Awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours List, voted Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year and shot - 2015 has been quite a year for 75-year-old missionary Maud Kells. After 40 years serving with WEC in the Congo, Maud is not yet ready to retire. During the New Horizon conference in Coleraine, she shared her story. VOX magazine editor Ruth Garvey-Williams was there to capture what she had to say.
When the bandits shot me, they meant evil for me but God meant it for good. The response and the opportunities God has given me to glorify Him has been wonderful.
I was brought up going to church and Sunday School. As a child, I knew about Jesus in my head but not in my heart. It was in the Royal in Belfast through the Nurses Christian Fellowship that I came to know the Lord as my Saviour. After I asked Jesus into my heart, He was so real to me that night. I had such a great sense of His presence. Before that, when I tried to read the Bible it was like double-Dutch, but after that the Bible came alive to me.
When I heard the challenge to be a missionary, I thought, “I couldn’t do that”. One day I decided, instead of having lunch, I would go up to my room and pray that God would show me what to do. I got down on my hands and knees and prayed. As I did that, I thought the Lord was calling me. But I was still doubtful so I prayed that within 24 hours I would hear something about a Bible college as a confirmation.
The next day in my pigeonhole there was a syllabus of a Bible college in Glasgow.
I still felt inadequate. But I Corinthians I: 27 – 29 means so much to me: “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”
Anything I’ve been able to accomplish in Africa has been because of the Lord Jesus Christ. I spent two years at the WEC missionary college in Glasgow. There were memorial services for the missionaries who had been martyred at that time and God called me to replace one of them, so that is how I got the call to the Congo.
In 1968, I sailed to the mission field. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself take up his cross and follow me…” – it doesn’t say come for a picnic. We should not be surprised whenever difficult things happen in our lifetime.
1 Peter 4:12 says “don’t be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering. Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ so that you will be overjoyed when the glory is revealed.”
I worked at various mission stations until 1986 when I went to Molito (west of Rwanda). They wanted me to start a little hospital. They had some mud buildings but as I started to teach hygiene, I called the church leaders and said “We need a proper building with bricks and a floor that can be washed.”
They got a brick machine, which made two bricks at a time. Ladies who came to the antenatal clinic would bring stones for the foundation. At that time, many were dying in childbirth so my first goal was to build a maternity unit. Later, we built a surgical ward and operating theatre.
Congo has been in the news for the wrong reasons. In 1996, people were so disillusioned with the corrupt regime that there was a coup d’état. During that time we kept being evacuated, then coming back and then being evacuated again.
Eventually, I returned to Molita in 2004. Many houses had been burnt to the ground and the Landrover had been stolen, so it was like starting up again.
It was great just to see God’s hand at work. Eventually we completed our hospital and built a proper school for the kids. The little children also wanted to come so we decided we needed a nursery. We had just started that last year but it came to an abrupt end when I was shot.
In recent years, I only spend six months in the Congo and six months at home. There is no pharmacy so I order medical supplies from Kampala and charter a small MAF plane to bring all the supplies with me.
I have a satellite phone for emergencies. Of course I am the only one who knows how to use it and when I was shot I wasn’t in any fit state to use it!
I had had a wonderful Christmas day. I spent half the night bringing a baby into the world. Nowadays, I’m only called in for the difficult deliveries and I always pray with the mothers. We asked if she was a Christian and she said, “No.” As we progressed through the labour we explained the gospel to her. Eventually when the baby arrived, healthy and strong I said, “Let’s thank God for how He has answered prayer.” She said, “Before you pray, I would like to become a Christian.”
A few days after New Year, just after midnight, someone rapped at my window to let me know that a lady needed a C-section. Fifty minutes later there was another rap on the bedroom window.
A man’s voice said, “You are urgently needed in the maternity unit.” It never dawned on me that it could be hoax. My night guard and I began walking over to hospital. Halfway there we met a group of people who told us that there was no emergency.
We returned to the house and as we approached the house, the bandits came running up dressed in camouflage. One grabbed my night guard and pulled him away. The other bandit was pointing something at me. I went to grab what I thought was a stick and at that moment he pulled the trigger. Then I realised it was a gun!
Some people have asked, “Did you realise you had been shot?” If you had been there you would have known! There was a terrific bang and pain as the bullet came out my back. It narrowly missed a huge blood vessel. If it had punctured that I would have died on the spot. I fractured two vertebrae and two ribs.
I yelled at the top of my voice hoping somebody would hear me. I could feel the blood trickling down my back so I pushed my back against a wall to try to stop the bleeding. I kept yelling. Nobody came because they were terrified.
I thought, this was how the Lord felt when He was left alone at the crucifixion. One girl did appear but she went hysterical when she saw me. It was a very long ten minutes but eventually my night guard escaped from the bandit and went to call the pastor. Finally everybody came out.
I remember thinking, God’s in control. I had such a sense of God’s peace – no panic or fear. I felt no anger against the bandits and I can only say that was a miracle from God.
They got me into the house and I collapsed. If it wasn’t for my night guard I would have died. Eventually they arranged for me to be evacuated. I have no recollection of any of that. I was near death but God wonderfully answered prayer. It took three months for my wound to heal.
The biggest surprise of my life was to be awarded the OBE in the New Year’s Honours list. It is thanks to all my supporters and to the Lord. It was such an honour to have Prince William present me with the award.
To find out more about WEC, visit www.wec-uk.org.
Images: Studio82 Photography - www.studio82photgraphy.co.uk