Christians are called to be changemakers. One of the founders of social enterprise Soule shares his God-given roadmap to creating a business that makes a difference in society.
“Help yourself before you help others!” “God only helps those who help themselves!”
Have you ever heard such statements before? On the surface, they may seem to make sense. However, such sayings are unbiblical, and they may encourage selfishness. The Word of God clearly states that as Christians we are to help those in need.
James 2:14-17 reads, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
Growing up in City Harvest Church, I was taught the Caring System which is “to find a need and meet it, to find a hurt and heal it”. The word “find” is an active verb, hence, being the difference in our world is not something passive. In order to see change take place in our community, believers need to initiate and put their faith into action.
SOULE: FAITH PUT INTO ACTION
In 2008, with two other church friends, I started Soule, a social enterprise. God gave us a vision to provide “A Sole for every Soul”, to be a footwear company that sells flip flops and, using the earnings, distributes free school shoes to low-income children in China and locally.
It began with a simple idea, but God has been with Soule every step of the way and He has blessed us tremendously. When Soule first started, many people told us that it doesn’t make sense to commit to a social cause, as it lowers our profit margin. While to others, giving may seem like a disadvantage, God’s Word says that it is more “blessed to give than to receive”. God wants us not just to be different, but to be the difference.
As we chose to bless others through our business model, the Lord has blessed us in ways that we couldn’t even imagine. In the past seven years, Soule has won numerous grants and awards, and we have also been regularly supported by the media. We have no doubt that this is purely by the grace and favor of God. Soule has evolved from an e-commerce store to include a CSR (corporate social responsibility) consulting arm that helps corporate companies create social impact in the community.
Everything that we have comes from Him and through Him. As we yield ourselves to heed His call, God has never and will never shortchange us.
4 STEPS TO CREATING CHANGE
You may have a desire to make a difference but don’t know how. Here are four simple tips to get you going.
1. Start somewhere
Who doesn’t want to do good? All of us think about it at some point, but things don’t happen just by thinking. The key is to start doing and giving. This is not just limited to giving our money. We can also start giving our time to serve others by becoming a volunteer.
MAD (which stands for Making A Difference, www.WeAreMAD.sg) is a volunteer group started by members of CHC that is truly impacting the elderly living in one-room rental blocks in Singapore. Since June 2014, MAD volunteers have been visiting these old folk on a monthly basis to clean their homes, buy them groceries, and quite simply, to bring them joy.
Benjamin Low, co-founder of MAD says that “all of us have 720 hours a month, why not just take out two hours of that time to make a difference in another person’s life?”
You are never too young, too old, or too busy to make a difference. It is never too early or too late to start. You’ve just got to start somewhere.
2. Don’t despise your small beginnings
Mother Teresa once said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.’”
Many people think that in order to make a difference you need to do it big! On the contrary, I have come to realize that most of the time; it is the little things that make a big difference to others.
While distributing shoes at a village school in China, we met a 7-year-old girl. While other kids told us that their dreams were to become teachers, doctors, singers, or even “the next Bruce Lee”, this girl said that her dream was to have a pencil sharpener. I was caught by surprise. The team searched the entire school to find her a pencil sharpener. When we eventually found one, we went to her class and put it in her hands. I can remember, vividly, the expression on her face. She was so touched she was speechless. Who would have thought that something so small and seemingly unimportant like a pencil sharpener could actually mean the world to another person?
Your small beginnings may seem insignificant but they count. Sometimes, one is all it takes. Even if you just touch one person’s life, you have made a difference. Jesus promised that “if we are faithful with the little, much more will be added.”
3. Have a willing heart
God is not looking for a perfect vessel; He is looking for a yielded and willing vessel.
I remember Pastor Tan Ye Peng once sharing a message from 2 Timothy 2:20-21: “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.”
When Pastor Tan asked which vessel of honor we wanted to be, it was clear most of us thought the golden vessel would be ideal. But he went on to explain that it didn’t matter if we were gold, silver, wood or clay; rather, what was important was whether we were “useful for the Master.”
Think about it: most of the items we frequently use are made of humble materials like wood and clay, while the gold and silver things are kept away. In the Old Testament, some of the items in the Tabernacle were made of gold, some wood, some were of wood overlaid with gold. But every single piece of furniture was useful for the Master.
If we want to make a difference, we need to be willing to be used by God. Sometimes, we may not feel like we are a golden vessel or ready to be used by God, but we need to choose to yield to Him.
4. Stay humble
At the end of the day, humility will set apart those who eventually succeed in changing their generation. Humility means acknowledging that you have weaknesses, and that you have chosen to improve. It is about having a moldable heart and a teachable spirit.
Sure, you will make mistakes along the way, but a humble person will never stop learning from every experience—even the painful ones. We will fulfill God’s call for our lives when we choose to lean on Him and not our own strength.
I hope you will be encouraged by the words of the late E M Bounds, Christian author and lawyer: “The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.”
To date, Soule has donated 1,887 pairs of school shoes to low-income children across Asia. The founders have received numerous awards including the 2010 SIF Young Social Entrepreneur Competition, Stars of Shine 2011 and Yahoo Singapore 9, 2012. Read more about Soule at www.soule.com.sg