Maud Kells is a remarkable woman, and this is a remarkable story. Yet Maud would be the first to downplay that, and the book begins and ends with giving God the glory for all that her story contains.
This is a straightforward autobiography, and you can sometimes wonder in what place you are as you read about various places in Congo (DRC) where Maud found herself at various times. There was also a period in Sudan, of which more later. But certain themes stood out to me as I read this book.
God speaks today
The first was that God speaks through His Word. On a number of occasions Maud received instruction from God about what she was to do, and she stood solidly to what she felt assured of, sometimes (often?) in spite of what her superiors felt was wise.
The book begins and ends with Maud giving God all the glory.
Here is the development of a woman of God from a girl who grew up on a small farm in Northern Ireland, fairly timid, and afraid of mice, to someone who often challenged undisciplined military men, organised building projects, provided all the medical services that she could in a remote and extremely poor part of Congo, changed the conditions in which many people lived, and whose joy was found in sharing the gospel with any who would listen.
Inspired by Dr Helen
She went to Congo because she was inspired by the story of Dr Helen Roseveare, and sensed that God wanted her to go there, despite the fact that WEC was not sending anybody there after the traumatic events of the Simba rebellion of the early 1960s. Her father was opposed to her going, but go she did.
A thread runs through this story of the economic and social collapse of Congo. When she went out in 1968 the infrastructure was quite good. By the end of the century there was civil war, and she was evacuated, either from her home in Mulita or out of the country, on a number of occasions.
Planes, air miles and 4x4s
Maud pays tribute a number of times to the services of MAF, and if they gave frequent flyer points Maud would surely have accumulated a good stash of them.
Maud lost a lot of things. Two Land-Rovers went (in very different circumstances), goods stored while she was evacuated or out of the country rotted away or were looted, family treasures were stolen, and there was even a burglary at her house in Northern Ireland. The most precious possession, apart from her Bible, was her passport, and she mainly managed to hold on to that.
When her mother died Maud took a break for seven years to look after her father. She had not been in Congo long, and it was evidently a difficult choice for her to make. But both her parents made a commitment to Jesus before they died.
In 1999 Maud went to south Sudan seconded to Samaritan’s Purse, working in the shadow of government planes bombing the area. Later she returned to Congo, but the situation was very unstable. But in the midst of that, she recounts a Christmas conference at Ibambi where remarkable signs of revival reminiscent of those of the 1950s were witnessed.
Drama in Mulita
In 2015 Maud was shot by robbers at her home in Mulita, and very nearly lost her life. MAF to the rescue once more! She returned to Northern Ireland to awards, including the OBE. She was then 76, and by rights that should be the end of the story. But she returned to Congo to seek justice for workers who had wrongly been accused of being involved in her shooting, and picked up a medal from the Congolese government as well.
Maud is a woman of humility and determination. She never minded being the only European (missionary or otherwise) in her remote home in Congo. She loved people, and enjoyed the company of African Christians.
And if she could help babies come in to the world safely, alleviate pain and suffering, and talk about Jesus and lead people to know him, she was fulfilled.
An Open Door – A true story of courage in Congo
Authors: Maud Kells with Jean Gibson
Publisher: 10 Publishing
Available from WEC Books
Read more about Maud’s 50-year missionary service here.