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