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CHURCH TO CELEBRATE 35TH ANNIVERSARY.

Byline: Holly J. Andres Staff Writer

Finding Thousand Oaks Baptist Church isn't as hard as looking for a needle in a haystack. But for a church tucked inside a residential neighborhood, off of a main thoroughfare, it's remarkable that its congregation is celebrating its 35th anniversary on Sunday.

``It's part of our problem in attracting visitors,'' said the Rev. D. Paul Hickman, when asked about not being located on a busy street. ``The building was the site of the old Thousand Oaks waterworks office and the neighborhood grew up around the four acres of land that the church purchased from them. We haven't been allowed to have a sign on the nearest major street.''

Those who have found their way to church have been part of its strength, he said. ``What has kept this church going is that it's made up of very loving and friendly people.''

Margaret Staple knows all about the kindness of the congregation. A member for 30 years, Staple said she has experienced support and encouragement since the recent loss of her husband and eldest son, and her own medical problems.

``I had people visiting me, sending cards and letters, bringing me meals. I think it would take me a long time to explain how wonderful and friendly this church is. I love the people and I love the pastor,'' Staple said.

Staple moved to Thousand Oaks from Ohio. She said she heard about Thousand Oaks Baptist Church through a book her pastor in Ohio had shown her. What attracted her to this particular Baptist church was that it was connected with the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, as was her church in Ohio.

``We preach the true gospel and we sing the old hymns. Our pastors have always preached the word of God and how to be saved. Right from the first service I attended, with our first pastor (the Rev. Robert Fuller), I was impressed with the friendliness and the sincere people. Why would I go anywhere else?'' Staple said.

Fuller was pastor of Thousand Oaks Baptist Church for its first 15 years and is now with a church in Northern California. He will return to Thousand Oaks on Sunday as the guest speaker at two special services. The morning service will include Fuller's message and honors for such things as longest membership in the church and missionary work.

Following a potluck lunch, an afternoon service will allow members of the congregation to give personal testimonies about what the church has meant to them.

Robert Benbrooks has been a church member since 1968. When his family outgrew their home in Canoga Park, they found a new one in the first development of Westlake Village. He said that Westlake Village was advertised then as a ``city in the country.''

Benbrooks and his wife went looking for a church that would meet their needs and those of their seven children. They found Thousand Oaks Baptist Church, ``a little church in the country,'' after a few visits to other local churches.

They were looking for an independent, Bible-preaching church, one not tied to the hierarchy of a national governing body and free to preach its own message.

``We both liked Pastor Fuller. He was a type of man who really preached sincerely and boldly. All of the five pastors that have been there have preached right from the word of God, directly from the Bible, without mixing in human perspectives,'' Benbrooks said.

``I'm so happy with Thousand Oaks Baptist Church. I've always been a person that, when I've found something good, I stay with it. I've stayed in Westlake Village and I've stayed with this church. It's a body of believers that I want to associate with.''

Benbrooks will give a personal testimony Sunday on why he's been loyal to this church.

Hickman, who has been with the church for just over a year, believes that it occupies a certain Baptist niche in the Thousand Oaks area.

``We are an independent Baptist church. We are the only fundamental one in the area. We're a very dogmatic church. We're not afraid of being Baptist. But we're not fanatical; we're not on the radical right. We believe in righteous living and purity and we preach it strongly,'' Hickman said.

Preaching is central to Thousand Oaks Baptist Church. An ordained minister for 31 years, Hickman said he loves to preach.

``I preach as if every sermon is my last,'' he said. ``The word of God is living and I think it has to be preached that way. We all need to follow God closer. I want them to know Christ as (our) personal savior and to have faith in him.''

Though the congregation is on the tiny side, Hickman is determined to expand it. Meanwhile, he is very proud of the cultural diversity in the small faithful group.

``There is just one race, that's the human race. And we truly practice that in our church. I hope when people visit us they go away thinking God spoke to me today.''

CAPTION(S):

Photo

Photo: ``I think it would take me a long time to explain how wonderful and friendly this church is.''

- Margaret Staple

30-year member of the Thousand Oaks Baptist Church, with fellow longtime member Bob Benbrooks, left, and the Rev D. Paul Hickman

Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer
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Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 9, 1999
Words:890
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