Three years ago the Coromandel family moved deep into the Australian Outback—900 miles deep. The small country town of Winton, 900 miles west of Brisbane, became home to Kristy, Leon, and their 15-month-old daughter, Rachel, so that Leon could begin his career as a high school teacher.
Residents in Winton experience rain once a year if they’re lucky, dust storms occur daily, and Kristy says she’s never seen so many flies in her life. The nearest Latter-day Saint branch is a six-hour drive away. The nearest Latter-day Saint family is three hours away. But, the restored gospel is right in the Coromandel’s living room.
Only able to attend church about once a year because of the distance, the Coromandel’s hold church at home every week.
“I think the most important thing is teaching your children that it doesn’t matter your circumstance or where you live; you can still live the gospel and have church in your home. Our daughter loves church and is excited for it every week," Kristy says. "Though she gets upset that she can’t help daddy prepare the sacrament, we use it as a way to teach our daughter about those special ordinances that children may find difficult to understand. I love watching our daughter prepare the house for church, getting out the chairs and selecting the hymns.”
Maintaining regular Sabbath worship habits at home is not without its challenges, however.
“It is so easy to stop doing everything," Kristy says. "Not having a calling or a reason to get up and go to church or even have someone ring and find out where you were. Having church at home is hard because you’re accountable to yourself; no one is going to know if you’re missing, but you will feel a void and change if you don’t."
Even with those challenges, the Coromandel family finds that having to do church almost exclusively at home creates a space for personal gospel teaching.
“On the plus side, we do church to suit us," Kristy explains. "Primary doesn’t have to go for 1 hour. I know my child’s limits, and if 10 minutes is all she can sit through, then a 10-minute lesson it is. If she wants to sing Primary songs all afternoon, then we do singing and no lesson. She is still learning, and learning the gospel in her way."
The home-centered, church-supported Come, Follow Me program may be especially valuable for families who want to teach the gospel but don't have as much access to church support. Kristy offered advice to those who may also be in unique situations.
"The Come, Follow Me program is inspired and it makes teaching the gospel in your home so much easier. If you’re just starting out, start small, do what works for you and build it from there. Make it your own and do what works for you and your family. Remember, you are teaching your family not a ward or branch. Customize the program to your needs," Kristy says.
When the Coromandel's do go to church, it is a three-day event. Kristy explains what the trip looks like:
“We leave after breakfast and drive five and a half to six hours straight to Mount Isa. We arrive early in the afternoon, and the first place we go is to the supermarket," she says. "We don’t have a supermarket in Winton (we actually drive two hours one way each week to do our food shopping at a convenience store). It is a luxury to have fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat, so we stock up and as much as possible.
"We do a family activity of some sort, maybe the local waterpark, a lookout, something we can’t normally do in Winton. We catch a movie or go out to a nice restaurant for dinner.”
“We attend church. We advise the branch ahead of time of our arrival. We’re usually given speaking assignments or asked to teach a lesson that day. This gives us the opportunity to serve and makes us feel welcome and valued as members. The members have a potluck luncheon afterward for us, or we are invited into members’ homes for lunch and dinner.”
“We leave after breakfast for the drive home.”
The Coromandel’s also gather with other remote families to study Come, Follow Me each week.
“Each Sunday evening after all the kids are asleep, we Skype three other families who also live remote but are part of the same branch," she says. "We each take a turn to teach the lesson. Previously, we taught the Relief Society or Priesthood lessons, but now we do Come, Follow Me for families. We’re also joined by the senior missionary couple from the branch and sometimes the bishop, stake president, or Relief Society president will join us. This is probably a highlight for us: to talk to other adults and share our experiences of the gospel. We love the new Come, Follow Me program and it has really helped our family to understand the gospel and makes it so much easier to teach in the home.”