A Missionary’s Lament

December 16, 2021

By Sarah Spradlin


Stories from all over the world hold that wayfarers,

especially sailors,

often got tattoos of swallows.

It was, after all, the swooping swallows

against the blue sky

they would see well before they could see familiar shores.

Swallows meant they were home.

When I got my first tattoo, I already had a foot in Costa Rica and Georgia.

I was coming to terms with the hard truth that

having made a home in two countries meant

I’d never “come home” without leaving another.

My spirit ached for heaven for the first time.

My weary feet hoped for a porch swing

where I could sit with my mom

and my host mom.

My hungry heart dreamed of a table

long enough to fit familiar plastic lawn chairs from Costa Rica

and the wooden chairs from my childhood.

I understood Jesus better

as I read the Gospels again.

I could hear the pain in His goodbyes,

dreaming about the house He would build to hold us all.

Now, when I see the swallows in blue skies

or in the blue-black ink that is now a part of me,

I am reminded not of one but three homes,

three families that I leave behind.

I am reminded of the friends who,

like me,

have scattered to sow seeds

in more places and countries than I can count.

I feel the now familiar ache for heaven.

I feel homesickness for a place I’ve never been.

I long for the day I will see them all,

like sparrows on the shoreline

welcoming me home.

It is the longing that fills me with hope.

I’ve come to see the ache as a gift,

the longing like remembering a sweet promise

whispered over and over again;

the hunger as a habit to invite more in,

to make my own table longer,

to make chairs out of benches and stools and buckets.

When I am tempted to worry over them,

Jesus reminds me:

“No sparrow can fall without the Father knowing.

Trust me with those who are worth so much more than sparrows.

Trust me with your swallows.

Trust me with your family.

Just as I sent them out,

I will call them back to me again.

Just as I have scattered them into the wind,

I will gather them again.”


Sarah grew up in Georgia with her mom, dad, and little sister, Merry. She attended the University of Georgia, where she majored in International Affairs and Agriscience Environmental Systems. After graduating in 2019, Sarah took a job working alongside small-holder farmers in Chinandega, Nicaragua as a missionary with Amigos for Christ. She loves telling the story of the global farmer and nerding out about how nature works. Sarah has been homeschooled, private schooled, and public schooled, graduating from the Madison County High School in 2015. She lived in Costa Rica for seven months, and even hung out in Panama for a few days. She’ll read pretty much anything and has tried her hand at almost every kind of writing, though she likes poetry best. (Although fiction books are making a surprise, now-that-I’ve-graduated-from-college-I-have-time-to-read-again comeback.) But because writing bios is a struggle, if you really want to get to know Sarah, shove some words in her general direction on her Instagram, email her at sarah.beth.spradlin@gmail.com, or visit her blog.


  1. Christopher Babcock

    Wow, as a TCK and MK this really spoke to me! Thank you, Sarah.

  2. Tabitha

    Thanks for sharing.


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