While having coffee with a businessman in his church’s men’s group, Malaysia Director Willie Chai shared the work and vision of FCA in his country. His friend, Mr. Ng, caught the vision, believed in what FCA Malaysia was doing and wanted to help. A prominent businessman in Selangor, Mr. Ng owned numerous commercial buildings, including the shopping center where they had their conversation. Might there be room in a building for FCA Malaysia to have a presence?
Mr. Ng thought so.
“What was intended to be a short coffee shop catch up turned into a half an afternoon conversation,” shared Chai.
An avid cyclist, Chai constructed the perfect plan to meet practical needs in the cycling world while providing a place for relationship-building and community: a bike shop.
They drafted details for a first-floor space in the shopping mall that happened to have a shop opening. Mr. Ng and his business associates also happened to offer the shop rent free, and this shop space also happened to be the only one that has front entry, making it convenient for people to drop off and pick up bikes instead of having to weave through the mall. The shop space has 950 square feet—perfect for not only a bike shop, but community space as well.
“I could see God preparing that place for us,” Chai said.
With Mr. Ng’s blessing and buy-in from Southeast Asia Vice President William Chang, Chai and his teammates got to work renovating and planning their social enterprise. 17 Spokes was born.
The back half of the space is a workshop to service multiple bikes at a time, and the front half will be an area with tables and chairs where the cycling community can gather. “We’ll offer talks about cycling, the safety and procedures of it and have our little ‘Huddle’ group,” said Chai.
One of the soccer coaches in FCA Malaysia is a match referee and will host training on learning to be a linesman and offer opportunities to find work refereeing soccer matches for an income. This aligns with the vision of 17 Spokes, which operates as a nonprofit center, or social enterprise, as it’s referred to in Malaysia.
For FCA leaders and volunteers, many of the soccer teams have players from refugee areas. Family and economic situations put athletes into situations where they are unable to finish high school or go to college and start to look for work to help their families. This can get young athletes into trouble and lead to a lack of life direction and sense of purposelessness.
Chai wants 17 Spokes to provide jobs for soccer athletes and train them in greatly needed bike repair skills. “Cycling is popular in Malaysia, and there is a shortage of bikes and repair shops,” he said. “People are waiting for their bikes to be fixed, so there is high demand for repair. “
Along with supplying a need, Chai said they will also be training workers to learn about the technology that goes along with repair, “all the hydraulics and measurements and precision.” A cycling friend who, although not yet a believer but understands FCA Malaysia’s vision, will be the head of service and train and teach bike repair.
With the repair, providing for refugee families and creating a community space, it’s a win-win endeavor.
“We charge repairs and maintain good quality, and from the transactions, we pay the worker his wages, cover cost of raw good and materials and the rest of the net profit goes back into the ministry of FCA Malaysia to grow the ministry,” said Chai.
“This is bringing different community groups together,” he added. “It’s a win for the mall, bringing crowds and business, it’s a win for ministry and it’s a win for the teens.”
17 Spokes is in renovation mode with a completion by the end of October, and Chai couldn’t be happier at the way God has made a way to reach the heart of the Selangor community. “One thing we really prayed for was ministry and funds to run the ministry. This bike repair shop is an answer; it helps sustainability.”
Chai also noted God’s hand along the journey, from Mr. Ng’s gracious generosity, to the ideal shop setting and the opportunity to invest in and bless young refugees, disadvantaged youth, and their families, while sustaining community among cyclists that provide openings for connection and conversation.
“God is all over. Our plans can only go so far, then He elevates.”
Would you like to partner with FCA Malaysia as they build out 17 Spokes? Support 17 Spokes here.
Pray for 17 Spokes to provide genuine community and impact not just through the athletic world, but around the city, as well as it to be profitable in sustainability to pour back into ministry.
Photos courtesy of FCA Malaysia