NORMAN — Missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Oklahoma have a new mission president to look up to — literally. President Stewart Walkenhorst is seven feet tall.
Walkenhorst and his wife, Shannon, will serve in Oklahoma for three years, covering an area including the Oklahoma City metro and much of west Oklahoma.
During his time in Oklahoma, Stewart Walkenhorst will manage missionaries, oversee problems and provide spiritual guidance to his missionaries and those learning about the church. Shannon will assist with missionary medical and health issues.
The couple left their four grown children and family business in Napa, Calif. They co-owned and operated Walkenhorsts, a company that accommodates families and friends of prison inmates in providing clothing, treats and other permitted materials.
“Running a small business has taught me the need for finding out who your people are, their strengths and their talents,” Stewart said. “I’ve learned how to best train and teach people so that they reach their potential.”
He has spent the first two weeks as mission president, interviewing each of the 186 volunteer missionaries in Oklahoma, individually.
“I need to know who they are and what they can do,” he said. “I want to help them do all that we can: All that the Lord expects us to do.”
Missionaries can be single men between the ages of 18 and 25, single women over the age of 19 or retired couples. Missionaries work with a companion of the same gender during their mission, with the exception of couples, who work with their spouse. Single men serve missions for two years and single women serve missions for 18 months.
Since arriving in Oklahoma, Stewart said he has been impressed by the kindness demonstrated by Oklahomans.
“It’s not like what we’re used to. It’s not dog-eat-dog. We’re just glad to be here,” he said. “It’s great to be here among the wonderful people of Oklahoma.”