Maud Kells: Brave humanitarian shot in DR Congo will not be deterred
"Courageous", "determined" and "resilient". These are the words used by those who know Maud Kells well when describing her and the remarkable life she has dedicated to helping the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The humble Cookstown nurse has served with WEC International mission agency in what is now DR Congo since 1968.
Now 75, she trained at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital and worked initially as a missionary nurse, before becoming involved in the training of Congolese nurses in five hospitals and 30 health centres.
Described by those who know her as a "courageous, determined and resilient lady", she has seen a number of armed uprisings in DR Congo and helped build up Mulita - the area she lives in for half the year - after it was destroyed by rebel fighting.
When Maud was informed that she was to receive an OBE for services to people in DR Congo just last week, she was in the rainforest.
WEC spokesman for Northern Ireland, Norman Cuthbert, told the Belfast Telegraph being shot will not put off the inspiring missionary from serving the people. "She has a very strong faith. Being a Christian missionary, nurse and midwife has been her whole life," he said.
"There is no way all this will put Maud off as she is very passionate for the people she serves.
"She is 75, so I suppose what happens in the future depends on her ongoing health and strength."
As well as spreading the gospel and teaching in a Bible school, Maud has been involved in a number of hospital, education, training and community projects in the central African nation.
Reverend Tom Greer from Molesworth Presbyterian Church said she has "tremendous courage on one hand and tremendous faith in the Lord on the other".
"It is not the first time she has been in a situation of danger," he pointed out.
"When there was rebel activity previously she was evacuated from Mulita.
"When she returned she worked in another area until Mulita was safe again.
"A lot of people had fled the village. Maud has been instrumental in leading the reconstruction of everything, especially the school, hospital and church."
Funding for Maud's work has been gathered from people across Ireland.
She organised the building of a bridge over a river that was once spanned only a tree trunk, a school with seven classrooms, as well as hospital maternity and surgical wards. A primary school is named after her.
"Her work is not just about the gospel ministry and medical work but the whole community," Rev Greer added. "It would be surprising if all this has put her off.
"Maud is confident in the Lord's calling and is not going to be deterred."
Messages of well-wishes have been pouring in from all quarters.
Presbyterian Moderator Dr Michael Barry said countless people were praying for Maud.
"On behalf of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland I extend my best wishes to Maud and will, like many others in the Presbyterian Church, be praying she makes a speedy recovery from this terrible incident," he said.
Upper Bann DUP MP David Simpson has written to Maud.
"Maud's work in training nurses and other assistance to people in DRC is invaluable and her dedication since 1968 was rightly recognised recently in the New Year Honours list," he said.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness took to Twitter to share his thoughts on his sadness at her traumatic ordeal.