News Articles

Pastor’s ministry to struggling Dakota churches ‘all about love’

Pastor Steve Osage shares the story of his call to the Dakotas at a memorial service for Pastor Wilbert Robertson at Dakota Baptist, Fort Totten, ND in the summer of 2020. Photo by Sarah Dixon Young

RAPID CITY, S.D. (BP) – Pastor Steve Osage has served as a conduit of God’s blessings to ministries across the Dakotas for 20 years, but he doesn’t want any credit.

“God made it easy,” he said. “I would just visit the churches to find out how they were doing and what their needs were. Then, I would call other churches who would give. It was really amazing to be able to connect them and watch the Lord work.”

For Osage, serving others began with his salvation in 1981. A minister came to the hospital where Osage was recovering from a car accident and shared the Gospel. Osage continued a lifestyle of alcohol addiction for six more months, until one evening, walking to the bar, he remembered the pastor’s words and prayed to receive Christ.

Steve Osage and his wife, Luanna, travel throughout Oklahoma and the Dakotas helping churches.

“I just passed by the bar, went home, and told my wife, ‘Let’s go to church,’” he recalled. He was baptized, and three years later, he became licensed to minister. He began pastoring in Oklahoma. In 1993, he and another pastor took their families and traveled to Lower Brule, S.D. to share the Gospel with the Lakota people there. Thirteen people accepted Christ.

The next year, Dakota pastor Wilbert Robertson invited Osage to travel to the Lake Traverse Reservation in South Dakota to do a revival. While handing out fliers, Osage encountered the spiritual hardness of the people when one man took the flier, wadded it up and tossed it to the ground. Later that night, Pastor Robertson shared about the immense need of the Dakota people and about the difficulty in reaching them with the Gospel.

Osage was intrigued. Later in the evening, he went to talk with Robertson again about the community’s need for the Gospel.

Robertson told him, “Would you pray about serving here? I believe you could really help because you are a real people person. I am not, but I see that in you.” Before the end of the week, Osage knew that the Lord was calling him to the Dakotas.

His wife, Rita, wasn’t so sure, but the Lord worked on her heart too, and by the next spring, they were moving, along with their granddaughter, to pastor not one, but two congregations on the Lake Traverse Reservation – First Baptist Sisseton, S.D., and Bethany Baptist.

In addition to sharing the Gospel, Osage also kept an eye out for young men he could mentor and train to be leaders in the church. Just as Robertson had mentored him, he came alongside others.

“One of the goals Wilbert had was to train Indigenous pastors,” Osage said. “Every church I pastored, I always picked somebody to mentor in that direction. I would build relationships with them and get to know their strengths.”

Over the years, he has mentored many of the Native pastors of the Dakotas. One of them is Chris Little. Osage met him in his native Oklahoma and mentored him, later suggesting that he come to Lower Brule to pastor Hilltop Baptist Church, where Little has served seven years.

“Pastor Steve has been my pastor, my mentor, my friend and is like a dad,” Little said. “He has led by example, showing me how to walk in faith and be a servant with a cheerful, giving heart. He always pointed to Christ in his work, never taking the credit for himself.”

During his time in Sisseton, Osage received a call from believers in Minot, N.D., inviting him to come and begin a Native work there. Osage and his wife began to drive the 400-mile, seven-hour journey every Thursday in order to hold worship services on Thursday evenings. They would drive back to Sisseton the next day. Eventually, Osage connected the group in Minot with a pastor from Oklahoma.

About this time, the Dakota Baptist Convention heard of all Osage was doing in Native work and invited him to join the staff as a director. Osage accepted and moved to Bismarck, N.D., in 1998.

During his time with the DBC, Osage joined the work of First Nations Baptist Association, an affinity association of native churches under the umbrella of the DBC. Pastor Robertson and Pastor David Boyd, of Brockton, Mt., had begun First Nations in 1998 in order to equip and train native believers to be leaders in their churches and communities.

First Nations began with five churches and grew to 14 churches. Together, the churches were able to host pastor’s conferences, youth camps, family camps, and area wide crusades. Osage has remained active with First Nations even after his time with the DBC ended.

Osage’s wife, Rita, passed away in 2016. She had always traveled alongside her husband and ministered to the women in each community. Osage particularly remembered her gentleness and care with the abused women of Sisseton.

“She would go right into their houses and help them,” he said, “and she would share the hope of the Gospel with them.”

Osage later remarried, and his wife, Luanna, now serves alongside him as they travel and minister to believers and congregations in the Dakotas, Oklahoma, and elsewhere.

His main role at the Dakota Baptist Convention was helping struggling churches. He’d often drive for hours each week to meet with them. And he paired them with other believers around the country, who would come to help with building and outreach projects.

“All the churches I’ve pastored had one thing in common: their need,” Osage said. “And I have seen God meet so many needs. As soon as I thought, ‘This church is really starting to come along!’ God would move me to a new, difficult location or church and teach me to love the people all over again. That’s what it was all about – love.”

    About the Author

  • Sarah Dixon Young

    Sarah Dixon Young is a writer in North Dakota, where her husband Paul is pastor of Dakota Baptist Church.

    Read All by Sarah Dixon Young ›