Chris Lange, FISM News
The wife of a Mission Aviation Fellowship pilot detained in Mozambique for the past four months is urging Christians worldwide to pray for her husband, who was recently denied bail.
Ryon Kohler, a pilot for the U.S.-based Mission Aviation Fellowship ministry (MAF), and two South African volunteers were detained in the coastal Mozambique city of Inhambane on Nov. 4. Kohler (age 31) W.J. du Plessis (70), and Eric Dry (69) were arrested on suspicion of “supporting insurgent activity” as they loaded Kohler’s aircraft with supplies destined for orphanages in Cabo’s troubled Cabo-Delgado province, The Christian Post reported, though no formal charges have been made.
MAF noted in a statement that “[t]here is a general mistrust of foreigners who handle goods in the area.”
The three men were originally imprisoned in Inhambane but were subsequently relocated to the Machava Maximum Security Prison near Maputo where they remain.
A Mozambique judge recently denied bail for all three men. MAF said in a statement that, while initially disheartened at the news, Kohler said that he feels “peace from God and is committed to His will.”
“Ryan Koher did nothing wrong. His wife and children deserve to have him back, and the orphanage in northern Mozambique need[s] the supplies he was trying to deliver when he was wrongly detained,” MAF US CEO David Holsten said in a statement.
“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 U.S. to do everything they can to resolve this wrongful detainment,” Holsten said. “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.’
Holsten slammed the insurgency charges against the men as “unfounded allegations,” pointing out that Ambassador Aviation, MAF’s partner in Mozambique for which Kohler had been working at the time of his arrest, “has actually helped people in the past flee from insurgent attacks.” The ministry evacuated more than 800 people from Afungi in 2021 “and provided food, medicine, and emergency relief” following an insurgent attack in Palma in the Cabo Delgado Province in the northeast corner of the South African country, according to Holsten.
MAF is working vigorously to secure Kohler’s release. The ministry’s Mozambique director has met with U.S. Ambassador Peter Hendrick Vrooman to discuss Koher’s situation.
PRISON GUARDS MOVED BY KOHLER’S FAITH
Kohler has been able to communicate by letter with his wife, Annabel, and the couple’s two boys and also provide updates to MAF, with the U.S. Embassy in Mozambique serving as a courier.
MAF shared excerpts from some of Kohler’s letters in which he said that he is in “good health” and that he tries to keep his strength up by exercising each day. The pilot said that he spends the bulk of his time reading the Bible.
“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 wrote.
Kohler also revealed something extraordinary in a letter to his wife.
‘A guard saw our story on the news and was impressed by our mission work — he told Ryan to keep praying,” Annabel said. “Ryan said that this was the second guard to say this. Ryan told both guards that God has been with him.’
In a more recent letter, Kohler said that his fellow inmates at the maximum-security prison perceive him as a “very strong person,” so much so that many believe that he serves in the military. The pilot offered a simple but powerful explanation for this perception.
‘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,” he wrote. “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.’
In a video message posted on MAF’s website, Annabel asked believers around the world to join her in prayer and fasting each Wednesday until her husband’s safe return. She reported on Friday that Ryan experienced the first good night’s sleep he’d had in a long time, which she credited to the prayers of believers around the world.
While slightly more than half of Mozambique’s population is Christian, Islamic jihadists have gained a foothold in areas like the Cabo-Delgado province, where “jihadist insurgents” rule through fear and violence. U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reported in 2022 that the jihadists have been “setting fire to Christian villages and killing those who lived there.” Open Doors listed Christian persecution in Mozambique as “very high” in its 2023 World Watch list for religious persecution.
“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,” Kohler wrote in one of his letters. “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.”