In Acts Chapter 16, Paul has a vision of a man in Macedonia praying and saying, “Come over into Macedonia, and help us.” Paul immediately sets sail for Macedonia to preach the gospel to its people. His response to the Macedonian’s call is in many ways similar to the response of AAC founder Dr. Steven V. Terry to the call for help he received from his brothers in Africa.
In December 1997, a delegation of African pastors, evangelists, and missionaries embarked on a tour of American churches to seek humanitarian aid for their people in Africa. Some of those who came had to sell their personal possessions in order to pay for the airfare, yet they made the trip on behalf of their people. It was during their tour that Dr. Terry and the congregation of Deliverance Tabernacle met their African brothers for the very first time. They listened to the pastors’ descriptions of hardship and devastation in their townships. The pastors then listened as Dr. Terry shared with them the ways that his congregation could assist and empower their communities. Thus, new brotherhood and new partnerships were born, and the first seeds that would carry aid and relief from Chesapeake, Virginia to South Africa were sewn.
Dr. Terry developed a foreign missions outreach program to have a direct impact on the needy African townships. The program began by providing food, clothing, shelter, agricultural and technological equipment, and job training. He also began to educate the African pastors in church administration. Although this initial outpouring of help was greatly appreciated, it only scratched the surface of the needs facing the men, women, and children in Africa.
To gain first-hand knowledge of the challenges facing the program, Dr. Terry went on a mission to South Africa and Mozambique in January 2000. His first experiences there had a tremendous impact on him. As he recalls:
"The experience was overwhelming. All I had ever heard or read about missions and missionary work could not describe the experiences I had during the 19 days I lived among the people. The need for immediate assistance is extreme, and I urge all Americans to act with compassion to reduce such widespread human suffering."
When he returned to Virginia, he shared his experiences with his congregation, and in March 2000, the African Awareness Campaign was born. Soon thereafter, Dr. Terry began the Mozambique Flood Victims Relief Fund and plans for an annual benefit dinner. Volunteers organized themselves and began a series of fund-raising events that were highly successful. The campaign launched a public awareness drive to build support in churches, schools, civic leagues, and other community organizations.
Dr. Terry appeared on local television talk shows and hosted the campaign’s radio program, A Voice of Compassion for Africa, on two radio stations. Forums and discussion panels were held at Norfolk State University and Old Dominion University. To help improve the economic status of the women of South Africa, the AAC spawned the Authentic African Attire Program, a micro-enterprise focused on exporting local clothing from the townships to buyers in America.
The AAC held its first annual Compassion for Africa Benefit Dinner on May 19, 2001 at the Tabernacle of Prayer Christian School in Norfolk. The mayors of the cities of Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Virginia Beach proclaimed the day as a Day of Compassion for Africa.
In July 2001, Dr. Terry returned to Africa to evaluate the effectiveness of the AAC projects and to meet with government and religious officials in Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa. He worked to finalize several transactions for buying land, which will serve in future to establish a storage facility for food, clothing, and medical supplies.
In November 2001, Dr. Terry launched the Reach One, Teach One African Child Educational Sponsorship Program. In January 2002, twenty school children were sponsored through the generosity of AAC supporters. Since the food distribution program began in 2000, the AAC has provided over 50,000 meals in Africa.