HSK(Hamamatsu Sukuinushi Kyokai/Hamamatsu Church of the Savior)was started by a missionary family from the USA, Ben & Ruth Fowler. They came to Japan in November, 1978, with two children, Jonathan and Elisabeth. After helping Ben’s relatives, George & Lois Bostrom, establish a church in the city of Kakegawa, Shizuoka, for about 4 years, Ben & Ruth moved about 30 kilometers south to the city of Hamamatsu, located in the same prefecture. There they spent about 2 years teaching an English Bible class in their home while supporting a Japanese pastor in the town of Tenryu, located to the north of Hamamatsu.
Although the city of Hamamatsu(1978:population…600,000+) had perhaps 12 or more Protestant churches north of the main train station, only a very small Salvation Army Church was active in the southern part of the city. This lack of churches plus the desire of a handful of Christians attending the weekly Bible class, created a desire in the heart of the Fowlers to establish a church on the southern side. The name for the church came from the desire of the Fowlers to have Jesus known as the Savior of Hamamatsu.
The original location of the church was in an abandoned fruit stand located near the train station on March 1, l985. A lot of renovation was needed before the church could be opened. Ben started a small English ‘school’ in that building to pay for the rent and renovations. The church members included the Fowler family, composed of four children, and about six other Christians. And that number stayed about the same for two or more years!
The next location of their church was the home of the Fowlers which soon proved to be unsuitable…very unsuitable. And desperation finally disappeared when the Lord moved on the heart of a Japanese realtor who rented the church one room in a small office building. The church grew a little larger there. Even though Sunday School classes were held in their van, the stairs of the building, and sometimes under a tent, the church stayed there for perhaps 4 years. Finally, that room became too small!
The Fowlers believed the next location had to be much bigger and the same realtor helped again by introducing them to people who owned a large two story warehouse. After 6 months of reforming that building into a small gym on the first floor and rooms for a kitchen, bathrooms, meeting room….the church moved there and has remained there since about 1979. This location is about 1.5 kilometers south of the Hamamatsu train station.
The Fowlers originally believed this church should be filled with Japanese families and one day be pastored by a Japanese Christian. However, while meeting in the office building, several women from the Philippines began regularly attending the meetings. Most of them eventually returned to the Philippines but others began to attend. This still happens up to this day. While in the larger location, a Brazilian Christian became a church member and brought many of his friends to the church. Today, the church is about 1/3 Japanese, 1/3 Filipino, and 1/3 Brazilian. Each Sunday morning message is in three languages; English, Japanese, and Portuguese. Almost all songs are sung in three languages.
As of today, December, 2019, the number of church members is not large…less than 50. And although more than 150 people have visited HSK each year for the past several years, the number of church members changes very slowly….sometimes up and sometimes down! There is a team of deacons, usually numbering 6 or more and a much smaller number of overseers. Several of these church leaders share the pulpit with Ben, the pastor of the church.
HSK has become a kind of ‘international church’ due to the variety of foreigners who attend the meetings but there is a constant change. For example, the fellowship of Christians has opened the hearts of Japanese people to get a better grasp on God’s salvation for the nations. And the foreigners have a better understanding of how much more they should be praying for Japan.