WOODWARD – A 22-year-old Arkansas woman serving a Mormon mission in Oklahoma died Friday night after she was hit by a pickup while riding her bicycle, church officials said Sunday.
Alesa Smith, 22, of Benton, Ark., had been in the state for about 10 months on a mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Nolan Taylor, president of missions for the church in Oklahoma City, said Smith had worked in several other cities and had just begun in Woodward, where the wreck happened.
“She is a lovely, kind young woman and was loved by everyone who knows her,” Taylor said. “A lot of folks here were blessed to get to know her.”
Woodward police said Sunday they could not release further details about the wreck.
Smith was serving as a full-time missionary for the church. Mormon young people have the option to voluntarily serve a mission with the church. Men serve two-year missions, while women serve 18 months.
Missionaries serve at their own expense and can be assigned to any one of hundreds of missions across the world.
“They leave school and friends and their young lives behind,” Taylor said. “This experience means a great deal to these young people. They learn so many lessons. They deepen their faith. They develop the ability to love people and to serve them and to care about people.”
Missionaries travel through communities, often on bicycle, knocking on doors to share the church's message, making them the face of the Mormon faith for many people outside the church.
“It is very important to the church,” Taylor said. “I think a lot of people would probably say that their first encounter with the church is with our young missionaries.”
Taylor said Smith's family is still working out funeral arrangements.