Court denies bail for missionary pilot, 2 MAF volunteers imprisoned in Mozambique

Mission Aviation Fellowship, pilot's wife ask Christians worldwide to join them in prayer every Wednesday

Ryan Koher with his wife Annabel and children. | Mission Aviation Fellowship

A court in Mozambique has denied bail for Ryan Koher, a pilot for the U.S.-based ministry Mission Aviation Fellowship and two of the organization's South African volunteers who were arrested more than four months ago, allegedly on suspicion of supporting insurgent activity. The ministry says the pilot has “peace from God and is committed to His will.”

Koher, 31, and two South Africans — 77-year-old W.J. du Plessis and 69-year-old Eric Dry — were detained in the coastal city of Inhambane on Nov. 4 while they were loading supplies into the aircraft to be taken to church-run orphanages in the Montepuez district in the troubled Cabo Delgado Province. Their request for bail was denied earlier this month.

In an update Friday, MAF said Koher’s wife, Annabel, is thankful for the continued prayers and fasting on behalf of her husband.

Koher has been experiencing a deteriorating medical condition, causing him to suffer from itching that affects his sleep, Annabel said, adding that Koher recently had a better night’s sleep, which she attributed to the ongoing prayers and fasting by MAF staff and other Christians worldwide.

On Wednesday, hundreds of people from around the world joined MAF’s day of global prayer and fasting for Koher, the ministry said.

In a video message on MAF's website, Annabel urges Christians to join the ministry staff as they pray for her husband every Wednesday.

In the MAF statement, Annabel said while her husband initially felt disappointed after being denied bail, he has since found peace in God and is fully committed to following His will.

MAF said an official from the U.S. Embassy visited Koher earlier this week and delivered a mattress cover and other items and confirmed that Koher could spend an hour outside each day. They also delivered letters for Koher that he will receive after prison authorities review them.

The country director of MAF met with U.S. Ambassador Vrooman to discuss Koher’s situation.

For the first time in nearly three months, Annabel and their two young sons, Elias and Hezekiah, were able to speak to Koher over the phone on Jan. 24.

Koher has also been writing to MAF U.S. through the U.S. Embassy.

“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,” he wrote in one of the letters.

“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.”

He added, “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.”

There has been no interrogation or physical mistreatment of Koher, MAF said.

In an earlier statement, MAF assured that the three men were not supporting an insurgency because the organization has “long sought to care for those who have been harmed by the insurgency, including evacuating innocent residents following a March 2021 insurgent attack.” 

Islamic extremists have been exploiting a crisis in the coastal province of Cabo Delgado. A civil war started in 2017 over the area rich with gas, rubies, graphite, gold and other natural resources. Protesters demonstrated against what they say is profits going to an elite in the ruling Frelimo Party, with few jobs for local residents.

In the mostly Muslim region of Cabo Delgado in the otherwise Christian-majority country, Islamic extremists kidnap women and force boys to become child soldiers, The Washington Post reported last October.

The U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern also reported that in 2017, "jihadist insurgents began in the Cabo-Delgado province, winning over some locals due to the fact that they gave back resources to villagers from the government, and killed no one. This did not last, however, as IS started setting fire to Christian villages, and killing those who lived there."

Ryan’s release and safe return home remain the top priority, MAF said, urging everyone to continue to pray for his well-being and a positive resolution to his case.

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