The Flight of the South African Blue Swallow…


Postage stamp South Africa 1998 Blue Swallow, Bird

SOUTH AFRICA – CIRCA 1998: a stamp printed in South Africa shows Blue Swallow, Hirundo Atrocaerulea, Bird, circa 1998

During my first visit to South Africa, I fell in love with one of the most beautiful birds, the South African Blue Swallow. Sadly, the Blue Swallow, so full of grace and beauty is also the bird on the top of the endangered bird species list in South Africa. There are many factors for their fragile state of existence, but the experts say the greatest factor is that the grasslands and wetlands that are their natural habitat are under threat. The Blue Swallow resides in the Kwa-Zulu Natal area, but can be spotted in various parts of the country. There is believed to be less than 100 of this species left in South Africa. Every time I see a Blue Swallow I am reminded of the fragility of habitats and I am reminded of the interconnected nature of us all.

The way we live on this earth impacts the life span of other species that God called us to share this space with and our lifestyle also impacts the quality of life for the future generations of our children. How much water we utilize, the way we eat, the resources like paper that we consume, all have a marked impact on the earth’s ability to sustain itself. As the South African Blue Swallow flies gracefully into its unknown reality, the beauty of the bird challenges me to take flight in my own life recognizing the ways in which I am a part of the eradication of habitats around the world.

On my left shoulder, I have flying in tattoo form, the South African Blue Swallow. My journey with them helped me to recognize the importance of protecting not just the habitats of creatures, but also our own. The spiritual habitat that is our center can so easily be thrown off course leaving us under threat. Busy-ness, lists of great opportunities that seem the thing to do, distractions of every kind are before us. Yet, we are called to be still and know God. In prayer, meditation, moments of solitude, and fascination with God’s word we are reborn again and again into creatures that in our lives might take beautiful graceful flight, much like my friend the Blue Swallow.

swallows in flight

Our flight can take us wherever we want to go. God allows such freedom in our lives.   Yet, the hope is that in our flight we will move in response to a sense of God’s guidance drawing others to the interconnected nature of us all. The way I live my life directly impacts the experience of others. What I choose to see and not see colors the ways in which I chart my course. My hope is that through out the living of my days my eyes will be open for what God needs me to learn and that the choices I make will lead to better life for all God’s children and the creatures upon this earth, whose beauty dazzles my gaze.

Sometimes when I see the Swallow impressed on storefront windows, I can hear the message I know is their song, “Please listen.  Please hear me.  I am trying to sing to you with my song that I am under threat, I am under threat, I am under threat.”  “I hear you sweet Blue Swallow. I hear you,” I find myself saying through tears watering my eyes.  Please listen to the cries of God’s creatures who because of our lifestyles live under threat and work this Lenten season to make small changes in your life.

To learn more about the swallow, and ways you can support conservation of their fragile habitat, follow this link:

To view a list of 100 ways to conserve water:

For ways to work to make your church in South Africa more environmentally friendly:

With you on the journey,

Michelle Shrader

*Support for my salary can be received  through the donation button on this blog site.  It will lead you to the United Methodist Advance website which is an online giving resource facilitating the support of mission work all around the world.  Check it out!


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