Come, see and feel

Come, see and feel

Elder Wolfgang Pilz, Germany
Area Seventy

Area Seventy

The 1960s were characterized by significant changes and new growth in the Church in Europe. Elder Ezra Taft Benson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, later President of the Church, was called to Europe to preside here in Frankfurt over the European Mission. Under his direction, initiatives were started to bring the Church out of obscurity in the lands of central Europe, and particularly in Germany, which was most heavily hit by the destruction of the Second World War. Many units in Germany had lost their buildings and were now meeting in apartment blocks or backyard buildings.

In my home town, we met in a business building in the town center, where there was a shoe shop, a dental practice and, on the top floor, the apartment of the owner of the building.

An incisive experience from my childhood is deeply engraved on my memory to this day. A little Primary boy had struggled with the lock on the front door and obviously jammed it. Whilst the members of the ward were sitting in sacrament meeting, the owner of the building suddenly burst into the peace of the meeting and showered us with his angry curses and threats. Afterwards, nothing seemed as it was before. The feeling of safety and security was lost.

A short time afterwards, President Benson visited the ward in Darmstadt and announced that a building of our own was to be constructed.

The great challenge for a group of ten young families and a few older faithful widows was to come up with a part of the necessary funding from their own contributions and essentially build it with their own labor.

What followed was three years of intensive cooperative work to construct a spacious ward meeting house at the edge of the city.

In a time when many of the families involved would perhaps have built a home for themselves with the assistance of neighbors, all our strength was concentrated and every spare hour spent on the meeting house. The building site, the cellars and the ventilation shafts became an adventure playground for us children, because the families met there every weekend to work together. To this day I can see the picture of my mother with the biggest of all the available cooking pots in the house, in which a delicious stew was prepared, and taking it with her to the building site.

Between 1961 and 1967, in a unique initiative, more than 120 young brethren were called to serve as building missionaries. They lived with member families, worked from morning to evening on the building site and were for a time part of the ward family. For us children they were a great example. We remember their names to this day. The construction of a ward meeting house was only possible with their work together with a few experts.

From Flensburg in the North of Germany to Graz in Southern Austria, almost 60 buildings were constructed in this way.

Along with the Temple and our own homes, the meeting houses are sacred places in which we worship God, pray to Him, are taught and receive spiritual guidance.

The meeting house has a special place in that, because it is a place where everyone who behaves properly can enter without further preconditions.

In the past we have often taken our friends to the ward meeting house when there were cultural events, sporting activities or festivals to celebrate. They were all impressed by our ward life but they often lacked the deeper spiritual insight.

We later recognized that our friends were only touched by the Spirit and could recognize Christ’s teaching if we took them to sacrament service, where we ourselves gather “oil for our lamps” through regular participation in the sacrament.

Our chapels may be simple and without ornamentation, and the sacrament table only  an altar during the holy ordinance, but the message that we worship Christ as our Savior and Redeemer, and that we can lay claim to his companionship and guidance through worthy partaking of the sacrament, can penetrate the hearts of people in this sacred meeting.

There is no better place to go when we want to share this truth with a friend.