Martin Luther College

Thalassa Prize


This award is given to recognize a Martin Luther College student or graduate who expresses clearly and beautifully, in image and word, a personal reflection on a ministry experience overseas.

2020 Winner: “The God She Thought She Knew ”

Congratulations to the 2020 Thalassa Prize winner, Micah Otto ’19. Micah served in Southeast Asia for one semester. He explains: “We did mostly friendship evangelism – fostering meaningful relationships in an effort to let our light shine, with the end goal of building self-sustaining churches.” The pandemic cut Micah’s ministry short. He is now a first-year student at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, but he hopes to return to Southeast Asia. MLC’s International Services Office awarded Micah $1,000, half of which he designated to a Southeast Asia mission. This is the 14th annual Thalassa Prize.

The God She Thought She Knew

This is Bella—Bella the Buddhist.

Bella was dressed up as the Devil for our Halloween party at my apartment in Southeast Asia.

“ . . . and that’s why God’s love is so amazing!” I said amid our formerly secular conversation between sips of punch.

We were hosting this party just to make friends; but of course, it’s pretty much inevitable that He will get brought up in conversation if you talk to one of us Christians long enough.

Bella looked at me puzzled, her red fabric horns bobbing as she cocked her head.

“But . . . doesn’t your god send people to hell? That doesn’t seem very loving.”

She continued to describe the god she thought she knew—a god who was hateful, distant, and quick to hold a grudge—a god she didn’t want to believe in. Bella the Buddhist had been deceived by the very one she was dressed up as that evening.

“I don’t want to believe in that god either, Bella. Now let me tell you about the God I do believe in . . .

. . . about the God who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love,

. . . about the God who gave me everything and refuses to turn His back on me even when I fail to love Him in return,

. . . about Jesus, who died so that freedom from sin, death, and the Devil wouldn’t have to be earned, but freely given right into our hands.

Tell me about the gods you don’t believe in, and I’ll tell you about mine—I’ll tell you about grace.”

Later, Bella opened up a Bible on our coffee table. We turned to John.

“For God so loved the world . . .”

Purposes of the MLC Thalassa Prize

  • To express gratitude to God for the opportunity to serve him in international venues.
  • To provide an opportunity for MLC students and graduates in international ministry to share their stories.
  • To motivate and inspire current MLC students to consider serving overseas.
  • To bring glory to God through excellence in the arts of photography and creative writing.
  • To reaffirm through image and word the dignity of the entire human race and the desire of God to save all people.

Entrance Requirements

  • Open to all MLC undergraduates and graduates who have done ministry or are doing ministry outside the United States.
  • Each entry must include
    • A completed entry form.
    • A color digital photograph taken in a foreign mission field.
    • A personal reflection on ministry in that foreign mission field.
  • Entrants may submit as many entries as they wish.
  • Deadline for all submissions: April 30, 2021
  • Check out photo and essay specifications, judging criteria, and tips for entrants here.


  • The Thalassa Prize recipient will be announced in May or June.
  • The prize will be divided equally between the winner and an international mission of the winner’s choice.