“In the beginning the world was covered with darkness. There was no sun, no day. The perpetual night had no moon or stars.”
This quote is the opening to S.M. Barrett’s 1907 biography, Geronimo’s Story of His Life. Geronimo was the last of the great Chiricahuas Apache leaders, and the Apaches were the last indigenous people to wage war against the United States. In 1850, Geronimo led the Apaches in battle against the United States and Mexico. This war ended on March 25th, 1886, when Geronimo surrendered his warriors to General Nelson Miles. Immediately, four hundred and fifty men, women, and children were transported to St. Augustine, Florida. After being confined there for many years, three hundred and forty-one prisoners were then moved to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Geronimo and his family were among this number.
Barrett met Geronimo at Fort Sill. During their time together, he recorded many of Geronimo’s quotes. Some of these are in reference to God. For example, “I cannot think that we are useless or God would not have created us. There is one God looking down on us all. We are all the children of one God. … When a child, my mother taught me to kneel and pray to God for strength, health, wisdom and protection. Sometimes we prayed in silence, sometimes each one prayed aloud; sometimes an aged person prayed for all of us.” Geronimo’s Medicine Song was also translated into English. Geronimo explained his song with these words: “The song that I will sing is an old song, so old that none knows who made it. It has been handed down through generations and was taught to me when I was but a little lad. It is now my own song. It belongs to me. This is a holy song, and great is its power. The song tells how, as I sing, I go through the air to a holy place where the supreme being will give me power to do wonderful things. I am surrounded by little clouds, and as I go through the air I change, becoming spirit only.”
I do not know how these oral traditions originated with the Apaches, but perhaps King David gave us a hint, when he wrote: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). Likewise, the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, “God’s punishment is being revealed from heaven against all sin and ungodliness of people who use sin to hide truth. What can be known about God is plain to them, because God made it plain to them. Since the beginning of the world, the unseen qualities of God, His unseen power and His divinity, could be clearly seen and understood from what God made. They have no excuse. Because, even though they knew God, they didn’t give God the glory that he should have. They weren’t thankful, either. Instead, their thinking became nonsense and their foolish hearts became dark. They acted as if they were wise, but they became fools. They exchanged the glory of an undying God for something else, idols that look like a human being, birds, animals with four feet, or reptiles. All these die” (Romans 1:18-23).
Geronimo knew that he was created, and today there are still seekers who are searching for the answers to life. Our Jesus is the answer, and he is not just the answer to one nation. He is the God of all creation, and he wants all people to repent of sin (2 Peter 3:8-13) and to be saved (1 Peter 3:13-22). We are called to share his promise of eternal life! Christian, are you up for the task?
“There is a habitation,
Built by the living God,
For all of every nation,
Who seek that grand abode.” L.H. Jameson
(Romans 1:18-23 is taken from the Plain English Bible. The translation committee: Dr. Stanley L Morris, Dr. F.W. Gingrich, Dr. Jack P. Lewis, Dr. Hugo McCord, Dr. Clyde M. Woods, Dr. S.K. Kang, Dr. Gary T. Burke, and Dr. Milo Hadwin)