At the risk of appearing sinfully proud, I would like to inform you, Dear Readers, that I have achieved the status of “Impressive” here in Nueva Concepcion.  This took a little longer in Guatemala than it did during my missionary tenure in Africa.

In Bukoba, Tanzania, where Fr. John and I spent 6 months — he, teaching theology and I, teaching sewing — making an impression was fairly easy.  I had only to walk along the dirt roads of the town.  This was due in part to the uncommon color of my skin and in part to my age and heft.  I was over age 50 in a country where the average life span was 45 and quite plump in a place where people regularly died of malnutrition.  Back in the U.S.A. I was considered a chubby old lady, but in Bukoba, I was impressive!  Add to this, the fact that our son, Nicholas, had made quite an impression in the town, himself.  He spent two years as administrative assistant to then Bishop Jonah, helping to build schools, clinics, and churches.  A resourceful and irrepressible guy, Nicholas was affectionately known in the town as “Rwekaza,” the one who never gives up.  As for me, instead of being addressed as “Mama Chakos,” which would have been customary in Tanzania, I became known as “Mama Niko,” in reference to my son.  This was a more lofty title.  When I entered a shop and it was whispered that I was Mama Niko, I received special attention and a discount.

Pic 1 March1In Nueva Concepcion, Guatemala, I had to work a little harder to get noticed.  When I decided to reupholster Fr. Andres’ six dining room chairs, I needed to borrow some tools from Charley, our resident security guard and handyman.   He admired my handling of the screwdriver, staple gun, and his prized machete, which was great for cutting foam rubber.  We began to discuss tools and I mentioned the variety of power tools and hand tools in my workshop back home.  That got Charley’s attention.

Next on my home improvement agenda was replacing the faulty electric shower head in our bathroom.  There is only cold running water in our home.  The shower head heats the water for a less jarring start to the day.  I told Charley that if he would take me shopping, I could handle the installation myself.  It would be no more complicated than replacing a light switch.  For me, the hardest part would be climbing up onto the high stool to reach the shower pipe.  Off to the marketplace we went.

Pic 3 March 1


I had already gained some notice in the town on previous shopping trips with Charley.  The protective way he escorted me (his trusty handgun tucked securely in his waistband) helping me in and out of the truck, opening doors, and carrying my purchases, had marked me as a V.I.P.  Charley took me to a small hardware store where we were shown several shower head models.  The way Charley deferred to my judgement drew some quizzical glances.  “She’s going to install this herself,” he announced to more quizzical looks.  “You should see the workshop she has in the States,” he continued,enumerating the contents as if he had been there to see them himself.  He went on to extoll my talents in sewing, upholstery, furniture refinishing, and other handy work to a roomful of astonished male faces.  They turned and looked at me with respect.  This is a part of the country where women, especially those in my age group, were rarely, if ever educated.  They were expected only to cook, wash clothes, and have lots of babies.  I stood in that store and shamelessly basked in the glory of my impressiveness, unconcerned that “pride goeth before the fall.”. Back at home, Charley, protective as ever, would not hear of my climbing onto the rickety, tall stool to change the shower head, and did the job himself.  I was forced to accept the limitations that age and arthritis have bestowed on me.

Of course, being impressive does have its drawbacks.  The activity in my sewing room has become somewhat of a spectator sport at our home, drawing curious onlookers, both human and animal.  It’s never lonely there with the boys bringing me an endless parade of clothes for mending and alteration.  One evening, as young José stood watching me alter a pair of his pants, he asked, “Presvytera, do you have a Ph.D?”  I’m sorry to say that the answer to that question is no, and it surprised me that someone thought I deserved one.

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The unfortunate danger of gaining admiration is the tendency to fall into the sin of pride.  As Christians, it is incumbent on us to shun earthly accolades and cultivate humility and long-suffering patience.  “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  (Proverbs 3:37). “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” (I Peter 5:6). In the end, our goal is to be impressive only in the eyes of God.


  1. Don George says

    Well done, Sandy. In my book, you have a Ph.D in many areas!

    • Effie Truver says

      If Ph.D stood for Presvytera has Done (it all) then you are at the top of the list. I don’t think heaven has room for labels and titles as God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34).
      You are certainly deserving of all the respect an “impression” can bestow on someone.
      Good for you and you have my vote as well……

  2. Jen Chakos says

    I miss you mom!! You are VERY impressive.
    Con mucho amor y cariño,
    Su hija 🙂

  3. I really enjoy reading your articles. Keep up the great work.

  4. I agree with Effie about PH.D stands for Presvytera has Done it all…..God blessed you with so many blessings you have to keep working to use them all up before you are allowed to leave this life…..I wish you Many Many Healthy years to finish all your “Work”…..You are always in my prayers….I love you!

  5. Presvytera Sandy,
    Impressive work with the Machetti!
    Keep it humble and don’t cut anyone.
    Love, Tom Pappas

  6. Donna Smith says

    Dear Presvytera Sandy,

    Blessed Lent. Just was introduced to your web page today! It was so nice to see how God is working through you and Father. Could you please let us know prices for vestments. Father David would like to know. God bless.

  7. Gracias por todo su esfuerzo y trabajo por nuestro pais!

  8. Malena Adzich says

    I admire your response to the Call God has placed on your hearts. Thank you for sharing your experiences through your blog. I have enjoyed reading about your adventures.

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