Outside, the wind springs on a high desert morning. A dry spit of snow, the texture of dust, curls around juniper and ponderosa. The distant mesas are strange and beautiful—hard rock and soft pastels, the sturdiness of time and the surprise of impossible angles.

Inside, Angie Garber, at the age of 75, sits by the fire of a hogan, a house with mud walls. She reads from the Bible in Navajo, in an ancient and almost hypnotic rhythm.

The missionary is on her rounds.

Angie Garber knows the Navajo people well. The daughter of an Iowa farmer, she has lived on their land for three decades. She does not consider herself just a missionary to these people. She would rather be called their friend.

“I have been out here long enough to talk to the children about their grandparents,” Angie says. “They know that I mean to stay around.”

Angie Garber, who wears frilly bonnets and sometimes cries during hymns, can surprise. She is as feisty as she is sweet. She chases dogs and cats with brooms. She starts her Datsun pickup by popping the clutch.

The victim of assorted tragedies, she laughs most all the time. “Instead of going to college after high school,” she says, “I got polio.” After recovering, she spent the next ten years of her life caring for her mother, who had suffered a nervous breakdown.

She was 37, single, and without clear direction when she entered Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. She says she was not worried. Her life had taught her many lessons: “I had learned to take the Lord one day at a time.” While attending seminary, she was asked to teach at an Indian reservation in northwestern New Mexico.

She had always been fascinated by the Indians, reading nearly all the novels of James Fenimore Cooper in her youth. She ...

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