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True grit: missionary returns after being shot by bandits

Just over a year ago, 76-year old Northern Irish missionary nurse, Maud Kells, was rescued by a Mission Aviation Fellowship aircraft after being shot by bandits at home in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) ...

Just over a year ago, 76-year old Northern Irish missionary nurse, Maud Kells, was rescued by a Mission Aviation Fellowship aircraft after being shot by bandits at home in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She not only survived, but now continues her great work ...

In the little rainforest village in the remote and largely war-torn eastern DRC, Maud was halfway through building a nursery. Then she was shot. The call came through on the radio and MAF pilot Jon Cadd sped to the site in his light aircraft.

He described the rescue, “When we arrived at Mulita, Maud’s home, there were hundreds of people around. There were high-ranking police and church workers, and army personnel had secured a perimeter around the area and were standing guard with AKs and RPGs. They were all taking this very seriously and doing what they could to show that they cared for Maud.

“After about an hour of trauma care to stabilise her condition in the muggy heat, Maud was ready to be loaded onto the plane and with much ceremony she was carried out. We tied the stretcher down, the church leaders prayed for Maud’s swift recovery and for safety as we flew and we were finally off. We climbed through the broken puffy clouds into the cool and smooth air on top and began to get a feeling that things were going to be OK.”

Jon flew Maud for two hours to a hospital where she was treated for her injuries. It was a tense few days as she was treated but she survived. A few weeks later Maud returned to Northern Ireland for a short time to recuperate.

However, she was keen to get back to the healthcare work she had been undertaking with WEC International in her remote rainforest village of Mulita, eastern DRC. Her time in the DRC was a labour of love she had been undertaking for nearly 50 years.

Widespread praise for Maud

News of her rescue spread around her hometown of Cookstown and the whole region back home in Northern Ireland. National and regional press picked up her story and she drew the widespread praise of the Northern Irish public. To her surprise, she was awarded an OBE in the 2015 New Year’s Honours list.

Soon after, Maud received another public award. The newly-crowned Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year said: “It is such a surprise, honour and privilege. It has been an honour to work in the Congo all these years.

“I had no idea I would get this award. I really thought it would be someone else – someone who had done a lot of education, or somebody high up on the social scale, not somebody right from the heart of Africa!”

The paper’s editor added “her determination, her sense of duty, her willingness to continue to work in a harsh climate and in fairly primitive conditions at her age is awe-inspiring …she is the Belfast Telegraph’s current Woman of the Year, but to the people in the Congo it is a title she deserves annually.”

Transformations and returns

As the accolades came rolling in, the contrast was obvious: although Maud was gracious in accepting hometown praise, her priority was to thank God for her recovery because it meant she could go back and continue the work needed back in Mulita!

Maud said: “The bullet hole at the front healed up in about three weeks but the back wound took about three months to heal up. I had fractured ribs as well but they are more or less healed up so I am doing very well.”

The really good news about Maud is that the impact of Christ in her life compels her to serve others. For her that means continuing to work for the good of her adopted rainforest village, around 6,000 miles away from where she grew up.

After fully recovering amongst friends and family, Maud returned to DRC in December 2015 and has been back to work alongside fellow villagers. They welcomed her back with great excitement.  Hundreds of people gathered at the small grass airstrip to greet Maud as she stepped off the MAF plane. A brass band played while the crowd waved and cheered her arrival.

Age should never prevent someone from making a difference to their local community wherever they have chosen to call home. The incredible courage and service of Maud Kells is a good reminder of that.    

+ Find out more about Maud Kells and MAF’s work serving remote communities through aviation at www.maf-uk.org/maud

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