Making Disciples Among Former Muslims

Making Disciples Among Former Muslims

Daniel and Victoria were uniquely equipped to start a ministry teaching former Muslims about Christ.

Every morning at 4:45 a.m., Daniel Zagi and his wife, Victoria, wake up and prepare for another day of training new disciples. They begin their morning in chapel, praising God alongside the men and women in their care, and dedicate the rest of their day to teaching the former Muslims how to overcome old habits and mindsets so they can live as new creations in Christ.  

Daniel is uniquely qualified to mentor young Christians from Muslim backgrounds. While growing up in Nigeria’s Bauchi state, Daniel was not treated well by his father’s four Muslim wives. His biological mother was a Christian, however, and at age 19 Daniel came to faith in Jesus Christ after understanding his need for salvation. When he met Victoria through his church fellowship, the two married and began a life together; he knew she was a prayerful woman who was fully committed to the Lord. 

Nigeria’s Samaritans

New Christian converts from Islam usually stay with Daniel and Victoria about a year, and some return for regular visits.

In the late 1990s, Daniel felt the Lord calling him in a direction he didn’t want to go. “I realized that the Lord was calling me to the Muslims,” Daniel said. But he would have preferred serving any other group of people. “Lord, if it is this people, forget about it,” he prayed. “I would love to work with other people, not them.” 

Then, while reading the story in John 4 of the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well, Daniel saw how the relationship between Jews and Samaritans in Jesus’ day resembled the relationship between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. 

As the Holy Spirit worked in him, Daniel finally yielded to the idea of reaching out to Nigerian Muslims. Deciding he would work as an evangelist and church planter, he began sharing the gospel in small villages throughout Bauchi state. In one village, five people came to faith in Christ and asked Daniel to build them a church, so he quickly hired a recent Bible school graduate to pastor the church and paid him out of his own pocket. “I was so excited,” Daniel said. 

Only three weeks later, however, Daniel returned to the village and learned that the converts had reverted to Islam. Although the young pastor had taught them just as he would teach any group of Christians, the new believers had no foundation to help them understand his teaching and no way of dealing with the persecution they experienced from their families and community. 

Following that initial setback, Daniel realized God was pointing him toward a new kind of ministry. “If you can’t maintain, don’t obtain,” he sensed the Lord saying. He understood that instead of taking the gospel to Muslims, he should focus on deep, personal care for new converts — even bringing them into his own home. Just as Jesus stayed with the Samaritans for two days after meeting the woman at the well, Daniel stayed in the village for several days and, with Victoria’s consent, took seven new converts home with him. 

Daniel and Victoria learned as they went along. Although three of the new converts eventually gave up and left, the couple understood that they shouldn’t add to the number of new believers in their house until those still with them were well established in the faith. By the grace of God, we sustained the four,” Daniel said. And their ministry became more effective once those first converts had become well-grounded believers. “The work was easier for us because they were also helping us reach out,” he explained. 

Within a few years, it became clear that they and the Christian converts needed to leave Bauchi state for security reasons Already predominantly Muslim, the area was quickly becoming an Islamist stronghold. And just days after making the decision to move, their fears were realized when a group of extremists came to their home and sexually assaulted Victoria. 

Although they did not have a clear idea of where to go, they trusted that God would direct them through prayer. And soon, Daniel had a vision of a gated facility with plain bunk beds and a classroom. Unsure of how the vision might become a reality, Daniel told Victoria, “I will continue to pray.” 

Preparing Disciples

When Daniel senses God’s call to minister to Muslims, he told the Lord he was willing to work with any people group but that one.

At the Holy Spirit’s leading, the couple moved to Jos, a city on the dividing line between Nigeria’s Muslim-majority north and Christian-majority south. 

As Daniel looked to God for direction, he saw something in the Gospel of John that would become a theme for their ministry: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13–14). 

He also took inspiration from the story in Genesis of how God cared for Hagar and her son, Ishmael, providing water to sustain them after they were expelled from Abraham’s house (Genesis 21:19). 

Building on these biblical examples, Daniel committed to providing living water to former Muslims coming to faith in Christ. He would provide refuge to young converts and train them as disciples who could then share the gospel with other Muslims. 

When Daniel and Victoria found a property that matched Daniel’s vision, with a gate, bunkbeds and a classroom, they knew God had provided. 

And 22 years later, their ministry work continues. Daniel and Victoria have learned a  great deal in the years since they began discipling Christian converts from Islam. “I tell you, [it] is not easy; we have seen people slaughtered because of their conversion,” Daniel said. “This setup is very important … not only to keep them safe but to keep them so they will get to know Jesus.” 

Daniel has learned the importance of emphasizing that Jesus is God’s divine son, correcting the Muslim teaching that God has no son (from Sura 112 in the Quran). He knows it is essential that former Muslims understand and place their faith in Jesus Christ. “Without Him, there is no salvation!” Daniel said. 

Discipleship training at the ministry center is highly intentional — a strict schedule, a Bible study method that requires participants to share what they’ve learned, and literacy training to ensure that Christian converts can study Scripture by themselves. Many of them had learned about Islam only through rote memorization of select Quranic passages. 

Fridays at the ministry center are dedicated to prayer and fasting. Because Friday is the Muslim holy day, they pray specifically that the Holy Spirit will touch the heart of someone praying in a mosque that day. After several months of preparation, the disciples join an off-campus church, where they experience being part of a larger Christian community. 

Throughout the years, Daniel has received some surprising comments when sharing about his ministry. Once, while visiting the U.K., a concerned Christian offered to help Daniel’s family get asylum after hearing that they witnessed to Muslims in northern Nigeria. But Daniel didn’t hesitate to correct the well-intentioned believer. 

“You think God made a mistake keeping me there in Nigeria?” Daniel asked the man. “If you want to pray for me, pray that the Lord will give us safety there so that I can preach the gospel of Christ. This is where we live; the same with my wife, and thank God we are of the same mind.” 

Daniel even sees how God has used Islamist terror in the north for His purposes. “A lot of [Muslims] are coming to Christ,” he said. “It is making them see that Islam is nothing. 

“If there is anything [you want] to do for us, pray…that we can stand this persecution…[and] work here for the Lord. We are here, and we are fighting for the cause of the gospel in the north.” 

(Extra section) Growing Disciples:

The ministry center’s daily schedule is focused on transforming former Muslims into strong disciples of Christ. Every day begins with group worship and a Bible study especially tailored for those who have had little exposure to God’ Word. 

After breakfast, students attend morning classes in subjects designed specifically for new Christians who grew up in a Muslim culture. The classes cover everything from health and character development to worldview and lifestyle. “The constant lesson for all of them,” Daniel said, “is how a disciple of Jesus Christ should live and behave, react with others and relate.” 

In the afternoon, students focus on literacy and Scripture memorization. As former Muslims, they were taught to memorize the Quran, so here they replace errant teaching with the truth of God’s Word. And since the Quran is often taught by rote memorization, many of these young adults have never learned to read. Those students must first take literacy courses so they can read the Bible for themselves.  

Every day but Friday ends with prayer and devotions at 7 p.m. But on Friday, the Muslim holy day, classes end at 11 a.m., and the entire campus fasts together in preparation for an all-night prayer meeting.  

(Extra Section) How to Pray

In his interview with VOM, Daniel Zagi used the word pray 42 times. Here’s how he said we can pray for believers in northern Nigeria: 

  • Pray for the safety of Christians sharing the gospel with Muslims.
  • Pray that Christians will withstand persecution and persevere in their ministry work, regardless of whether incidents of terrorism increase or decrease. 
  • Pray that the Lord will relieve Muslims’ fears about what might happen if they become Christians. Help them understand that for believers, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 
  • Pray that Christians will embrace new converts as their own brothers and sisters.