Inspiring Tyrone pensioner Maud Kells, who was shot and wounded while carrying out missionary work four years ago, is preparing for a last visit to the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo.
The 79-year-old missionary is taking out medical supplies and baby clothes to the hospital, maternity ward and nursery in the rural Mulita area she has spent most of her adult life building up.
This week she was packing her bags and “getting things finalised” at her Cookstown home in preparation for her African journey.
The medical supplies and clothes have to be shipped out first to Uganda, she stressed,
Maud is travelling with local woman Lorna Glasgow to Kampala from where she hopes to continue on to the north east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The former midwife expressed some concern that elections taking place could “become a problem” and make it difficult for her to get into the country, as could a confirmed case of Ebola.
Maud will be spending a few days in Uganda with Lorna, who is visiting her daughter Linda Carpenter.
“Hopefully everything will be all right,” she said.
“This will be my last trip and I’m looking forward to meeting up with everyone, although it will be sad as well.”
Having worked as a missionary since 1968, Maud has been asked by many people to write a book about her experiences.
“I’m working on it at present along with a friend and I hope to launch it when I get back in February,” she explained.
“People have said to me you must have many stories to tell about your time in Africa.”
Her work with the Christian organisation WEC International has been personally rewarding; as well as midwifery work she has conducted Bible school teaching, spoken at church services, and supervised construction projects.
However the dangers of working in a war-torn country were brought home in January 2015 when she was shot twice by bandits and almost died.
The bullet hit her in the shoulder and she said she narrowly missed death or paralysis.
After a long recovery, she mustered up enough courage to head back to Mulita to finish off important work on the nursery.
“I will probably be working in the maternity ward or wherever they want me to help out,” she said about her up forthcoming visit.
She admits to feeling a bit emotional about the visit, as she feels this will be her last time in the area.
“It will not be easy to say goodbye to my many friends,” she added.
Her dedication to missionary work was recognised in the New Year’s Honours of 2015 when received an OBE.
At the time she praised local people for their support over the years. “The people around Cookstown should be involved in this honour as well because I wouldn’t have been out in Africa if God hadn’t called me and the folks around home hadn’t supported me and financed all the work that I was doing out there,” she said.