Belfast Telegraph

Pictured: The moment medics and villagers rush to save beloved missionary Maud Kells after shooting horror

Maud Kells' airlift pilot friend hails 'angel of the Congo'

By Amanda Ferguson

A pilot has spoken of the dramatic moment Northern Ireland missionary Maud Kells was evacuated to safety after being shot by bandits at her home in Congo.

In a picture exclusive to the Belfast Telegraph, the Cookstown midwife can be seen being airlifted to hospital after being attacked at her home in a remote village.

The resilient 75-year-old is said to be in good spirits and recovering well from a single gunshot to the ribs and has asked people to pray for her.

The image speaks volumes about the high esteem the Tyrone woman is held in a country she has dedicated more than 40 years of her life to, with villagers seen rushing to her aid.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, the Christian charity pilot who flew Maud to safety spoke of his relief.

The WEC International missionary, who was awarded an OBE in the Queen's New Year Honours list, has dedicated her life to helping the people of the Democractic Republic of the Congo.

The nurse and teacher was shot on Monday night after she disturbed and challenged bandits who had entered her house in the remote rainforest village of Mulita in the Ituri Forest, south-east of Kisangani.

Staff from Mission Aviation Fellowship's (MAF) Nyankunde base came to her assistance. MAF's flight schedule was reshuffled and calls were made to the missionary doctors in the neighboring town of Nebobongo.

Maud was given a blood transfusion before being flown to the intensive care unit at Nyankunde Hospital, where she is now in a stable condition.

A WEC spokesman said Maud had a broken rib, adding: "The bullet didn't lodge, so it must have passed through."

Jon Cadd, a pilot and programme manager for MAF's operations in DRC, said: "The trauma team cleaned up the wound and things are looking good.

"We have been just a part of a team of many people from doctors to drivers, fuellers and flight followers.

"It made me happy to be one of the pieces in the puzzle. We just took some supper to Maud down in ICU and she actually sat up to eat. She asked us to pray and thank God for taking care of her."

Maud has had a relationship with MAF since the 1980s and has known John for years.

He previously described her as "really remarkable".

"Even though we fly in a lot of her supplies, sometimes she has an urgent need for something at the hospital," he explained.

"So she rides her bike for a whole day to get to the nearest small town, gets what she needs, stays the night and then rides back all the next day."

Maud was awarded an OBE for her services to the people of DR Congo.

Last night the First and Deputy First Ministers said their thoughts and prayers were with her.

"Maud has dedicated her life to the service of others, saving countless lives, and we hope she makes a full and speedy recovery," Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness said in a joint statement.

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said she had been saddened to hear of "the terrible attack on Maud Kells".

"In particular, it is horrifying that such a violent act was undertaken against someone who has given selflessly of their time and efforts over many years to work with the underprivileged," she added.

Ulster Unionist MLA Sandra Overend said: "When I think of Maud I think of the word determined.

"The Congo has always been a dangerous place to be but that is where her heart has lay over all these years."

Spreading the Word in world’s danger zones

A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism or ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care and economic development.

Hundreds of missionaries from across Northern Ireland are working all over the world. They sacrifice their time and energy to do good work in some of the most dangerous areas of the globe.

WEC International describes itself as “a pioneer mission — sharing Jesus across cultural barriers where he’s least known”. WEC was set up in 1913 by Charles T Studd, an England cricketer, passionate to see Africans worshipping Christ.

Before his death, teams of missionaries had joined WEC to work in Central and West Africa, Amazonia, the Middle East and the Himalayan region.

WEC currently has 30 to 40 missionaries from across Ireland — including Maud Kells — working for it.

Country where life expectancy of males just 47

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a central African country with a population of around 70 million, and was  formerly known as the Belgian Congo and the Republic of Zaire.

Languages spoken include French, Lingala, Kiswahili, Kikongo and Tshiluba, and the major religions are Christianity and Islam.

Life expectancy is 47 years for men and 51 for women.

DR Congo is struggling to recover from Africa’s ‘world war’ between 1998 and 2003 in which up to six million died.

The five-year conflict pitted government forces, supported by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, against rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda.

Eastern regions are still volatile despite 2013 peace agreements, with people in fear of continuing death, rape or displacement.

Last month the President, Joseph Kabila, announced the formation of a new government.

DR Congo is a deeply troubled place and hosts the UN’s largest peacekeeping mission.

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