Rebels, rescues and robbery: Maud Kells launches book on missionary exploits in Africa

Co Tyrone missionary Maud Kells is releasing a book about her life in Africa
Co Tyrone missionary Maud Kells is releasing a book about her life in Africa

The Co Tyrone missionary who miraculously survived being shot by robbers in the Congo is publishing a book chronicling her 50 years of African adventures.

Presbyterian midwife Maud Kells OBE made national headlines after she was shot by thieves in her compound at Mulita in the Congo jungle in 2015.

Missionary Maud Kells' book 'An Open Door' is to tell of her life story serving in the Congo.

Missionary Maud Kells' book 'An Open Door' is to tell of her life story serving in the Congo.

However, in what she believes was a “miracle”, the bullet passed right through her, narrowly missing her spinal cord and a major blood vessel by the narrowest of margins.

‘An Open Door’ is to be launched in Maud Kells’ home church, Molesworth Presbyterian in Cookstown, on her 80th birthday on April 1.

Leaving Tyrone for the Congo as a missionary midwife in 1968, she has also survived several national uprisings, trained countless nurses, built schools and hospitals, taught in Bible college and is now adding the title of author to her lengthy CV.

“I had been taking meetings in recent years and everybody kept asking me ‘haven’t you written these stories down for a book?’ I always resisted doing it but then eventually I got so much pressure from people saying ‘you should write these stories down for the future generations’.”

The book title came from the Bible verse on which she based her five precarious decades in Africa.

“The verse God gave me was ‘behold I set before you an open door that no man can shut’. At that time the door into Congo was closed because it was the 1964 rebellion. But by the time I had finished all my training the door was open. I was evacuated several times from Congo but each time I was able to go back again.”

She first went in 1968 and left for the final time about a fortnight ago. Although a midwife, she found herself “doing everything” as the need arose.

“I was a trained midwife but we made our own bricks and built a little hospital, a school and nursery. But I was also helping in the Bible school and the church work.”

In one situation 1998, Maud and collegues had to be evacuated from the Congo at short notice. War was declared and the borders were closed. Rebels were threatening to take them hostage and shoot down any aircraft that tried to rescue them. An American satellite warned the missionaries that rebel forces were about to overrun their position.

Hostile rebel supporters kept removing the white sheets they laid out as a safety signal for the plane to land. So at the last moment they put down Maud’s white coat instead and the pilot landed and collected them all in a rapid turnaround.

From 1998 to 2002 she worked in south Sudan because it was too dangerous to work in Congo. “But that was like going out of the frying pan into the fire,” she said.

She added: “Hopefully the book will challenge readers about the tremendous need for missionaries and aid in third world countries.

“Hopefully they’ll be challenged in their faith because I just had to trust the Lord to look after me and get out of so many difficult situations.”

An Open Door is published by 10Publishing at £9.99 and will be available in bookshops and online.