COFFEE FOR CHRIST
By Ong Juat Heng
Joseph Tan’s faith so saturates his life that he has even turned coffee – his business – into the acronym for “Christ Offers Forgiveness For Everyone Everywhere”.
“I want the aroma of Christ in the coffee we sell,” quips the Managing Director of Chek Hup Malaysia, prominent for its instant white coffee.
A compelling motivation to this faith-soaked life is Matthew 6:33, which has driven Joseph to always put God first, knowing He will take care of the rest. Joseph, 42, learned this even before he started out his career in his family’s business through his sister’s demon possession experience (read about this here – POSSESSED).
Then, his sister Ai Kheng had been set free from the diabolical spirits that had tormented her for 10 years, but out of the blue she started hearing voices again. “We thought she was clean already and didn’t understand what was going on. At that time, our core business was producing rock sugar and God revealed to us that one of the by-products from the rock sugar production was being sold to people who used it to worship idols,” Joseph shared.
“We stopped that business and from then on, my sister was completely free.”
In obeying God by terminating the business, the Tan family not only experienced Ai Kheng’s total deliverance but also the blessing of a new business that had taken the company to prominence today.
Joseph explained: “One day, while experimenting with different types of sugar, we accidentally developed coffee sugar. That’s when we decided to go into the instant coffee business. On hindsight, I realise that when we cut off the business that was displeasing to God, He led us into an even more profitable business.”
And profitable the company has been. From RM7-RM8 million yearly turnover in their rock sugar business in the 1990s, Chek Hup’s yearly turnover is now about RM100 million. Joseph oozed with gratitude to God for this “blessing that has exceeded our wildest dream”.
Blessed to be a blessing
As the business grew, so did his realisation grow that God’s blessing is not meant for their selfish pleasure but as a resource for His kingdom. This realisation became a conviction while he was preparing his eulogy for his father’s funeral in 2014. He came across Matthew 5:16 that impressed on him to let God’s light shine through their good deeds and so glorify Father God in heaven.
The following year, at the company 50th anniversary, he announced that the company would start contributing 1% of its annual profit to charitable and Kingdom work and increase the contribution by 1% every year until the amount hits 10%. Since then, the company has tied up with Christian organisations such as World Vision to help the needy and build God’s kingdom.
Blessing to the staff
Internally, within the company, Joseph shines God’s light on his local staff and foreign workers, as reflected in the company’s core value, “We value lives.” The staff’s personal development and well-being are therefore big on his agenda.
“Sometimes, we have staff who do not perform well in their position due to a mismatch in their skills and responsibilities. Instead of letting them go, we look for their strengths and put them where they can flourish with their skills. We don’t mind spending more to retain the mismatched staff because when we value life, there’s trust, respect and security in the company,” he pointed out.
He added that when the staff feel valued and secure in the company, they will be inspired to work harder and this in turn will help drive up the profit.
Joseph did not hide the fact that most of the senior heads of departments in his company are Christians. Regular group prayer meetings among them are important to him as they commit their business to God. As he had witnessed God’s presence in delivering his sister from demon possession, he also wants the staff to personally witness the difference when God’s presence is in the company.
As a coffee manufacturer, Chek Hup employs many foreign workers from Myanmar, Nepal, Bangladesh and Vietnam. Here, he does not let up on the opportunity to share the gospel with them.
“We partner with pastors from the various nationalities. They are involved in our sports ministry where every Sunday evening, we take our migrant workers out for sports. During their sports activities, the pastors will connect with them,” the chemical engineer graduate said.
Asked what challenges he faces in his coffee business, Joseph admitted that it is hard to balance profit and quality. A good bottom line is necessary to remunerate his staff well and yet, the quality of his products is something he cannot compromise on. It is a fine line to tow and Joseph daily turns to God for wisdom to make decisions that have great repercussions on his staff’s lives.
Meanwhile, he is also working on plans to develop a coffee tourism showcase in his factory in Ipoh. Besides attracting tourists, he wants to share the story of God’s delivering his sister from demonic powers through the exhibit.
Despite his hectic work life, he makes it a priority to spend time with his wife and two sons Joshua, 12, and Jonathan, 9. “The most important legacy I can leave to my sons is God’s Word. When they know God’s Word, they can stand firmly and seek His path for them on their own.
“We try to have family devotion a few days a week where we read the Bible and I share with them my experiences based on the Scripture passage we have read. We need God’s Word to guide us on the path that pleases him,” he concluded.