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Ryan and Annabel Koher
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Imprisoned pilot Ryan Koher finally speaks to family

24th January 2023

Ryan and Annabel Koher

Ryan and Annabel Koher (credit: Stuart Boyd)

MAF continues to seek the release of pilot and mechanic Ryan Koher who has been wrongfully detained by Mozambican authorities since 4 November. Ryan has been imprisoned on suspicion of terrorism following the seizure of supplies meant for an orphanage during a routine airport security scan

On 3 November, American pilot and mechanic Ryan Koher who works for Ambassador Aviation Ltd (AAL) – MAF’s partner in Mozambique – flew into the coastal city of Inhambane in southern Mozambique to meet two South African colleagues.

WJ du Plessis and Eric Dry had brought Ryan essential supplies destined for an orphanage near Montepuez in northern Mozambique. This was nothing new as Ambassador Aviation had been conducting annual supply flights to this orphanage and others since 2014.

During a routine airport security scan on 4 November ahead of Ryan’s chartered flight, police officials took a special interest in the supplies, which included vitamins, over-the-counter medication and food preservatives. None of it belonged to Ryan.

The flight bound for Montepuez in Cabo Delgado raised more suspicion since conflict in the region is rife. There is a general mistrust of foreigners who handle goods in the area.

Before the supplies were even loaded onto the plane, the police seized them and detained Ryan, W.J and Eric on suspicion of supporting insurgents. The three men were originally imprisoned in Inhambane but have since been relocated to the Machava Maximum Security Prison near Maputo.

To date, no formal charges have been made.

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. It’s given the family a real boost says Annabel:

‘It was encouraging to hear Ryan’s voice and to know that he really is doing well considering the circumstances. Waking the boys with Ryan’s voice on speaker and seeing their huge smiles was such a sweet moment. I feel an increased sense of peace and steadfastness as we continue praying and waiting on the Lord. Those nearly two hours will be cherished until we next talk or when he is released.’

Annabel Koher

Ever since her husband’s arrest, Annabel has been leading prayers for Ryan’s swift release:

MAF does not support insurgents

Ambassador Aviation has actually helped people in the past flee from insurgent attacks says David Holsten, CEO of MAF US:

‘Ambassador Aviation has long sought to care for those who have been harmed by the insurgency, including evacuating innocent residents following a March 2021 insurgent attack.’

In 2021, Ambassador Aviation evacuated over 800 people from Afungi and provided food, medicine and emergency relief when insurgents attacked Palma, Cabo Delgado Province in Mozambique’s north eastern corner.

As the region recovered from the attacks, Ambassador Aviation flew in health workers to care for people from late 2021 to early 2022.

David continues:

‘Ryan Koher did nothing wrong. His wife and children deserve to have him back, and the orphanage in northern Mozambique need 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.

‘This situation has been very challenging for the family. We fully believe in Ryan’s innocence, and we are all praying that this issue will be resolved very soon with the case dismissed and Ryan released.’

David Holsten, CEO of MAF US

A criminal investigation is currently underway and Ryan’s lawyer is doing all that he can to remedy the situation as is the US Embassy. The Mozambican government has been obtaining various documentation from the orphanage involved.

The prosecutor has ordered AAL’s plane to be safely transferred into a hangar, but with one of two aircraft now out of action, AAL’s medevacs and humanitarian assistance have been seriously hampered.

Annabel and their two children have since returned to the US for safety. Ryan – who has worked for AAL in Mozambique since December 2021 – spent Christmas in prison away from his family who stayed with Annabel’s mother in Nampa, Idaho. Annabel and the children are also being supported by Annabel’s siblings and her home church.

‘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. He has however, been bitten by insects resulting in itching. The team are doing all they can to get him the right medication.

There has been no interrogation or physical mistreatment. Ryan’s lawyer, US Embassy officials and several Ambassador Aviation staff including Senhor Coelho and MAF Country Director Rolland Trempert, have been able to visit Ryan.

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 demeanor 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.’

Ryan Koher, MAF Pilot

Fortunately, Ryan is able to eat breakfast with the two other detainees, WJ and Eric. Together, they also spend one hour outside every day enjoying each other’s company, sunshine and fresh air.

Please continue to pray for the release of Ryan, WJ and Eric. If you would like to let Annabel know that you are praying for Ryan and the family at this difficult time, please feel free to email your messages of support to: prayforpilotryan@maf.org You can also write to Annabel addressing your letters to: Annabel Koher. PO Box 47, Nampa, Idaho, 83653. United States

Please use #prayforpilotryan on your social media channels to garner wider support.

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