Dikembe Mutombo says the 8-year-old boy he flew in from Africa is set to undergo surgery "very soon" to remove the tumor on his face ... and is calling for prayers.
TMZ Sports broke the story ... the NBA legend made it his mission to help the boy, Matadi, after he learned Matadi was being shunned by society back in the Congo.
Mutombo greeted Matadi at LAX earlier this week and connected him with a Beverly Hills doctor who will perform the operation to remove the tumor.
Dikembe says the operation "is coming up very soon, any day" -- and Matadi will likely stay in the U.S. for 3 to 6 months while he recovers.
"Now, we have to pray everything goes well," Mutombo says.
Dikembe has helped hundreds of thousands of people through the hospitals he's built in Africa -- but says Matadi is a special situation and has really touched his heart.
In fact, Mutombo says ever since we published the story he's had people calling him from all over the world to commend him on doing such a wonderful thing for that little boy and his family.
"I just ... want to find a way to heal him"