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Maud Kells: Fearless in the Forest (Trail Blazers)

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As it was, Maud spent an anxious seven minutes calling for help after being shot. She collapsed in the doorway of her home but people were afraid to come to her aid after hearing the shot. Mr Crooks said a phrase that made him think of Ms Kells was “A long obedience in the same direction”. The country had a fine infrastructure, with roads well maintained by the owners of the coffee, tea, cotton and rubber plantations, who also gave employment to local people and sourced goods from them. There were banks and post offices and other essential services. Our resourceful hospital secretary lifted my camera from a nearby cupboard and began taking photographs of all that was happening, building up a photographic record of the night. Among them are pictures of the chief and police interviewing me in my semi-conscious state at 3am. Maud Kells lived "an absolutely outstanding life" says Rev Tom Greer who has known the brave missionary nurse for 22 years.

In Maud’s case the answer isn’t complicated, she fell in love with Jesus and never left that commitment throughout her entire lifetime here on earth.” The centre now delivers thirty new-borns each month, with many of the children born there coming to faith in the church attached to the clinic. It was at her home within this complex that Maud was shot in 2015, whilst bandits attempted to rob her house. Nonetheless, Maud’s commitment to the maternity centre and her practical ministry in DRC remained strong and her faith unshaken by the shooting. I stayed with her once and had the privilege of joining her for her morning devotions - her closeness to and joy in the Lord were remarkable.Maud will be laid to rest in Moneymore following a funeral service at Molesworth Presbyterian Church, Cookstown on Sunday, 29 October at 2.15pm which will also be broadcast online. Twelve hours after the shooting Ms Kells was airlifted out of Mulita and spent several weeks being treated at Nyankunde hospital. WEC’s former international training director, Phillip Crooks, said the organisation “was privileged to have had Maud as one of its members”.

This incredible story of courage in the face of danger and opposition to her mission characterises Maud’s testimony throughout her fifty years in DRC. Her memoir tells of an emergency evacuation in 1998 in which Maud and other missionaries waited to be rescued by aeroplane after rebels threatened to take foreign aid workers hostage. If not for Maud’s white anorak used to signal a safe place for the plane to land, the evacuation may not have been successful. Maud’s story constantly reveals God’s provision and protection over her both in DRC and further afield. Maud fits that phrase like a glove – a lifetime spent following Jesus, a life of dedication in the service of the King of Kings,” he said. These last few weeks that she spent in Macmillan Cancer Unit in Antrim Area Hospital, she was very well looked after and has been able to spend quality time with family and friends... and chat with people and share their company." She always reasoned it to me by saying, ‘well in Africa we have to walk everywhere so if where I’m going is close enough, I’ll walk it’.”

The Cookstown and Mulita woman was the daughter of the late William Andrew and Madge Kells, dearly loved sister of Margaret, Dorothy and the late Irene, sister-in-law of Colin, Harold and Tom and a cherished aunt and great-aunt.

Mr Crooks said that as well as her commitment to international aid, Ms Kells remained active in her local community in Tyrone. At midday everyone was relieved when plane engines were heard overhead. The MAF pilot was Jon Cadd, a good friend. He came with other good friends of mine, German missionaries Dr Matthias and Sabine Holmer, who were based at Nebobongo. As soon as they heard what had happened, they volunteered to come down and help with the evacuation. Jon was delayed first by bad weather at Nyankunde and then needed to fly to Nebobongo to collect Matthias and Sabine, so eventually reached Mulita 12 hours after the shooting. By then I was almost unaware of what was happening, though I had a vague sense of people coming into the house. An Open Door: A True Story of Courage in the Congo is a fascinating and insightful read, taking the reader on a journey from her early years training as a nurse, midwife and missionary to her arrival, aged 25, in the Congo where she was replacing martyred missionaries.Reverend Tom Greer told the service that Ms Kells became well known after being shot in 2015, but that her family would remember the love she had for those who knew her best. He added: "I would like to offer my condolences to her family and friends, both here in Ireland and the DRC, where she served God so faithfully and for so long. She was certainly part of a great generation of Christian women who demonstrated their love for Christ as they helped and supported others in need overseas." Speaking about her, Dr Mawhinney said, “I was saddened to hear of the death of Maud Kells and would like to offer my condolences to her family and friends, both here in Ireland and the DRC, where she served God so faithfully and for so long. She was certainly part of a great generation of Christian womenwho demonstrated their love for Christ as they helped and supported others in need overseas.” The funeral took place at at Molesworth Presbyterian Church in Cookstown (Presbyterian Church in Ireland handout/PA). Family flowers only please. Donations in lieu, if desired, payable to Steenson Funeral Services (Charities a/c), 11 Loy Street, Cookstown, BT80 8PZ for W.E.C. International.

Today I know that you, her family and loved ones, will have many precious memories of her and the love, care and encouragement she provided as a sister, an aunt and a great aunt – things that others will know nothing of, and for those things we thank God.”Rev Tom Greer from Molesworth Presbyterian Church in Cookstown told us Maud had a life well lived. He added: "She took ill at the end of April, beginning of May. She had some ups and downs and was awaiting further treatment but the cancer began to develop further from then. In 1964, whilst training as a midwife in Glasgow, God placed a call on Maud to work in the Congo. The verse from Revelation 3:8 was a call to trust in God’s leading – at the time, political unrest in the region left the door to the Congo. However, as Maud’s testimony reveals time and again throughout her book, “nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37). Maud set sail for DRC in October 1968, where she began working in Wamba, Neobongo and finally, in 1989, Mulita, where she stayed for the remainder of her time in DRC. After six days in hospital, I was discharged to the home of Jon Cadd, the pilot who had come to evacuate me. Jon and his wife Cher were kind and hospitable, opening their home also to Matthias and Sabine so that they could continue caring for me, looking after my dressings and intravenous drips. Jon loved animals and kept me amused with his numerous pets, including chameleons, snakes and a parrot which he had taught to drink Coca-Cola. I had no fear. I was very conscious of God's presence surrounding me and the Holy Spirit's whisper that He was in complete control of the whole situation. He reminded me of Scriptures that had been precious over the years: 'The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in' (Psalm 121:8, esv); 'My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth' (Psalm 121:2, esv). While I was standing there with no physical help appearing, I thought, "Lord, are you taking me now?" I prayed my daily prayer whatever the situation: "Forgive me, Lord, for anything I've done wrong." Then I added: "I'm ready to go, Lord. But there are a few things I'd like to finish off on earth before I go." However, not only was she a legend in her fields of work, she was also the most incredible and loving person who was admired by all,” she said.

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