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A half century of dedication
Dr. James E. Bellis, Sr., left, accepts an engraved plaque from Deacon Belton Baird commemorating 50 years of service to Poplar Springs Baptist Church. - photo by SPECIAL PHOTO
Poplar Springs Baptist Church recently honored the pastor who has blessed his congregation for the past 50 years.
    Dr. James E. Bellis, Sr. traveled from Greenville, South Carolina, weekly for 50 years to pastor the rural church in northwest Bulloch County.  According to  the retiring minister of Poplar Springs Baptist Church, he has made a total of 2,393 trips and traveled 1,017,000 miles.  This adds up to 23,440 hours on the road, 19 cars and 50,800 gallons of gasoline.
    Bellis, a retired professor of theology at Bob Jones University for 50 years, came to Poplar Springs Baptist Church in 1956.  He and his family had lived in two worlds: as a distinguished professor in academia for five days of the week and on week-ends as an active participant in the lives of rural community families.
    During his ministry, Bellis has baptized new converts, dedicated young children, ordained two family members, presided at more than 60 funerals, married several couples, visited the sick and delivered 6,136 sermons.
    For many years, the Bellis family of six were house guests of church members every weekend.  The four Bellis children grew to adulthood with childhood memories of riding horses, fishing and swimming in farm ponds, and gathering vegetables from family gardens.
    To supplement the salary provided by a small congregation of approximately 50 members, over the years the Bellis family enjoyed the bounty of gifts of fresh vegetables and meat.
    Bellis recalled the time a state patrol trooper stopped him because his station wagon appeared over loaded.  Upon investigation the trooper discovered sacks of peas, boxes of tomatoes and watermelons, along with six passengers.
    When  Bellis came to Poplar Springs,  the sanctuary was without central heat and air and indoor plumbing.  Later the church was remodeled to include a front porch, stained glass windows, carpet, new pews, and a new social hall that also serves as Sunday school rooms.
    Located approximately six miles from Portal in the Aaron community, Poplar Springs Baptist Church was founded in 1853 when James Jackson Woods gave 14 acres to erect a church.  A presbytery made up of James R. Miller, John H. Cowart, and William Lee constituted the small band of believers into a regular organized Baptist church dedicated to give themselves to God and to walk together in brotherly love.
    Twenty-three pastors  served Poplar Springs before Bellis.  As the beloved minister has noted, his 50-year tenure accounted for one-third of the history of the church.
    Recently, after Bellis delivered a message titled "Facts, Feelings, and Faithfulness,"  the church congregation enjoyed a Power Point presentation, "A Journey of Faith, 1956 – 2006," that marked the memorable events of the past 50 years.  Following the service, everyone enjoyed a sumptuous feast as an old- fashioned "dinner on the ground"  was served in the social hall.
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