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.

2018 Winner: “Auntie Nancy”

Micah Ricke ’10 and his wife, Kayla, live, learn, and work in a metropolitan area in southeast Asia, where they make friends and share the gospel. This is the twelfth annual Thalassa Prize. Micah has won $1,000, of which $500 will be sent to the mission he designates. 

Auntie Nancy

We had no home, jobs, or friends. But we had a family.

It was our first night in our new home. We came here to teach people about their Savior, but we needed a place to sleep first.

A local house church welcomed us with open arms. They had no pastor, no board, no programs, no organ or praise band. All they had was a small flat with a couch, a kitchen and a cross. Our first three nights, we slept on that couch. We weren’t just the foreign teachers. We were family.

“All the believers were together and had everything in common.”
Acts 2:44

Their services were simple but genuine. Four or five people would sit in a circle, and Auntie Nancy would open their songbook and lead them in praising their Good Shepherd. Nancy does not have a gorgeous voice, but she sang with the confidence of one whose faith has been refined by fire—more heart than harmony.

“Where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them.”
Matthew 18:20

Auntie Nancy’s father was a successful businessman who later in life became a pastor. When the Communist Party came to power, her father had his teeth knocked out and had no way to feed his family. Nancy’s childhood went from rich to ragged.

“If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”
John 15:20

Yet here she was, an 80-year-old saint singing praises to her King. At any moment the police could barge in and these believers could be jailed or worse. With her life on the line and a smile on her face, Auntie Nancy kept singing.

“Rejoice in the LORD always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
Philippians 4:4


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: May 3, 2018
  • 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.