The Rehmeyer family left Baton Rouge the same weekend Hurricane Katrina was churning off the Louisiana coast, but they were not fleeing the mighty storm.
The family — Daran, his wife, Teresa, and their four children ages 7 to 14 — were headed to Swaziland to do missionary work. Swaziland is Africa’s smallest country and the country with the world’s highest known HIV/AIDS prevalence rate, Daran Rehmeyer said.
Daran and Teresa Rehmeyer, who have been living in Swaziland since 2005, hope to establish a community health center in a remote area of the country.
Donations from the Peace One Day Musical Window to the World concert, a free event planned for Tuesday at First United Methodist Church of Baton Rouge, will go toward establishing the center, as well as to a local organization, the Capital Area Family Violence Intervention Center.
Prior to moving to Swaziland, Daran and Teresa Rehmeyer were living in Baton Rouge, raising their four children.
Teresa Rehmeyer was working as a nurse, and Daran Rehmeyer had a successful engineering services company, he said.
He had worked in ministry in Baton Rouge’s inner city, but as his children grew older, he started to devote more time to their activities, Daran Rehmeyer said.
In late 2004, he said, he felt he needed to return to ministry work, so he became involved with Healing Place Church.
Rehmeyer said he imagined stuffing envelopes, but instead, the late Dave Ohlerking, founder of Children’s Cup International Relief, invited him to visit Swaziland.
Teresa Rehmeyer agreed to visit the country, but she made it clear she had no intention of leaving Baton Rouge permanently, Daran Rehmeyer said.
Daran Rehmeyer felt differently.
“My heart was already set on ‘this is where I want to be,’” Daran Rehmeyer said.
He chose to keep his mouth shut and let God do the talking.
“You could really hear God’s voice and the direction he wanted you to go,” Daran Rehmeyer said of the trip.
At the end of two weeks, Teresa Rehmeyer agreed with her husband that the people of Swaziland needed them, but she still had reservations about uprooting their family.
When the couple was hardly home, their oldest daughter came to them and said, “We need to move to Africa and work with the orphans,” Daran Rehmeyer said.
“We took that as close to confirmation (from God) as we could get,” Daran Rehmeyer said.
He sold his business and started raising money for their mission work.
After a short trip to visit family in Baltimore in late August 2005, the family was headed to Swaziland.
Daran and Teresa Rehmeyer work with the Children’s HIV Intervention Programme in Swaziland, or CHIPS, which makes it possible for hundreds of children and caregivers to access lifesaving anti-retroviral treatment for HIV and many of the other associated diseases.
Their current proposal is to establish a local clinic in Maphiveni that would allow CHIPS patients nearby access to health care and eventually could be expanded to provide most health-care services to the entire area’s population.
Rehmeyer said he has located a site available for purchase, which includes several existing buildings. One is in fairly good shape, and with renovations, could house the clinic.
Another large building could be renovated and leased out commercially to provide income that would support the long-term operational costs of the clinic.
The purchase price is approximately $483,000, and another $129,000 is being sought for renovation of the commercial development, he said.
The problem with building a stand-alone clinic, Rehmeyer said, is “someone will always be begging for operational funds for that clinic.”
“We feel like we’re getting a fairly good deal,” Daran Rehmeyer said. “Sustainability is the big factor right now.”