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Oct28WedFictional Salvation Army captain saves souls in new book series. October 28, 2020 by Jeanette Levellie
When award-winning author Marsha Hubler set out to write a teen series, she thought she was writing to change young people’s lives. Instead, her own life changed in the process.
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- Faith & Friends
Tornado or Open Door?
In her Tommi Pockets trilogy, Marsha features a Salvation Army captain as the protagonist. With her no-nonsense yet loving approach, Captain Arlene “Ar” Masters helps broken, hurting teens find meaning for their lives at her Salvation Army counselling centre.
The novels, set in Ashland, Pennsylvania, during the 1950s, appeal to grown-ups as well as teens. “Adults love the books because of all the nostalgia,” says Marsha.
Tommi Pockets, published last year, introduces Tommi, a 13-year-old pool shark who has one goal in life—to be the first female champion pool player. But girls are not welcome in pool rooms, so Tommi disguises herself as a boy to play a male-only sport. When she takes part in a gang rumble and is arrested, the judge sentences her to counselling sessions with Captain Arlene, a Salvation Army pastor. She shows Tommi the unconditional love of Jesus, teaches her about life in the real lane, not the fast one, and encourages her gift for billiards.
The second novel, Runner Shoots His Best Game, released in August, has Tommi’s fellow pool expert, Runner, caught stealing. Captain Arlene tackles the challenge to help Runner out of his mess. Will he receive her help or go back to his old ways?
The third volume of the trilogy, Double Trouble at Post 71, will feature Tommi and Runner, now both Christians. When a set of delinquent twins show up at Captain Arlene’s counselling centre, Tommi and Runner think the kids have too many problems for even God to fix. But Captain Arlene refuses to say “impossible” and asks the teens to mentor the twins. What follows is a tornado of disaster.
Or could it be an open door for growth? Readers will have to wait for the answers until late summer of 2021, the projected release date for the final volume.
Why the Army?
Marsha, who grew up in Ashland, chose a Salvation Army captain as her protagonist due to her parents. “My mom and dad always supported The Salvation Army,” she says. “I grew up hearing, ‘When you want to give, that’s the organization you give to, because they make sure it goes to help people.’ ”
Marsha has supported the Army all her life. “I’ve always felt they deserved it because of their biblical stand and for the wise use of the funds they receive.” She admires The Salvation Army and its concern for the welfare of those in need.
Many hours of research went into the writing of the Tommi Pockets series. Marsha studied the type of uniforms worn by The Salvation Army in the ’50s and the history of the Army during that time. She also interviewed Captain Jessica Duperree, who is posted to the Salvation Army church in Sunbury, Pennsylvania.
“Captain Jessica told me that the church’s major ministry is, ‘Feeding physical needs and spiritual souls.’ ” says Marsha. “Captain Jessica and her husband, Captain Scott, hold youth services every week and mentor kids who need a friend, similar to how Captain Arlene mentors Tommi and Runner.”
A Past to Remember
“People ask me if Tommi’s character is based on my own past,” says Marsha. “I always say no, but Tommi is a compilation of the 12 teens—many troubled—whom my husband and I fostered through the years.”
The author seemed destined to help marginalized kids. For more than 14 years, she served as a teacher and principal. Following that career, Marsha worked as a teacher/counsellor at a treatment centre for conduct-disordered youth. But she patterned Captain Arlene after her own mother, a strong woman of faith who “kept our family together,” says Marsha. “She lived her Christian beliefs and prayed for my unsaved, pool-shooting, drinking dad for 37 years. When he was 70, he finally gave his heart to God. I owe everything I am to my mother.”
But Marsha also owes her skill as a billiards expert to her dad. When she was 10, her father bought a used Brunswick pool table—one of the world’s finest—and restored it. He then taught the young girl to shoot pool. “My dad could’ve gone professional if he’d wanted to,” Marsha states. She still owns the antique Brunswick and often shoots pool with friends.
I Am What I Am
Marsha wrote this unique trilogy to help introduce young people to God and to see their lives change for the better. In the process, her own life has changed.
Shortly before Tommi Pockets was released, the author heard God’s voice in her heart, telling her to give away 500 copies of the book. She took a deep breath and then agreed. “I’ll do that, Lord, if you provide the postage.”
To date, Marsha has given away 274 copies of Tommi to Salvation Army churches across North America, as well as to other organizations who work with youth.
“God has already provided all I need to buy and ship the remaining 226 books,” she says. “By stepping out in faith and agreeing to give away books, I’ve really increased my trust in God’s faithfulness.”
Marsha’s favourite Bible verse attests to that fact: “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10).