BISMARCK, N.D. (BP) — A 2.5 percent-of-budget increase in Cooperative Program giving, after a 4 percent increase last year, attests to the growing health of the Dakota Baptist Convention, leaders say at the 30-year point of the two-state convention.

Messengers from the 84 Southern Baptist churches in North and South Dakota unanimously voted the second-year increase during the celebration of 30 years of ministry by the convention, which dates from the time in 1984 when the four-state Northern Plains Baptist Convention dissolved into the Wyoming Baptist Convention and the Montana and Dakota Baptist fellowships.

The convention’s Sept. 25-26 meeting included the DBC Pastors’ Conference that, unlike previous low-key years of Dakota pastors gathering for fellowship and prayer, included the preaching of five out-of-state leaders and two panel discussions.

“Healthy churches and church leaders find ways to cooperate, reproduce by making disciples and planting healthy evangelistic churches, and pursuing awakening, revival and renewal,” said Garvon Golden, DBC executive director/treasurer, in addressing the 90 messengers and 20 guests at the annual meeting in Bismarck at a Ramada Inn.

Golden referred to the annual meeting’s “Be Strong and Courageous” theme from Joshua 1:9 in saying, “To be strong we must have strong leaders…. Dakota-strong churches will exist when we depend on God and adopt a Jesus agenda to reaching the nations for God.”

Messengers unanimously passed a $1,265,978 budget for the 2015 annual year, up $76,193 from last year’s budget.

This reflected a budgeted $75,825 in giving to SBC national and international missions through the Cooperative Program, up from $60,555 last year. The Dakota convention does not budget for shared DBC/SBC expenses.

The convention’s churches posted an upswing in Cooperative Giving last year, forwarding nearly $334,500 to the DBC over the budgeted $275,000 — an increase of nearly $60,000. With this year’s 2.5 percent-of-budget increase for SBC causes, Dakota Baptists will be forwarding 22.5 percent of their CP gifts for national and international missions and ministries.

Anticipated income for 2015 includes $337,000 from churches’ Cooperative Program giving, $848,478 from the North American Mission Board, $60,000 from LifeWay Christian Resources and $20,500 in interest and other income.

Last year’s officers were unanimously re-elected: president, Jeff Musgrave, pastor of First Baptist Church of Langdon, N.D.; vice president Doug Hixson, lead planter of Connections Church in Spearfish, S.D.; recording secretary, Kathy Osborne, member of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Grand Forks, N.D.; and assistant recording secretary Karen Holmes, pastor’s wife from First Baptist Church in Wolsey, S.D.

No motions or resolutions were presented; no other business was transacted. Presentations were made by various SBC entities.

Buffalo statues made from North Dakota coal were given to retiring pastors Jedediah Jezek of LaPlant and Green Grass Baptist chapels, both in LaPlant, S.D., and Bob Pittman of Hazel (N.D.) Christian Fellowship. The statues depict a buffalo standing in the face of a storm, just as these pastors have done during their lengthy ministries in the Dakotas, Golden said.

Six new pastors received paintings of a ring-neck pheasant, which isn’t native to the Dakotas but which thrives there, Golden explained.

Longtime pastor/leader John Miller presented a digest of the history of Dakota churches and asked that people submit their personal DBC recollections plus photos and historical documents for an upcoming history of Southern Baptists in the two states.

“I have a real desire to just reminisce,” said Miller, who moved to the Dakotas with his wife Berna in 1967. He opened with the news of 47 years ago, in 1967, when the Northern Plains Baptist Convention was birthed out of the Colorado Baptist General Convention, which itself had been birthed out of the Arizona Baptist Convention as Southern Baptist work grew in the Rocky Mountain and surrounding states.

“We have known God was with us,” Miller said. “God was in it. We could feel it.” He acknowledged, “We could have done better,” adding a few minutes later, “We need to work together to get God’s work done.”

Special guests included Lou Sherrill, who with her late husband Tom moved to the Dakotas in 1963 as pastor and later as associational missionary for the western half of North Dakota; Dewey Hickey, the first executive director of the Dakota Baptist Fellowship, serving from 1987-97, and his wife Harriet; Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee; and Wanda Lee, executive director of Woman’s Missionary Union.

Guest speakers at the pastors conference included Brian Autry, executive director of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia convention; John Meador, pastor of First Baptist Church in Euless, Texas; T.C. Melton, retired pastor of Elmcrest Baptist Church in Abilene, Texas; Eric Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church in Norfolk, Va.; and Brent Williams, pastor of True North Church in Anchorage, Alaska.

Steve Ford, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Vermillion, S.D., and coordinator of the DBC’s partnership with Uruguay, reported on this summer’s sixth annual mission trip by eight Dakotans to the South American coastal nation.

Golden referenced a newly re-engaged partnership with the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia convention, which provided video support for outreach at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and has redesigned the DBC website at www.dakotabaptist.com.

The 2015 DBC annual meeting scheduled for Sept. 24-25 in Aberdeen, S.D.