Hero Northern Irish nurse Maud Kells (75) shot by bandits in Africa
Prayers said for missionary shot by in Democratic Republic of Congo
A 75-year-old missionary from Northern Ireland who was awarded the OBE in the New Year Honours list has been shot twice by bandits in central Africa.
Maud Kells was shot when bandits attacked the jungle village of Mulita, where she has been serving as a midwife. The Cookstown missionary, who has been in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1968, was hit by two bullets in the shoulder during the attack.
She managed to call for help, and medics from the Missionary Aviation Fellowship flew to Mulita to assess her condition.
They airlifted her to a hospital at Nyankunde, a larger town some miles away where rebels carried out a massacre in 2002.
Her condition was reported as stable last night, and her bleeding had stopped. She is able to talk and drink water, but has eaten no food yet.
She is in pain, but doctors say no bones have been broken and she does not have major muscle damage.
Maud's sister Margaret Keane (77) said Maud was a very determined and publicity shy-woman.
"She was mortified by all the fuss about her getting the OBE last week. She was so embarrassed, she told me she was glad she was in the Congo!" she said.
Ms Kells was in the rainforest at the time, and only found out about the honour from the Queen when she checked an email on her solar-powered laptop, which she boots up once a week.
Her house in Mulita is normally guarded, but there is no information about what happened to the security personnel during the attack.
Two doctors - Matthias Holmer and his wife nurse Sabine Holmer - are treating Ms Kells at Nyankunde hospital.
Both are long-standing friends of the Molesworth Presbyterian Church in Cookstown, where Ms Kells worships when at home.
Family and friends were last night praying for her at a special service in the church.
Minister Rev Tom Greer said: "This news has come as a great shock to all of us.
"We believe that God's protection has been on Maud, and we are thankful she is alive and is making a recovery. We are all praying not only for her, but also for the people of Mulita village who may also have been injured or killed in the attack."
He said it was not the first time Maud had been forced to flee her mission.
Last year she was dramatically rescued after fears that rebel fighters were set to launch an attack on her hospital. However, she had not been injured in any of the previous incidents.
She was devoted to her missionary work, Rev Greer said.
"Much of her work focused on healthcare and education. She was recently involved in seeing a new school and nursery built in the village, largely funded by gifts from people in Northern Ireland.
"And just on Christmas Day, Maud had been invited to a major celebration where several local villages get together - but she decided to stay behind at the hospital, as there were babies to be delivered. That's the kind of committed person she is."
Margaret expects that if Maud, who trained in midwifery at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital, recovers quickly, she will want to stay on to carry out her missionary work, returning to Northern Ireland as planned in March.
Maud has overseen the opening of an airfield, managed the construction of a new school and hospital, both built with hand-made bricks.
Philip Crooks, of the World Evangelisation for Christ (WEC) mission, the charity Maud works with, said she was in their thoughts and prayers: "It's in the mercies of God that it wasn't much worse."