FRAUENFELD, Switzerland Ten years ago the Frauenfeld Branch didn't exist. The few scattered members who lived in this lush, green province outside Zurich attended Church in other places, such as the Winterthur Ward.
In contrast, on a Sunday in September 2002, the branch had grown to the point that children in the Primary presentation that day outnumbered the entire membership of the branch when it was organized in 1992.
Growth of the Frauenfeld Branch, like much of Europe, has come painfully slow. But faithfulness over the years has developed the branch so that in mid-December branch members will move into their new meetinghouse a stately white building with a red rooftop set in the rolling green countryside of the Thurgau Province.
Like the nearly 400 other meetinghouses built by the Church around the world during 2002, this meetinghouse represents steady faithfulness of members who have remained constant in a country that generally considers religion best experienced in the cathedral of the great outdoors.
"We work and work. Progress comes slowly. Then, after many years, we turn around and see there is a branch of faithful members," said Kuno Muller who has served as branch president for 7 1/2 years.
His enthusiasm for the new meetinghouse often wells into tears of gratitude. "We prayed these members here," he said.
Now retired after years of operating his own dry cleaning stores, President Muller is a second-generation member of the Church whose love for his members is equaled only by his love for the work.
"These are really good people," he said. One of his fond memories is meeting Johann Wondra while tracting during his mission in Austria. As he and his companion taught the discussions, President Muller watched as the gospel light ignited in Brother Wondra's heart. Now an Area Authority Seventy, Elder Wondra holds the missionaries who brought him the gospel in high regard.
On an average Sunday, 75 members attend, including 20 in the Primary and a dozen in the youth programs. On this Sunday in September, the Primary children sang of their love for the temple, then showed a video of them touring the grounds of the Bern Switzerland Temple where they shook hands with the temple presidency.
Since it was organized, the Frauenfeld Branch has met in only one location, the second floor of a business building adjoining a car dealership's showroom. Facilities have been comfortable, but members now look forward to a stately meetinghouse that will match their vitality and vigor for the gospel.
The branch is comprised largely of families, including many young families with professionally employed parents. They are missionary minded and frequently discuss how to invite their neighbors to hear the gospel. They have many returned missionaries, with several currently serving, including President Muller's daughter in Argentina. Another young woman recently returned from her mission in the Washington D.C. Visitors Center in time to send her younger sister to Ireland on her mission.
Members of the Church in Switzerland may be relatively few today, but it was once fertile ground for early missionaries. Persecution and a desire to gather with the saints spurred many members in the late 1800s to leave their luscious apple orchards and verdant fields to gather with the Church in Utah. Most floated down the Rhine River, crossed to England, then set sail for America.
"This may be our first meetinghouse, but the Church is not new here," President Muller said. To acquaint area residents with the Church, the branch sponsors a three-day open house each April that involves the community in a variety of activities. A local historian, who is not a member of the Church but is well acquainted with Church history, makes a presentation showing what became of the Swiss who immigrated to Utah. He is working with descendants in Santa Clara, Utah, where many Swiss were sent by Brigham Young in the latter 1850s.
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