Miss Kells, who was from Cookstown, attended Molesworth Presbyterian Church in the town and as a young woman trained as a nurse in Belfast before beginning a life long association with the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Going against the wishes of her family, following a clear call from God to go, in 1968 she began to train nurses in different hospitals and health centres in the central African county. Later on, she became a missionary with WEC International, the international mission agency, Worldwide Evangelisation for Christ.
For nearly 50 years she worked tirelessly and relatively unknown, outside of WEC and her congregation, until 2015. It was in the January of that year she came to national prominence after being shot one night by bandits in the village of Mulita, in the north east of the country. At the time she was 75.
Speaking about her, Dr Mawhinney said, “I was saddened to hear of the death of Maud Kells and would like to offer my condolences to her family and friends, both here in Ireland and the DRC, where she served God so faithfully and for so long. She was certainly part of a great generation of Christian women who demonstrated their love for Christ as they helped and supported others in need overseas.”
As a young doctor in the 1990s, before he began his studies to become a minister, Dr Mawhinney also spent time working in Africa, only to the east of the DRC in Kenya. “While I did not know Maud personally, her reputation definitely preceded her, especially the way in which she spoke of the events of that night – even going back when she was well enough.
“While my time as a missionary doctor in a hospital outside Nairobi was relatively short, it was an experience that I will never forget. In paying tribute to Maud today, and her selfless and tireless gospel-inspired work, having followed so faithfully the call from God over so many years, I also want to commend all those who are called by God to His service overseas, especially our own Global Mission Workers in PCI.
“The Apostle Paul tells us in his Letter to the Ephesians, ‘For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them’ (Ephesians 2:10). Maud was a humble and true example of that,” Dr Mawhinney said.
Prior to the attempt on her life, in the New Year’s Honours List of 2015, she was appointed an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) for ‘services to people in the Democratic Republic of Congo’ by the late Queen. That same year, she was named Belfast Telegraph ‘Women of the Year.’ Having won the overall title, she was also named ‘Inspiring Woman of the Year’. In 2019 she published her autobiography ‘An open door – A true story of courage in Congo.’
Photo: (1) Maud Kells taken taken in 2015 when she returned from the DRC (Credit Norman Bell) (2) with her Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Award the same year (Credit Belfast Telegraph)