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Southwestern alumnus Hirohisa Hogaki drowns rescuing his children

FORT WORTH (BP) – Hirohisa “Hiro” Hogaki, a two-time alumnus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, drowned July 16 in his native Japan while rescuing two of his children from drowning. Hogaki earned his bachelor’s degree from what is now known as Texas Baptist College in 2010 and his Master of Arts in Theology from Southwestern Seminary in 2020.

As reported by The Chunichi Shimbun, Hogaki, his wife, Ruthann, and their seven children were swimming on the afternoon of July 16, when two of his children were pulled into the ocean. Hogaki went searching for his children, but drowned in the process. Both children were unharmed. Hogaki was discovered by other swimmers in the area and was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Hogaki was formerly the pastor of First Japanese Baptist Church in Fort Worth before moving to plant a church in Shimane, Japan. According to a GoFundMe page established by a family friend to offset funeral expenses, the Hogakis had the goal to build a chapel in Shimane where Hogaki would perform wedding ceremonies. While Hogaki was close to completing the chapel, the work remains unfinished, the author of the GoFundMe page noted.

The Hogakis were sent and supported by Rock Creek Baptist Church in Crowley, Texas, where he was ordained. While at Rock Creek, Hogaki befriended Robby Lusk while ministering to English-speaking people who were interested in serving in Japan.

“I got to spend a lot of time with Hiro, and I know he was a godly man,” Lusk said in an interview with Southwestern Seminary. “He was always looking for ways to raise his children better, how to spend more time with his family, and he always sought counsel from others in a very humble way.”

Not only did Hogaki make an impact in Lusk’s life through how he interacted with his family, but he did so through his calling in ministry as well.

“He had a heart for missions, and he was always trying to reach out to students who were coming from Japan to Texas,” said Lusk. “It was good to meet Hiro when I was planning to go to Japan on a mission trip, and he and his family kind of adopted me as their ‘American Hogaki’ from the church.”

While Hogaki returned to Japan to serve, Lusk said that he “didn’t fully want to go back to Japan because he considered himself to be a Texan.” Ultimately, Hogaki moved back to his native country following a call from the Lord.

Lusk said Hogaki taught him Japanese and poured into SWBTS students who attended the church he pastored. “To help us learn Japanese, he would teach Sunday school and then would let us know what he was saying,” Lusk recalled. “It was very helpful.”

But Hogaki’s impact on Lusk’s life was not limited to learning the Japanese language and culture. Lusk called him a mentor.

“Hiro and his wife were very gracious and made sure to provide counsel and to direct me to the Word even on things like dating,” Lusk said. “He would call me and a couple of students up to go eat at the Chinese buffet and just spend time with us. He ministered to us in that way.”

The two churches he was involved with locally, Rock Creek Baptist and First Japanese Baptist, are planning a joint memorial service to celebrate Hogaki’s life.

Those who are interested in supporting his family during this time are invited to contribute to a GoFundMe campaign created by a family friend.

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