Madison (“Maddie”) Custer recently returned from an 18-month missionary service stint in Baltimore, Maryland. It was a lifelong goal for her.
By Kendra Williamson
Madison (“Maddie”) Custer, 21, a Brighton Heights native and graduate of the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School (CAPA), recently returned from 18 months of full-time service as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She served in the greater Baltimore, Maryland area where she taught in both English and Spanish.
As a missionary, she took time away from work and college plans to serve and teach full time. She taught others about Jesus Christ and regularly participated in community service projects like volunteering at resource centers for the homeless.
Serving as a missionary is not a requirement for all young adults who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ, but for Custer, it was a lifelong goal. Her mother was a missionary in Vancouver, British Columbia, and her father, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a child, she was inspired by her parents’ stories of their own missions. Custer looked forward to meeting and learning from people from another geographic area.
“Before going, I thought being a missionary would be a lot of fun,” said Custer. “Once I was a missionary, I realized that it was fun, but it was also really, really hard.”
One of the greatest challenges, she said, was living away from her home for the first time, but she also had to learn to work with people at a new level. Latter-day Saint
missionaries are paired with a companion missionary of the same gender. They do everything together, and have to learn to get along. At two points in her mission, Custer was paired with a brand new missionary, and was assigned to train her. “That was really hard, but it was easier the second time,” she said. Learning Spanish presented another challenge for Custer.
“I studied Spanish in high school, but being a missionary in Spanish was a whole different thing,” she recalled. She struggled to communicate, but worked hard to study the language. The local Spanish congregation embraced her, and after a month of dedication, Custer was conversant.
“Learning Spanish helped open my worldview—it introduced me to a whole new group of people, and made me want to learn even more languages,” Custer said.
Custer currently resides with her parents and siblings in Brighton Heights. Before her mission, she went to cosmetology school, and now that she’s home, she plans to work toward a university degree.
Custer’s long-term goal is to study psychology or early childhood education. She would like to be a child life specialist in a children’s hospital, helping patients understand and deal with their illnesses and treatments. Her missionary work has helped her develop a service mindset which she plans to carry into her professional life.
Since returning from her mission in March, Custer often reflects on what the experience meant to her.
“My mission helped to open my world. Because I went to CAPA before, I thought I was so open-minded,” she said. “But entering into other people’s homes and their lives—seeing what they’re going through—changed me. I have more compassion for people, even if I don’t know them well.”
For more information about the missionary program in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, click here.
For frequently asked questions about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, click here.