Collection 335 Papers of Ralph E. Shannon
Scope and Contents
Oral history interviews and paper records relating to Ralph Shannon’s life and ministry as a medical missionary in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo).
Four oral history interviews with Ralph Shannon, recorded on eight reels of audio tape. Topics covered include Shannon's childhood in Belgian Congo (Zaire) with his missionary parents, Wheaton College undergraduate and graduate education, service in Zaire as a medical missionary with the Presbyterian Church US (southern branch) and its successor, Presbyterian Church-USA, the Church of Christ in Zaire and its internal politics and corruption, the experience of his children as MK's, his wife's work in ethnomusicology, the AIDS epidemic in Zaire, and various other mission-related topics. The events described in the interviews cover the period from ca. 1938 to 1990.
Ralph Shannon was interviewed by Paul A. Ericksen on July 3, 7, and 8. 1986 and May 16, 1990 at the Billy Graham Center Archives at Wheaton College.
Box List (Paper Records)
Also included are several papers written by Shannon while a student in the Wheaton College Graduate School, all related to aspects of the church and ministry in Zaire, including African independent churches (like the Kimbanguist Church), witchcraft among Sub-Saharan Africans, church to mission relationships. These papers tend to be more theoretical in nature, yet express Shannon's thinking on areas also he discussed in his interviews.
- Created: 1986-1990
Conditions Governing Access
There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.
Ralph Edwin Shannon was born in 1938 to Clyde and Elizabeth Lemiere Shannon, the eldest of four children. His parents were missionaries with the Unevangelized Tribes Mission, based at the rural station in Kajiji, Belgian Congo, near the Angolan border. The Shannons returned to the United States for their scheduled furlough in 1939. Unable to return to Africa due to World War II, Shannon's parents had an evangelistic ministry among French Catholics in Louisiana. It was during this time when Shannon was five or six that he was converted during a Bible club taught by his mother. With the conclusion of the war, the Shannons were able to return to Kajiji. Shannon lived on the station with his parents, and was educated through grade school by his mother, using the Calvert programmed learning course. Shannon returned to the United States, living in Monroe, Iowa, where he attended high school; his siblings were educated in a local boarding school which opened when Shannon was in high school. With the dissolution of the UTM in 1953, the Shannons returned to the United States. His parents then affiliated with the Mennonite Brethren, returning to Kajiji in 1955. Shannon entered Wheaton College in 1955 with a declared major of pre-med, intending to become a doctor. He graduated from Wheaton in 1959. He then went to Baylor University College of Medicine in Houston. Between his junior and senior years at Baylor, he was granted a fellowship to work as part of a study group on medical problems in developing areas of Latin America; his assignment was to Guatemala. While there, he met Ralph Winter, then a missionary in Guatemala. Shannon graduated from Baylor in 1963. While a student at Wheaton, Shannon had moved from his Baptist roots to Presbyterianism, and in 1964, Shannon was accepted for a three-year short term appointment (eventually four years) as a missionary doctor to Zaire by the Presbyterian US Board of World Missions. He was momentarily stationed at Lubondaie before he was transferred to Kinshasa for a government-required orientation. After completing the program, Shannon was returned to Lubondaie. He was then assigned to the medical station in Bibanga, where he developed his interest in ophthalmology. Shannon left the station three times during this term: first, for his wedding (See below); then for the birth of their first child, and lastly for an evacuation due to political turmoil.
Returning to the United States in 1968, Shannon began his study and residency in ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania in anticipation of establishing an eye treatment center in Zaire. He spent 1971 in Switzerland studying French, and returned to Kananga in 1972 to begin the eye program. The Shannons lived and worked in Kananga from that time, with furloughs in 1975-1976 (Decatur, Georgia), 1980-1981 (Decatur), 1985-86 (Wheaton, Illinois) and 1989-1990 (Wheaton, while Shannon studied at Wheaton College Graduate School in the Missions/Intercultural Studies program).
In 1966, Shannon married Elsbeth Johanna Scheidegger, a Swiss woman working as a secretary and administrative assistant to the Mennonite Central Committee in the Congo. The Shannons had four children: Cedric, Corrine, Scott and Stephanie.
8 Audio Tapes
Language of Materials
Accruals and Additions
The materials in this collection were given to the Billy Graham Center Archives in July 1986 and May 1990 from Ralph Shannon.
Accession 86-72, 86-75, 86-76, 90-53, 90-54
June 7, 1990
Paul A. Ericksen
- AIDS (Disease)
- Animism -- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Boarding schools -- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Boarding schools.
- Bokeleale, Jean B.
- Children -- Conversion to Christianity.
- Children of missionaries.
- Christian education -- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Christian education.
- Christian leadership.
- Christian life.
- Christian literature -- Publication and distribution -- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Christian literature -- Publication and distribution.
- Christian literature.
- Church and state -- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Church and state.
- Church architecture.
- Church architecture. -- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Church discipline.
- Church work with children -- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Church work with children.
- Cults -- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Egilse de J'esus-Christ sur la terre par le proph'ete Simon Kimbangu.
- Eglise du Christ au Zaire.
- Ethnomusicology -- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Evangelistic work -- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Evangelistic work -- Congo (Democratic Republic) -- Religion.
- Evangelistic work.
- Fund raising.
- Idols and images
- Idols and images -- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Independent churches
- Independent churches -- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Indigenous church administration
- Indigenous church administration -- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Intercultural communication.
- Lay missionaries.
- Medical care
- Medical care -- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Medical care -- Guatemala.
- Mennonite Brethren Church
- Mennonite Brethren Church -- Missions.
- Mission music.
- Missionaries -- Training of.
- Missionaries -- Appointment, call, and election.
- Missionaries -- Leaves and furloughs.
- Missionaries -- Training of -- United States.
- Missionaries, Resignation of.
- Missions -- Congo (Democratic Republic).
- Missions -- Finance.
- Missions -- Interdenominational cooperation -- Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Missions -- Interdenominational cooperation.
- Missions -- Public relations.
- Missions -- Study and teaching.
- Music -- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Occultism -- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Pentecostalism -- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
- Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) -- Missions.
- Presbyterian Church in the U.S.
- Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. -- Missions.
- Prostitution -- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Radio in missionary work.
- Rural churches -- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Rural churches.
- Rural missions -- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Rural missions.
- Sex role
- Sex role -- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Shannon, Ralph E.
- Sunday schools -- Chicago.
- Sunday schools.
- Tribes -- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Unevangelized Tribes Mission.
- Wheaton College (Ill.)
- Wheaton College (Ill.) -- Alumni.
- Wheaton College (Ill.) -- Religious life and customs.
- Wheaton College (Ill.) -- Social life and customs.
- Women -- Religious life.
- Women missionaries.
- Archon Finding Aid Title
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
- Language of description note