About DTS

Allison Schlack

Allison SchlackStarting from the Ground Up
One day last spring, during a break between classes, Allison Schlack (M.A./CM) spread her lunch out on a bench, swiped long bangs out of her green and amber eyes, and smiled as she often does. “My dad taught me the word entrepreneur when I was about fifteen and I was like, ‘That’s me.’ I didn’t want to work for someone else. I wanted to be my own boss,” she said of the first time she discovered her life’s passion. “My father said, ‘Entrepreneurs start stuff from the ground, they go where people don’t go.’ Something about that resonated with me.”

This 27-year-old Dallas native went where no one else would go—Kisumu and the Obunga slums of Kenya—months after graduating from Baylor University with a business degree. But her journey to Kenya first began under a bridge in Waco, Texas.

Church under the Bridge
The Church under the Bridge ministers to the homeless population that gathers under Interstate 35 in Waco. Every Sunday the congregation gathers, with musicians lined up on the median that separates the two opposing lines of traffic. “It started as a Bible study by a couple who felt compelled to do something about the homeless problem in the city,” Allison explained of the church she attended for three years. “That’s when I was exposed to poverty and injustice and how people are marginalized.”

Before graduation from Baylor, Allison was offered a job that promised to garner her an annual six-figure salary, but she turned it down. “I wanted to go live among the poor,” she said. “If they had to go without food or without electricity, then that’s what I wanted to do.”

After researching missions organizations, Allison discovered that she could not do exactly what she wanted to do through an agency. So a professor agreed to help her find what she desired. The first person to reply to the professor’s mass email was a young pastor in Kisumu, Kenya—the country’s third largest city in the west on Lake Victoria.

“I got on a plane and I flew there,” Allison said, adding that she had only emailed the pastor once prior to leaving.  When she arrived in the Nairobi airport, Allison clutched a photo she had of Pastor Tobias and scanned the throngs of people for a glimpse of him. Eventually she saw a sheet of computer paper with her name printed on it rise above the crowd … “and there he was,” she said. “We lived without running water and within the next two weeks, the baby next door died of malaria,” she said. Though the initial weeks in Kisumu were difficult, Allison stayed for three months, working with street children and abandoned babies, and helping Pastor Tobias begin a church plant.

Joy out of Sorrow
But incarnational ministry comes with its sorrows. Allison said that a mother, on whom she’d spent every penny and last bit of energy nursing to health, died—along with her baby—a week after Allison returned to the States. “That has changed the course of my life. That changed my relationship with God and the way I responded in tragedy—and I would say for the worse,” she admits in characteristically candid fashion. “For a long time I was depressed and really angry. But ultimately what’s come out of it is that I understand what sacrificial obedience looks like, and when God calls us to it, it’s not about the results. It’s about the journey and the process. It was at that point that I decided I’ll never be able to turn away from these kind of experiences and, more or less, I’ll do this the rest of my life because someone has got to defend these people. Someone has to be willing to stand in the gap for them when no one else will.”

“Allison has a heart for the less fortunate people in society and she hurts when she sees others hurting,” Pastor Tobias wrote in an email. Despite the hurt, Allison and Pastor Tobias’s partnership gradually brought this forgotten community joy. “Prince of Peace Kisumu has brought new life and hope in Obunga slums,” he said.

And since 2003 Allison has led teams from Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Carrollton, Texas, to Kisumu to train pastors and church leaders, and to minister to prisoners, abandoned children, and HIV/AIDS patients. FOX News anchor in Dallas and member of Prince of Peace, Richard Ray, accompanied Allison on one of these trips.

“Allison has become like a daughter to my wife, Catherine, and me,” he said. “We fell in love with her during a mission trip to Kenya in 2004.  She truly has a heart for the poor and for boldly serving in the name of Jesus. Her decision to answer God’s call to Africa, to travel to a place she’d never heard of, alone, is an amazing story of faithfulness and courage,” he said. “Her example has triggered a series of events that energized the missions ministry at Prince of Peace and led uncounted souls to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Holistic Development
Through the Prince of Peace Community Ministries Group, the nonprofit organization Allison founded in Kisumu, the community has not only been introduced to the living water of the gospel, but also flowing water via the town’s first well. The organization has also been able to provide funding for children to attend school and for patients to receive medical care.

“The Obunga slum is no longer the same,” Pastor Tobias said. “It has been changed by the presence of Prince of Peace Kisumu.”

“The long-term plan is to bring electricity to the community and build a pharmacy,” Allison added. “I’ve got an initial donation for those but not enough. One thing we’re working on with Pastor Tobias is a long-term plan so that within ten years the church will be completely self-supporting financially and independent. We want this to be a planting church,” she said.

As an entrepreneur at heart, though, Kisumu is just the beginning for Allison. “I want to start a nonprofit organization in the States because it’s my desire to replicate this, although not exactly, in other places,” she said. “I’ve got a fabulous team. Combining the advancement of the gospel with social justice is my life goal—that holistic development where you’re helping people’s physical needs and spiritual needs. I’m a starter. I’m an entrepreneur,” she said. “That’s just who I am.”

Read Pastor Tobias' blog.

Email Allison Schlack.