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Sixth Annual Thalassa Prize

A World of Opportunity

Think there’s only one way to be a missionary? Think again. Through MLC’s Daylight International program, you can teach all over the globe! Nineteen 2012 grads chose international service last May, joining dozens of others who are already making their mark on the world—and on people’s hearts with the gospel.

The 2012 Thalassa winner, below, gives us a glimpse into this kind of service. Consider: A few years from now, we might be awarding the Thalassa Prize to you for your submission from Colombia, Southeast Asia, Mexico, Thailand, Dominican Republic, or—like Paul Kelm’s entry below—the Czech Republic.

2012 Grand Prize Winner

"Searching for a Better Life"

By Paul Kelm DMLC '86 - Czech Republic

Pausing briefly, the laborer looked out longingly from the construction site where he worked. Below, his tired eyes could see shops cascading with fresh produce, colorful clothing, and sparkling crystal. Up wafted the smells of pork, sauerkraut, and dumplings from a nearby restaurant. Shoppers' footsteps clicked across the cobblestones.

He had come here from the East to work for higher pay. The money would make him wealthy back in his homeland. Perhaps he would use it to buy a place for himself when he went back – if he ever went back.

Days later, I returned to share this photo with him, but he had moved. New workers had already filled his place. As the new workers and I spoke in a mix of broken languages, I invited them to come and visit our mission.

All around us are people desperately searching for a better life.

Teaching in a foreign mission field immersed me in an ocean of lost souls in search of a better life. Ordinary daily encounters like meeting the workers, greeting my neighbors, or even asking for help at a store, often started a conversation. Quizzically I was asked, “Why did you come to the Czech Republic?” My reply always included an invitation to visit our church, Bible class, or conversation club.

Many times the Lord led those invited guests to visit our mission unaware that hearing God's word brought them closer to their goal of finding a better life.

What joy it brings when someone comes to faith in Jesus! I thank God for the opportunities he gives me and all his people to have conversations which lead to sharing his word. Through God's word, the Spirit gives the gift of a “better life” to searching souls. To them he gives it eternally.

Paul taught the children of two missionary families in Japan from 1987 to 1989, and then he taught at Skola Martina Luthera, a K-9 school in the Czech Republic, from 1994 to 2006. He also led English Conversation club and English Bible classes in the Czech Republic, which is where he took his photo.

2012 Runner-Up

"Confetti and Guns"

By Ryan Kolander '10 - Mexico

A parade is a sign of celebration in Mexico. But confetti and music are the roses whose sweet aroma hardly stifles the stench of bloodshed.

Narco traffickers control the streets of Mexico. They own the highways and the byways. They pay off cops and mayors, children and businessmen to move and sell their illegal product.

Recently, the Mexican government has tried to clamp down on the corruption and drug trafficking that have run loose in the country for years. This zealous attempt at reform has ended in grenades decimating shopping malls and machine guns riddling innocent bystanders. The country has erupted into a state of civil war.

Such violence has shut citizens inside their homes. Such devastation has limited the outreach done by our missionaries. Such lawlessness has threatened the safety of our national pastors and driven our missionaries out of Torreon, the Lutheran “headquarters” of Mexico.

Yet despite the apparent hopelessness of the political situation, the Good Shepherd takes care of his sheep. The church in Torreon continues to thrive, and has even seen new member gains since the departure of our missionaries. Because they had to leave Torreon, those missionaries settled in a new place. Leon, a city in Mexico’s most Catholic state, has witnessed a new Lutheran mission flower into a growing congregation.

The situation gives us a faint reminder of the early church. When persecution pressed down upon believers, the faith spread to places they never imagined. This is how God extends his gospel to those who have never heard it—through unexpected ways.

Ryan taught English in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico from June 2010 to July 2011 as a way of building bridges between the church and the community to share the gospel.