Home Equipping Leaders Adults Abiding in Jesus, Anything is Possible with God!

Abiding in Jesus, Anything is Possible with God!

By Motoe Yamada Foor

A story about the new director of adult discipleship, a Buddhist girl from Japan who became a pastor.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:1-7)

Motoe Yamada Foor headshot
Rev. Motoe Yamada Foor

Did you grow up in church? Did your parents/grandparents teach you about Jesus? As a child, I did not know anything about Jesus. My family has been Buddhist for generations. (The ancestry list goes back to the 1200s). I did not see a Bible or go to church until my mid-teens. Also, I did not speak English at all.

It is only by the grace of God that I now serve as the Director of Adult Discipleship. In my wildest dreams, I never ever imagined that I would be living in the United States and working as a Christian pastor. What a blessing it is to have this opportunity!

I was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. Fewer than one percent of the population of Japan is Christian; therefore, growing up, I had never met a Christian. My father was a Zen Buddhist monk, although he was not serving as a monk when I was growing up.

A big shift happened when I was in the fourth grade and my parents divorced. My father moved out on Christmas morning. My mother’s boyfriend moved in a week later, and I felt like everything I believed in was broken apart.

I started to search for something to hold on to. In the midst of soul searching, I had my first spiritual experience during my first Christian worship. “I Felt My Heart Strangely Warmed,” just as John Wesley described his experience. I knew my troubles/problems (I did not know the word, sin) were taken away (forgiven) by God, and my tears did not stop. However, the Japanese cultural belief that strong people do not need religion was ingrained in me so deeply, I decided to ignore the experience.

Working at an international human rights organization to help people became my life goal, so I decided to study English. I moved from Tokyo, Japan, to Toledo, Ohio, to attend college. I did not speak English, and I did not know anyone. It was a difficult few years, learning the language and culture as a foreigner and a person of color at that time in the Midwest.

As college life got easier and I started to explore more, I met Rev. Denise Baker, a campus minister who led me to Christ. After more than a year of going to worship services and Bible study, I had a spiritual experience during my regular meeting with Rev. Baker. To many, that experience resembles a near-death story. From that moment, I knew that Jesus loved me before I was born; Jesus loved me while I was going through tough times; and Jesus will love me forever. Then I decided to be baptized.

Honestly, before baptism, I thought all my problems would go away once I was baptized. It was interesting to find out that baptism is not the end of the journey, but the beginning of the Christian journey as a disciple.

I am so thankful for the United Methodist Church’s connectionalism and resources. Because of that connection, I was able to participate in many organizations, such as the United Methodist Student Movement, the World Student Christian Federation, the National Council of Churches USA, and the World Council of Churches Central Committee.

Honestly, before baptism, I thought all my problems would go away once I was baptized. It was interesting to find out that baptism is not the end of the journey, but the beginning of the Christian journey as a disciple.

In local churches, I had the privilege of working with all generations (from babies to centenarians). We can work on our discipleship at any age!! I often tell church members that we can grow as disciples until the day we die. (Then we will be with Jesus, so we do not have to worry about anything.)

My twenty years of serving in local churches were precious because I observed so many people grow as disciples (abide in him!). I realized that opportunities for discipleship are everywhere. Discipleship starts with an invitation. Who invited you to come to your church? Some people join a mission trip and encounter God, then decide to explore more. Some attend church events and are inspired by kind church members; they want to find out what’s so special about them. Some think going to church every Sunday is good enough, but after joining a small group, they find that they want to do more.

So, what kind of discipleship practices are you doing? What have been the successful and unsuccessful discipleship paths in your church setting? What brings you joy to work with Jesus and for his people?

Discipleship is my passion. It is my joy and honor to work with you.

Let us keep abiding in Jesus to make more disciples and bring the light of Jesus to everyone around us!

There are more stories than I can write here. If you are interested in knowing more (about my spiritual experiences), please feel free to contact me at [email protected]. I am here to share resources with you and encourage you in your discipleship.


  • What does “abiding in Jesus” mean to you?
  • What are some of your own “heart being strangely warmed” experiences? How have you shared those with your congregation?
  • When was the last time you invited someone to your church or church events?
  • Are you praying for someone who is seeking Jesus?
  • How does your church engage (or not) with baptisms and membership for people, like me, who come to the Christian faith as adults?
  • How do you as a leader and your congregation link discipleship and baptism? Do you have more members who believe they are “being saved from” something or more members who believe they are “being saved for” something? How might those understandings affect how you lead and how you create lifelong opportunities for discipleship?

Rev. Motoe Yamada Foor, Director of Adult Discipleship, served in local churches for twenty years. She has a wealth of experience at a variety of organizational levels of The United Methodist Church as well as in ecumenical organizations such as the World Council of Churches (WCC). She also enjoys serving as a coach to help people and churches grow.

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