Our roots go back to 1919, when the Lutheran Children’s Finding Society was formed to establish, maintain and conduct receiving homes for orphans, homeless, abandoned, neglected and dependent children. Across the decades, from the Great Depression to World War II, through the social changes of the 1950s and 1960s to the challenges of today, our services have expanded to meet the changing needs of individuals, families and communities across North Dakota. We invite you to scroll through our time line history to learn more about where we’ve been and join us as we continue our mission of bringing healing, help and hope to those we serve.


Why a dove? Lutheran Social Services has used this simple bird as a symbol of its ministry for many years. While we may not know for certain, our speculation is that we adopted this symbol because the dove is almost universally understood to show both the hand and presence of God in the world.

From the flood story told in Genesis, to the baptism of Jesus told in all four gospels, the dove is the physical sign often seen in the re-telling of biblical stories that God is near. That his spirit is ever present, even in times of trouble, in times of uncertainty, and in times of new beginning.

But even beyond the biblical stories we know so well, doves have a centuries-old history of helping people find their way. Before there was GPS or compasses, it is often told that sailors looked to doves for direction.

Today our work at LSSND focuses on helping people thrive. Our hope is that our social ministry can today, help people find their way, as doves have done for centuries.


Leadership Team


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President and CEO

Otterson, a native of Marshall, Minnesota, has more than 23 years of senior management experience, including more than a decade of strategic development and plan execution at state-wide nonprofit organizations. He was the chief of staff for more than eight years at South Dakota State University and served in chief advancement officer and chief marketing officer positions in public higher education. Most recently, Otterson served the North Dakota State University Foundation as Director of Development in the College of Business.


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VP of Operations

After advocating for and supporting operational effectiveness of North Dakota nonprofits for more than a decade, Dana is committed to leading LSSND’s core mission support team in collaborative efforts to strengthen our programs wherever and whenever they are needed to help individuals and families live and be well in communities across our state.

Board of Directors

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Board Chair

Bismarck, ND

Murray Sagsveen is a long-time North Dakota attorney and public servant.  He has held numerous positions in state government and has received political appointments to state offices throughout his career.

An expert in health law, Murray has been general counsel of the North Dakota Medical Association and executive director and general counsel for the American Academy of Neurology. He was appointed as state Health Officer from 1998 to 2000, during which time he assisted the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials concerning the implementation of federal regulations relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

From 2013 to 2015, he was appointed Chief of Staff/Director of Legal Services for the North Dakota University System. Murray currently is synod attorney of the Western North Dakota Synod of the ELCA. He graduated from Concordia College, Moorhead, in 1968 and the University of North Dakota School of Law in 1973.



Williston, ND

Laurie Furuseth is Chief Financial Officer of the Williston State College Foundation and a long-time business owner and community leader.

Laurie has served as CFO for the college’s foundation for two years after working three years as CFO for Williston State. She was president and CPA of Rustad + Furuseth CPAs, P.C., from 1987 to 2013, and previously worked for Gene Levitt & Associates in Williston.

A member of the American Institute of CPAs, Laurie’s professional and business associations include

serving on the board of the Fort Union Association, Williston Area Development Foundation, Mercy Medical Center, Mercy Medical Foundation, Williston Star Fund and the Tioga Chamber of Commerce.

Laurie graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s in business administration from the University of North Dakota in 1981 and received a master’s in accountancy from UND in 1983.



Vice Chair

Grand Forks, ND

Rev. Lynn Ronsberg currently serves as the senior pastor at Sharon Lutheran Church in Grand Forks, N.D. She previously spent 14 years as senior pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids, Minn. Ordained in 1979, Lynn served at several other churches before her time at Zion.

Lynn is a graduate of Concordia College, Moorhead, and Luther Theological Seminary, St. Paul, and holds a Master of Science in Education degree from the University of Wisconsin-Superior and a doctorate from Union Institute, Cincinnati.

She is an avid baseball and Minnesota Twins fan who also loves to spend time with her eight nieces and nephews as well as the rest of her family, all of whom live in the Twin Cities.




Minot, ND

Rev. Desiree Uhrich is a “second career” pastor, having worked for much of her life in the areas of sexual assault and domestic violence – both by providing direct services and by helping individuals and organizations build their skills to better serve victims. She has served as senior pastor at Christ Lutheran Church, Minot, N.D., since January 2016, and previously was the pastor at First Lutheran Church in Bottineau.

A North Dakota native, Desiree grew up on a farm near Newburg. Her career experiences have included teaching college English and Women’s Studies, writing grants and evaluation reports, and working with nonprofit staff and boards in organizational capacity-building.

She is married to Patrick, a special-education teacher, and they have two grown children: Miles, a music educator in Minneapolis, and Nora, who is studying to be a clinical psychologist at the University of Montana.

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Moorhead, MN

Rev. Tessa Moon Leiseth is the current elected bishop of ELCA Eastern North Dakota Synod. She has served as interim senior pastor of Horace Lutheran Church in Horace, N.D., since 2019. She served as interim pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Moorhead from 2018 to 2019, Southern Africa country coordinator for ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission from 2012 to 2017 and campus pastor at Concordia College in Moorhead from 2008 to 2012. Concordia is one of 26 ELCA colleges and universities. Moon Leiseth also served as associate pastor of Our Saviour's Lutheran Church in East Bethel, Minn., from 2000 to 2006; youth and family pastor of Abiding Savior Lutheran Church in Mounds View, Minn., from 1998 to 2000; and intern pastor of Baudette Lutheran Parish in Baudette, Minn., from 1996 to 1997.

Moon Leiseth received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Concordia College in 1992 and a Master of Divinity degree from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., in 1998. Luther is one of seven ELCA seminaries.



Fargo, ND

Ruth Buffalo is a member of the North Dakota House of Representatives from the 27th District, serving from December 1, 2018. She is the first Native American Democratic woman elected to the North Dakota Legislature.

She is an enrolled citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation and was born and raised in Mandaree, North Dakota.


Ruth has a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice and three master’s degrees in management, business administration, and public health. 




Bismarck, ND

Bishop-elect Rev. Craig Schweitzer has served Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Bismarck as Senior pastor since since 2014, as associate pastor from 2010-2014. On September 1, 2020, Schweitzer was elected as the next bishop of the Western North Dakota Synod. He was the first bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to be elected in an online assembly.

Schweitzer holds a Masters of Science in Strategic Leadership from the University of Mary and was prepared for ordination through the Theological Education for Emerging Ministry Program (TEEM) through Luther Seminary and Pacific Lutheran Seminary.

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Dickinson, ND

Kris Fehr is a Dickinson-area business owner and community leader who also runs a nonprofit.

Kris is executive director of the Best Friends Mentoring Program, which annually matches around 200 youth with screened, trained volunteer mentors for role modeling, friendship and support. She also has been co-owner and managing partner for AK Investments, A & F Fehr Properties, Castle Cleaning & Home Repair for the past 21 years.

Kris has been active in the Dickinson community, serving as a member of Rotary Club for 11 years. As Rotary president, she chaired the 2016 Pancake Karnival, which raised $15,000 – $8,000 of which went to the global effort to eradicate polio.

She is a former board member and president of St. Luke’s Home and long-time member/past president of the Dickinson Public School Board. Kris also spent 13 years volunteering with the Boy Scouts of America-Northern Lights Council, where she served on several committees, including the Eagle Board of Review.

She is a member of St. John Lutheran Church, Dickinson.

Kris graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism.



Towner, ND

Ryan Taylor is a fourth-generation rancher, a published author, a former policy maker and an advocate for rural people and the land.

Taylor was elected three times to the North Dakota State Senate, serving from 2002 to 2012, was the senate minority leader in 2011, and ran for governor of North Dakota in 2012. He was awarded a Bush Foundation Fellowship in leadership in 2013 which allowed him to travel to Norway to learn the public policies of their respected oil and gas development, and he furthered his leadership education at the Harvard Kennedy School through the fellowship. In 2015, he was appointed by President Obama to serve as state director for USDA Rural Development, leading a team of 44 employees and making $590 million worth of program investments and loans in rural North Dakota.

He currently works as a director of public policy for Ducks Unlimited. He focuses on policy related to wetlands and grassland habitat that benefits waterfowl, but also benefits people and agriculture in North and South Dakota, and Montana.

Taylor is a graduate of North Dakota State University with degrees in Agricultural Economics and Mass Communications. Taylor wrote his "Cowboy Logic" column in agricultural newspapers for 21 years across the western U.S. and Canada, most of which are now published in his three books. Ryan and his wife, Nikki, are currently raising their three children in Bismarck, and on the family’s homestead near Towner, N.D., a North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame-inducted ranch. 



Valley City, ND

Sharon Buhr is a community leader and public health nutritionist who has promoted healthy living at local, state and international levels.

Since 1980, Sharon has worked in public health in the Valley City area, including three years with the statewide Young People’s Healthy Heart Program (www.healthyheartprogram.com). She has written lesson plans for grades K-6 which are available for free on the web and has also designed visual aids that show the sugar, salt and fat content in foods and which are sold online. These materials help pay for the public health work she and colleagues do at their own public health unit.

Along with her husband, Dr. James B. Buhr, Sharon worked four years as an American Lutheran Church missionary in South Africa doing health promotion, as well as six months in Liberia where she ran the public health department at Curran Lutheran Hospital, which served about 100,000 people.

She has served more than 20 years on the Valley City School Board and over 25 years on the City County Health District, of which she also has been chair. She has belonged to numerous other boards, including the state licensing board for licensed registered dietitians, the North Dakota Dietetic Association and Our Saviors Lutheran Church Council.

She holds undergraduate degrees from Concordia College, Moorhead, and the University of Minnesota, as well as a master’s in public health from the University of Minnesota.

The Buhrs have two grown children: Christian and Nicolai.



Sheyenne, ND

Rhonda Allery is a licensed social worker who has over 20 years of experience advocating for children and other individuals with limited access to resources, while also helping them navigate complex systems.

The Sheyenne, N.D., resident’s professional career has largely been based in government and community services. She is director at Lakes Social Service District, which serves Ramsey and Towner County by providing economic assistance to meet citizens’ basic needs, as well as offering child-welfare services, child-care licensure and services for the elderly and disabled.

Rhonda serves on the Lake Region Community Shelter Board and was appointed by the governor to serve on the North Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners and the North Dakota Juvenile Justice State Advisory Group.

She also has served on the board for Safe Alternatives for Abused Families and the St. Olaf Lutheran Church Council in Devils Lake, ND.


She’s taught Sunday school and confirmation courses and has also been a confirmation mentor at St. Olaf.

She is married to Jerry Allery and has two children, Jace Riggin and Olivia Allery. She enjoys family time, reading, bike-riding and gardening.



Bismarck, ND

Rev. Gretchen Deeg is pastor at the United Church of Christ in Bismarck. Prior to being called to serve the Bismarck congregation in 2013, she served as Lilly Resident Minister at Mayflower Community Congregational United Church of Christ in Minneapolis for two years, where she led various social justice efforts.

A native of Canal Winchester, Ohio, she graduated from Ohio Northern University, Ada, Ohio, and from Lancaster Theological Seminary, Lancaster, Pa.

Gretchen’s special skills include understanding of churches, ecumenical and interfaith relationships.

She is married to John Sauter, who works with persons with developmental disabilities. In her down time, she enjoys hiking, camping, board games and playing with their dog.



West Fargo, ND

Dr. David Flowers is a retired school administrator, education consultant and former North Dakota Superintendent of the Year.

A native of Twin Falls, Idaho, Dr. Flowers worked his way through Kansas State University as a 48-hour weekend shift ambulance attendant. He also married his high school sweetheart, Charlene, while still in college. He later received his Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction and his Ph.D in Administration and Foundations from KSU.

He worked as an English teacher and coach, then as an associate superintendent at Geary County Public Schools in Junction City, Kansas. He also worked as a deputy superintendent and interim superintendent in Ann Arbor, Mich.

In 1999, Dr. Flowers moved to Fargo to be superintendent of its school district. After briefly relocating to Kansas to work as a superintendent, he returned to North Dakota in 2010, this time as head of West Fargo Public Schools.

During his time in West Fargo, Dr. Flowers helped with two bond referendums, in response to constant growth and a need for more space. He also helped implement the Coherent Governance model with the board and helped develop the board’s strategic plan. In 2013, he was named the state’s Superintendent of the Year.

His community contributions include serving on the YMCA Board of Directors, FM/AM Rotary and the North Dakota Association of School Administrators’ Board of Directors. He was board president of the North Dakota Council of Education Leaders in 2016-17.

Retired since 2018, David works as a consultant for the North Dakota Education Innovation Liaison. He and Charlene have two grown daughters, Amy and Kristen, who reside in the West Fargo school district, and two grandchildren.


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