Malaysian Pastor Raymond Koh Abducted For His Faith
Eyewitnesses said it was like a scene from a movie. On Feb. 13, 2017, three black SUVs surrounded Pastor Raymond Koh’s silver sedan and forced it to the side of the road. Men dressed in black got out of their vehicles, grabbed Pastor Koh and shoved him into one of the SUVs while men on motorbikes stopped any approaching cars. The SUVs and Pastor Koh were gone in 40 seconds, and no one has heard from him since.
Susanna is convinced that her husband’s abduction is tied to a 2011 confrontation with officers from the Selangor Islamic Department. As she and her husband hosted a dinner one night for sponsors of a charity they had started in 2004, 30 officers raided the event on the assumption that they were evangelizing Muslims, an illegal act in Malaysia. While some Muslims were among those attending the dinner, its sole purpose was to thank sponsors of their Harapan Komuniti (Hope Community) charity, which helped the poor, single mothers, children, drug addicts and those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. About 120 people from various backgrounds attended the event in a local church.
During the raid, the officers took photographs and videos of those in attendance, and that was just the beginning of the intimidation. “After that incident, my husband and I received a death threat,” Susanna said. They received mail with white powder believed to be anthrax. Pastor Koh also received a box containing two bullets and a letter threatening to kill him and his wife.
Still, Pastor Koh was undeterred. “He continued, though there was some fear and anxiety,” Susanna said. “He felt that the Lord called him to fulfill the Great Commission, and that means to every tribe, nation and tongue. He does not discriminate, so we just carried on our work with the poor, the needy, the marginalized, and with God’s grace we carried through.”
After those initial threats, they continued their work with no further problems until the pastor’s abduction in 2017. “It was a big shock to myself and my family and Christian community, as well as to the whole country,” Susanna said of the abduction.
When Susanna went to the police station to file a report on her missing husband, they interrogated her about her husband’s activities, specifically whether he proselytized Muslims. “It was strange that he wasn’t asking me the normal questions you would ask the family of the victim of abduction,” she said. Finally, at 3 a.m., Susanna lost her patience with the interrogators. “I am not answering any more questions,” she told them. “I have my rights and I am going out there to look for my husband. The important thing for you to do is to go out there and look for my husband.”
Susanna believes the Lord had been preparing her husband for the abduction. Pastor Koh had begun taking three-hour prayer walks early in the morning, and he had been memorizing large portions of Scripture. “He would tell me, ‘I have just finished memorizing 1 Corinthians 15,’” she recalled. “I was thinking that he is really a great example to follow.” He was also physically prepared, as he was in good health and had been playing soccer with teenagers in a league he had started.
Despite these reassurances and the knowledge that Raymond is in God’s hands, Susanna has struggled with her husband’s absence. “The hardest part is not knowing where he is, what happened to him and how he is doing right now,” she said. “Right now my children are going for counseling because this has taken a toll on them physically as well as … emotionally and psychologically. But we thank God for the Christian community and also the worldwide church that has been an encouragement to us; they have expressed their support through prayers and sending postcards to us. That really lifts up our spirits and encourages us in many ways.”
She is also thankful for the way God has ministered to her during her trials. “God has been very real and personal to us,” she said. “I remember the first three weeks I was very lost and even had panic attacks. We decided to go for a silent retreat and that really helped me to … fix my eyes on Jesus. During that time, God spoke to me through His Word.” One verse that is close to Susanna’s heart is Psalm 46:10, which says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
“I don’t need to struggle and strive,” she continued. “I can just rest in the assurance that He is with me and He will never leave me or forsake me. He will work all things for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”
As Susanna prays for the release of her husband, she also prays for their whole family, that God “will create a new person in us that will be strong and patient, godly, all these qualities through all these trials.” She also asks for prayer that churches in Malaysia will be strong amid subtle persecution and that they will “speak out for truth and justice and also that they would love people into the kingdom in this.”
Susanna wonders and worries about her husband from day to day, but she has forgiven those responsible for his abduction. “From the beginning, I have decided to forgive them because they know not what they do, and I follow the examples of our Lord Jesus Christ,” she said. “God really had to deal with me first to forgive them, pray for them, because they need to know the Lord. If there is going to be transformation in Malaysia, there needs to be transformation in the lives of individuals.”