Four months after a pilot delivering aid to northern Mozambique was arrested by the authorities, aviation workers and volunteers held a 24-hour non-stop prayer and fasting session for his safe release.
Ryan Koher, a pilot for Mission Aviation Fellowship, is in a high security prison in Mozambique. On November 4, he met two South Africans at an airport in southern Mozambique for a routine flight. They were bringing supplies for orphanages in the northern part of the country and it was a flight MAF, known as Ambassador Aviation Ltd. in Mozambique, had flown many times in the past. Before the airplane was loaded, police conducted a normal scan of the goods and had concerns about some vitamins, over-the-counter medications, and food preservative supplies that were going to staff at the orphanages.
Ryan and the two South Africans were detained that day on an accusation that quickly escalated to “supporting terrorism.” It has now been over 60 days of incarceration for Ryan and the two South Africans without any written charges and an investigation that is ongoing.
A request for bail has so far been denied, and the family’s attempts to release Ryan continue to fail.
For the first time in nearly three months, Ryan’s wife Annabel and their two young sons, Elias and Hezekiah, were able to speak to Ryan over the telephone on 24 January.
Associates of Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) are calling for the safe release Koher and the two South African NGO workers.
His wife, Annabelle, and two sons were evacuated following Ryan’s arrest, and now live at the headquarters of the Mission Aviation Fellowship in Idaho, US.
The organisation is rallying some 1,500 staff across 25 countries to take shifts over a 24-hour period of non-stop prayer and fasting.
Annabelle said: “I want to thank you all for praying and fasting for Ryan, and I’m grateful that you are encouraging others to pray too. I am confident that God hears our prayers as we cry out to Him. Please pray for Ryan’s release and that we would be reunited again soon. Pray also for comfort for our boys – as they may not understand why their daddy isn’t here, and may not be able to fully express their emotions at this time. As we read in Psalms 5:3, may we all be watching expectantly for the Lord to work, and be ready to praise Him for all He will do.”
At the time of the arrest, David Holsten, President and CEO of MAF in the U.S said: “Ryan Koher did nothing wrong.
“The organisation serving the orphans in northern Mozambique needs the supplies he was trying to deliver when he was wrongly detained. I urge Christians around the world to pray for Ryan’s safety and swift release and call on those in power both in Mozambique and here in the US to do everything they can to resolve this wrongful detainment.”
Mozambique has been battling an Islamist insurgency in its northern Cabo Delgado province for the past five years. The conflict has displaced over one million people and killed an estimated 4,000 others.
‘God is with me’
The conditions at Machava Maximum Security Prison are better than the previous prison in Inhambane. Ryan has access to personal hygiene items including soap, which he is sharing with other inmates.
Ryan has been writing to MAF US through the US Embassy about how he has been faring in prison. Here are some excerpts:
‘I am doing well and in good health. The prison did a special meal for Christmas. They had beef and Coke Zero instead of the normal beans and chicken feet.
‘Senhor Coelho and the embassy brought lots of books this week, which I’m really excited about.
‘I try to exercise every day – just some jumping jacks, push ups and squats. I still spend most of my day reading the Bible – it’s a real ‘page turner!’ One of the men here let me borrow his Portuguese Bible in exchange for one of my English ones – I’m using it to improve my Portuguese.
‘Whatever path God has me take, he has a work for me to complete and I need not fear in the face of suffering because I am united with Christ. These things are very comforting to me because I know he will be with me and has a purpose in it all. Please pray that he would help me conduct myself in a manner worthy of the Gospel so that I will not be frightened by those who oppose me.’
Ryan has since finished reading the Bible and has even been able to share some encouraging words at the prison church service. Annabel says some of the guards have been sympathetic:
‘A guard saw our story on the news and was impressed by our mission work – he told Ryan to keep praying. Ryan said that this was the second guard to say this. Ryan told both guards that God has been with him.’
In Ryan’s latest letter, he shares that some fellow inmates perceive him as a ‘very strong person’ and that they think he is in the military, but Ryan says his demeanour is all down to God:
‘I told them I’ve never been in the military and that I’m really not a strong person, but it’s because I have thousands of people praying for me. I don’t have any strength in myself, but the Lord sustains me and by His grace, I am able to stand. God should get all the glory, as I claim none for myself.’
(Picture Courtesy: Mission Aviation Fellowship)