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 WELS/CELC ministry experience overseas.

2022 Winner: Joy and Knowledge Come from the Lord

The winner of the 2022 Thalassa contest is Alaina Qualmann MLC ’23 with her submission, “Joy and Knowledge Come from the Lord.”

Alaina served at two schools associated with the Lutheran Church of Central Africa. She and her teammates worked in classrooms alongside teachers, observed, played, sang, and worshiped with the children.

MLC’s Cultural Engagement Center awarded Alaina $1,000, half of which she designated to the Vulnerable Children’s Foundation, which supports schools owned and operated by the Lutheran Church of Central Africa. This is the 16th annual Thalassa Prize awarded by MLC.

Joy and Knowledge Come from the Lord.

Picture books are often a form of joy and learning for many children. You grab a book, and your children or grandchildren pile onto your lap, straining to see the pictures. The time you spend creates a bond with your children as they soak up what you are reading.

Students at Kuanda Square School in Lusaka, Zambia, adore picture books. However, it is a special opportunity for them to read books because the school has few. Books are not found in the classrooms, homes, or libraries. The books are kept in an office and brought out only on special occasions, including our visit. 

The many children gathered around tightly, taking in the book. They did not push or shove one another when it was difficult to see the pictures. Instead, they stood quietly, taking in the joy and knowledge from listening to a book.

In Lusaka, it is a privilege for students to get an education. They want to learn in hopes of getting a quality job when they grow up. However, these children already have all the knowledge they need. Proverbs 9:10 reads, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” If the students do not get to attend another day of school in their life or read another picture book, they have the wisdom they need. These children know the Lord and praise him all day long. Their joy is found in him, not in picture books. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

The children’s joy is not from the rare opportunity to look at a book or the privilege of going to school. Their joy comes from Jesus, who died and rose. Their joy comes from the Lord, who cares, sustains, and loves them.

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 WELS/CELC 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 WELS/CELC ministry or are doing WELS/CELC 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, 2023
  • 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 a WELS/CELC international mission of the winner’s choice.