A major national and religious leader in the troubled Democratic Republic of the Congo will speak in Maryville in mid-October.

The Rev. Isaac Kalonji Mukendi, General Secretary of the Presbyterian Community of Kinshasa (PCK), will bring the sermon at 10:30 a.m. at Highland Presbyterian Church, 721 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Sunday, Oct. 20. Also he will address the Congo Mission Network Conference at First Presbyterian Church, Knoxville, Oct. 17-19.

Having served pastorates, the African clergyman, who is married and the father of seven children, answered the call to the highest office of his denomination two years ago. In addition, he has taught English in high school and is a graduate-level scholar of Congolese culture.

Under Kalonji Mukendi’s leadership, despite growing unrest in the country, including tribal and religious conflict, spread of the Ebola virus, and economic crises, the PCK has operated schools and health centers, obtained hard-to-get fresh water as well as drugs for clinics and hospitals, and built church structures.

The PCK has actively empowered women and youth.

Presbyterian missionaries have been active in the Congo since the 19th Century. Most notable was African-American Pastor William H. Sheppard, who mastered tribal languages and admired the culture of the tribes who hosted him, helping to dispel colonial, racist myths that Africa lacked “civilization.”

A graduate of Stillman College, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, an alma mater that, much later, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would hold in common with him, Sheppard grew horrified at colonial brutality in the Congo. By order of Belgian King Leopold II, in his quest to monopolize the trade in rubber, Congolese suffered, under royal agents, capture, starvation, enslavement, mutilation, and near genocide.

Sheppard and other missionaries exposed this “heart of darkness” worldwide, eventually ending it.

For more information telephone 865-982-9272 or log onto www.highlandpresby.org.

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