"Young people are the heartbeat of my ministry. I live to see them come to Christ," says the 36-year-old preacher believed by many to be heir to her father's legacy. "I will go across the country to speak to just one person, if that's what it takes to win this generation for Christ."
In addition to working with inner-city youth at The Love Center, originally known as Greater Rising Star Baptist Church in Atlanta, King travels widely to speak at conferences and churches. She is "gathering more and more recognition as a minister," observes T.D. Jakes, pastor of the 22,000-member Potter's House in Dallas. "She stands in--and yet, increasingly, a dimension apart from--the rich legacy of her father." But it has not been an easy road for the youngest of the four children of the Nobel Peace Prize winner whose civil rights efforts are honored when the nation observes Martin Luther King Day. She was only five when her father was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968.
Because three more close family members died in the years that followed, King became gripped by fear of losing those she loved. She only began to deal with years of suppressed pain and anger when, at 16, she went on a church youth retreat where a movie about her father's crusade was shown.
"When I saw the funeral scene I just broke down. I ran out of the cabin into the woods, and for nearly two-and-a-half hours I just cried: 'Why? Why, God, did You take him?' It was a momentary cleansing, but this was the first time I grieved my father's death," King told "Charisma" in a recent interview.
King went on to graduate from Emory University with a degree in law and theology.
"The call of God on my life came at a time when I was really questioning Him and the church because, frankly, I was very angry with the Lord, with my mother for having to travel so much, and I was angry with my father for dying," she said.
She struggled with drinking and thoughts of suicide.
Then she joined Greater Rising Star, a church influenced by Baptist, Church of God in Christ and charismatic worship styles, which she calls "Bapti-COGIC-costal." She began to learn about the gifts of the Spirit, and realized that something was missing in her Christian life. In 1995 she attended the Holy Convocation sponsored in Detroit by gospel singer and preacher Marvin Winans.
"I was told that Rev. Jackie McCullough wanted to speak to me. She prayed, laid hands on me, and I received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and I began to speak in tongues," she recalls. "My life has never been the same."
King also sees how her own troubles help her touch young people whose violence, she believes, is often a result of grief. "I was violent in my late teens with my tongue," she says. "I used to murder people in my mind. So I understand rage."
But she wants to share with them an everlasting peace that crosses every racial, gender and poverty line--it's the peace that comes from the king of kings, church members say.