Cherokee pastor Steven R. Osage has been in the ministry for 30 years. The past eight years have been at First Indian Baptist Church, where he was called to pastor by God and the church in January 2008. He had moved back to Oklahoma from Bismarck, N.D. in 2007.
Like many in ministry, his story is one that allows him to help people struggling with addictions, because he’s been there, and was saved by God’s grace.
“I was 38 and was drinking heavy for 20 years. I’d had many car wrecks,” he recalls.
In 1981, while in the hospital after a wreck, a preacher came by and shared the gospel with him. He didn’t get saved then, but six months later, after coming home from drinking on Friday night, he went fishing the next morning with a hangover. His intention was to fish until a bar opened up at noon so he could start drinking again.
“While fishing, God spoke to my heart and told me that I was going to die,” he said. “As I remembered what the preacher said to me and I began to cry and ask Jesus to save me. He saved me right there. I went passing by the bar and asked my wife if we could go to church next day. She was happy, as she was a Christian since age 12.”
They went to church and he went forward. He told the pastor what happened and that he wanted to get baptized, which he did the following Sunday.
“I’ve been in church every Sunday since and never had another drink,” said Osage.
His wife, Rita, supports him in every way, he said. She worked for OG&E as an engineer tech and never took days or weeks off just for herself – only to attend revivals, conferences or church functions with Steven.
“We started new churches in the Dakotas; first starting in homes,” he said. “As I preached to adults, she took the children and taught them. She worked with the women who were beaten and abused by their mates and spent time with them to bring them to salvation. She is very dedicated to God, very strong in the faith. Without her I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Along with serving as pastor to Antioch Baptist Church in Stilwell for four years, he was the pastor of Little Rock Baptist Church in Locust Grove for six years, pastor of Crittenden Baptist Church in Watts four years, and pastor of four churches in the Dakotas while there for nine years.
Osage also served as language mission director for Dakota Baptist Convention, as director of missions for First Nation Association in Dakotas, and currently serves as mission’s coordinator for Native Americans in Oklahoma, Dakotas and New Mexico. He’s been involved in five new church starts: four four in Dakotas and one in Oklahoma.
Since 1998, the couple has coordinated with Southern Churches to build 21 new church buildings for Native Americans: seven in the Dakotas, 13 in Oklahoma and one in New Mexico.
A graduate of Locust Grove High School, Osage had three years college at Long Beach City College and Oklahoma Baptist. Three years after conversion, he felt God’s call to be a pastor. He was licensed by Snake Creek Baptist Church in January 1983, ordained at Little Rock Baptist Church in 1985, and began pastorate at Antioch in October 1985.
“Church members are a special people, pretty much like your immediate family, with problems and needs that bring each other closer as they work and worship together,” he said. “I enjoy the closeness and fellowship of members of a small church.”
A bi-vocational pastor, Osage is not at church full time. His responsibilities are to preach and do visitation.
At First Indian Baptist, the music worship is pretty much piano and song leader, he said. They sing in English and Cherokee. Before beginning the service Osage asks for each child to stand and be welcomed and introduced by a family member. Then they are invited to attend the nursery or children’s church when a leader is available.
The church has an outreach program which provides articles and clothing to the men’s homeless shelter and women’s shelter.
Last year, church members went on mission trips to the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico and Sioux Reservation to South Dakota to do Vacation Bible School, revival and construction. Next month they will go to South Dakota for a youth revival.
“We try to keep the youth involved and encourage them by doing mission projects and helping others,” said Osage.
His favorite Scripture is Matthew: 6:33: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Osage is a retired Navy veteran. He’s been married to Rita for 47 years. They have three grown daughters, seven granddaughters, one grandson, four great-grandsons and three great-granddaughters.
Rita is a graduate of Northeastern State University and Oklahoma Baptist University.