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.