Northern Ireland

Maud Kells: Cookstown missionary relives her shooting ordeal

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Media captionMaud Kells said she was confronted by two masked men wearing camouflage clothing, pointing a gun at her

It is just eight weeks since missionary midwife Maud Kells was shot by bandits outside her home in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The bullet hit her in the shoulder - she narrowly missed death or paralysis.

"I thought I was dying," said Ms Kells who is 75 years old. "I thought; 'I'm not ready to go Lord, I'm still in the middle of building this nursery.'"

It was a drama that could so easily have killed her.

"The bullet just missed my lung. It just missed a large blood vessel by a fraction of a centimetre. If it had hit that, I would have just died on the spot from severe haemorrhaging," she said.

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Image caption The moments after Ms Kells was shot by intruders: Pictures provided by Maud Kells

"It came out, almost on my spinal cord. Another fraction of a centimetre and I would have been paralysed.

"It was a miracle - God saved my life."

But she survived and is recuperating in her Northern Ireland home.

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Image caption Ms Kells lying ill on the sofa at her bungalow in the compound

Maud Kells has two homes - she spends about half of the year in her County Tyrone home of Cookstown.

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Image caption Local people carry her to the waiting plane to be airlifted to hospital

But the rest of the time, she spends on the mission field in Mulita, to the north east of DRC. She has worked tirelessly to help the people there for 47 years. She works for the WEC International mission agency.

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Image caption She is lifted onto the plane and bound for hospital

The night of the shooting began with a loud rapping late at night on the shutters at Ms Kells' bungalow and a man urging her to hurry as she was needed at the hospital.

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Image caption On the mend: Maud Kells recuperating from her operation

When she got there, they were puzzled to see her and she realised it was a bogus call by people wanting to raid her home. She turned and went back.

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Image caption Hundreds of friends and well wishers appeared to welcome her back home after she left hospital

"I had just gone through the gate of my compound when these two bandits came running. They were masked and wearing camouflage. They had a shotgun and pointed it at me," she said.

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Image caption Back in her native Northern Ireland - Maud Kells is well on the road to a full recovery

"I thought it was wood, I went to grab it and, as I did it, he pulled the trigger. There was a terrific noise and pain. He ran past me and out the gate. I could feel the blood trickling down my back. I stood and called for help. But everybody was too frightened, they had heard the shotgun.

"It was about seven minutes before they came and I collapsed on the mat into the house."

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Image caption There's work to be done: a hospital; a school; offices; a nursery school - there is still plenty to build

From there, the local chief came with security and police. Doctors were called.

It took time in a world where there are no mobile phones and few modern conveniences.

Ms Kells was eventually airlifted to Nyankunde hospital.

She arrived home in Northern Ireland last week but is still receiving daily treatment for the gunshot wound to her shoulder and a fractured rib.

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Image caption Maud Kells pictured in her African home

"Everyone was very kind," she said.

Now, looking back on the shooting, she said: "What an honour to suffer with our Lord Jesus Christ."

When she first arrived on her mission in 1968, Ms Kells turned builder, working with local people and using brick making equipment left over by the Belgians to create a hospital in the Congo.

Between them, they built a maternity unit, an operating theatre, a surgical ward, later there was a primary school and office block. Work on the pre-school nursery has now begun.

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Image caption The young people and her missionary work are to the forefront of her thoughts

Yes, the people are "too poor" and life is very tough, but she has not given up on her Congo home.

Maud Kells would like to return.

"I would love to go back to finish off that nursery we have started building and hand over the work properly to the church people," she said.

"I have no real bitterness, I just feel sorry for the guy (who shot me). I am sure he must have a terrible conscience and must have a lot of regret especially since he has been arrested and didn't get away with it.

"I just pray that through this experience, he will come to his senses and realise what a dreadful thing that he did do.

"All I can think of now of Mulita is the affection, care and help that the people have given me and I would have no apprehensions about going back."

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