Name of Book: Ted Studebaker: A Man Who Loved Peace
Author: Joy Hofacker Moore
Illustrator: Jim Guenther
Publisher: Herald Press, 1987
Audience: From the words of the author, “I perceive this book as one that touches all persons, form the two-year-old who becomes excited about the tractor to the adult who marvels at Ted’s faithfulness.” The recommended age, however, is 7 – 10 years old.
Summary: Ted Studebaker: A Man Who Loved Peace is the biographical story of Ted Studebaker, a member of the Church of the Brethren. He grew up on a large family farm in Ohio, where he was the seventh of eight children. He excelled in everything he put his mind to and was able to drive a tractor by the age of eight, even though he wasn’t tall enough to look over the steering wheel. He was an amazing athlete and he enjoyed horseback riding and ice hockey. He received varsity letters in high school in football, track, and wrestling. At the same time, he was very active in his church, the West Milton Church of the Brethren, where he attended summer camp and organized work camps. He also loved to sing and play his guitar. When Ted graduated from high school he was voted the senior male who had achieved the most during his four years. After graduation, the draft for the Vietnam War was in effect, and Ted wrote a letter to the US government explaining his reasons for being a Christian pacifist. He believed that all life was precious and he could not kill anyone, even during a war. Ted became a conscientious objector. He went on to Manchester College where he graduated in just three years with a major in Psychology and Sociology. Then he went to Florida State University for a master’s degree in social work. After graduate school, Ted joined Brethren Volunteer Service and committed two years of his life to help others. He was stationed at Di Linh in Vietnam, in the midst of the war. While he was there, he taught the locals different farming techniques that would improve their rice crop. He raised chickens in a bathtub and grew vegetables that he shared with the mountain people. He also set-up a rice polisher, which was a machine that would harvest the rice more efficiently than doing it by hand. While in Vietnam, he fell in love with a Chinese woman, Ven Pak, who was also in Vietnam doing Christian service. The fighting in Di Linh grew more intense, and a week after his wedding, Ted was shot and killed. However, before Ted died, he wrote a letter to his family that read, “Above all, Christ taught me how to love all people, including enemies, and to return good for evil.”
Literary elements at work in the story (Genre/setting/characterization/plot/theme/point of view/style): While the story is very mature and the content is very serious, this book is written in simple sentences and beautifully illustrated with crayon-like drawings. Although the story has a sad ending, the emphasis is on Ted’s life and ministry, and his faithfulness to the love of God even in the midst of conflict. The author does not spend a lot of time dealing with Ted’s death, but rather sums it up in five words. And the story doesn’t end there either. Rather, the author reflects back to the good that was accomplished in his lifetime. She even quotes his own sayings and writings, as though he continues to live through them.
(How) does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? Although Ted Studebaker is a white male, he finds himself in relationships with people from all over the world. His college roommates were students from abroad, and his wife is Chinese. It is clear that Ted does not make judgment calls based on others’ gender, race, culture, economics, or ability. The last line of the book quotes Ted as saying, “I believe that love is a stronger and more enduring power than hatred for people, regardless of who they are or what they believe.”
Scripture: Matthew 5:38-48
Theological conversation partners (scripture, confessions, doctrines, theologians, etc): In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Ted Studebaker exemplifies this calling throughout his life and death. Choosing to go to Vietnam to work in the midst of war could not have been an easy to decision, but it was what Ted felt called to do. He took Jesus’ teaching very seriously and paid for it with his life, but at the same time he radically helped the lives of others around him. There is a Quaker bumper sticker that reads, “When Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies’, I think he probably meant not to kill them.” Ted definitely believed this and asked for a shovel instead of a gun. If he died, he wanted to die making something instead of tearing something down.
Faith Talk Questions
- Where do you see yourself in the life of Ted Studebaker? Why?
- Does the story of his life teach you anything about your own life? What does it teach you?
- The last line of the book quotes Ted as saying, “I believe love is a stronger and more enduring power than hatred for people, regardless of who they are or what they believe.” What do you think of this statement? How can love be stronger than hatred?
- How can you show love for your enemies?
This review was written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Amanda North.