were so excited. The way this family is going, they could be at the temple in a year. One thing that worries us is that they can't find one of the daughter's records. The ward has been dragging their feet on that for months, so we're going to call their old ward in St. Petersburg (Florida :D) this week. I'm afraid that if we have to rebaptize her then the temple clock starts over and we have to wait a year from then, instead of a year from Mary's baptism, which was about 6 weeks ago. So, if you have any tips for finding records when the birth date doesn't work, let us know. 

It looks like the big mission expansion comes at the end of this transfer. In February, 4 missionaries go home, and 27 come in. Lots of new areas will be created. In our zone, the missionaries that cover 2 wards will split, and one ward will probably be double covered. It's a cool time to be a missionary.

Jealous of the warmth,

-Elder James Richards

Solid Start

We had out stake correlation meeting yesterday with the stake president and the stake is ecstatic with the work that is going on. The stake has already had a family of 4 join, and there are 3 more baptisms this week, with some more set up for February. Pretty cool. We're working super hard, and it is paying off. The 3 "armpit" stakes in the north (Pleasanton, Livermore, and Fremont) have the most going on right now. It's a really cool switch.

As for us, we're learning to work our ward better. It is hard to get in with the members here, but we've started scheduling more appointments and this week, we have more set up then we usually do. We're still working with Bill. We're trying to scheme ways that we can get him to church. We need to get him to church a few times, and he can be baptized. He has a testimony of the Book of Mormon, he's just got some health things that keep him from coming. Pray for him.

The Metante family was busy this week, so we weren't able to see them. We're going on Tuesday, with our ward mission leader. We're inviting them to the baptisms this weekend. Miracles happen when people go to baptisms. They've been so busy though, so we're really worried. We just need to get them tied to the ward.

We had kind of a sad experience this week. We were teaching a man named Ben, and we taught him the restoration. He has done so many things in his church, basically for his whole life. He's been a pastor and a missionary and who knows what else. Some friends invited him to our Christmas party, and we met him and were able to start teaching him. We taught a good lesson and the spirit was strong. You could see it in his face that it struck something inside of him, but when we asked him to read and pray about the Book of Mormon, he said no. He's scared to know more. He felt the spirit in the lesson, but doesn't want to have to change. It's kind of sad. We'll try to teach him the plan of salvation and see. It's tough when people feel it and then don't accept it.

We have some prospects as far as investigators go. We've got a few children of record that haven't been baptized, and we're starting to work with the priest quorum on inviting. This week should be the busiest that I've had in Pleasanton, which will be nice.

On Friday, we went down to San Jose for a leadership council, and the mission goal for baptisms is 520. The mission has slid since at least 2010, maybe more. If we get 520, we'll be higher then 2010. We're trying to break the trend in the California missions. It seems doable. It is 10 baptisms a week. This past week, we had 11, and this coming week, 12 are planned.

2013 is starting off great. Elder Baldwin and I have big goals.

-Elder Richards