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Introduction to "Love One Another"



Sometime in my early youth, when I was around thirteen years old, I was at my grandmother's house in the vicinity of Ashland, Montana, when, while looking at some old books, I came across a small and thin book titled "Love One Another." It had a 1920 copyright date, and I noticed it was written by my grandfather, Valdo Petter. He was a man I never knew. My mother, his daughter Amy, was only five when he passed away. I was a bit curious to know what my grandfather had written because I did not know him to be a writer. The old book had small print and seemed difficult to read, so I did not read much of it then. But what especially caught my attention when I initially saw the book was a handwritten dedication that Valdo Petter had written in it to his wife Laura. I cannot reproduce the dedication word-for-word since that copy of "Love One Another" is now apparently lost. But the handwritten note inside the book went something like this:

My Dearest Laura,

As you know, I had a few hundred copies of this book printed, but the thing just didn't sell. So I've destroyed three hundred copies and kept only a few to give to some friends and relatives. And I wanted to make sure I gave you a copy. With this humble gift I say thanks for your support of me even in my failures.

Your Loving Husband,

Valdo

It was several years later when I finally read "Love One Another" in its entirety. And I was a bit confused as to why Valdo seemed to be so anti-war in his book. He had, after all, been a U.S. soldier during World War I (He enlisted in 1917, served on actual fronts in 1918, and was discharged in 1919). But I learned that an anti-war mentality was part of his Mennonite tradition (he was part of that denomination). His father and mother, in fact, were Mennonites from Switzerland who had moved to the US in the late 1800's to be missionaries to the Cheyenne Indians. Valdo's father, Rodolphe Petter, became quite a distinguished Mennonite in the United States as he gave the Cheyenne their written language and translated parts of the Bible for them. So Valdo, with so much of his denomination's influence on his life, did obviously pick up on some of their anti-war views. But how could someone with those views be a soldier? My mother explained to me that Valdo did not have the typical view on war that the Mennonites had since he obviously did not believe that enlisting in the Army was contrary to the teachings of Scripture. His views were probably well symbolized by what he did in the Army - he worked for the Medical Corps; he preferred to be a healer as opposed to an armed infantryman.

If my grandfather had not died so young, maybe I would have had the opportunity to ask him to make his views on war more clear. But since I cannot ask him that, what I assume is that he had a mixture of the views of the pacifist doves of his denomination and of the hawks who strongly supported the United States' involvement in World War I (with the doves having the stronger influence).

But whether his views on warfare were clear or not, through "Love One Another" Valdo Petter does demonstrate his missionary mind in that he tries to convince his reader that there is a far better alternative to hell. And a missionary is what he lived to be. He had wanted to go to Africa to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ there, but that never happened. Instead he followed his father's footsteps and was also a missionary to the Cheyenne tribe. And while serving in that capacity in 1935, anemia struck his body with severity, and he perished. But his positive influence on others, including through the written word, did not perish.

Phillip Valdo Guerena





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