Rev Kim Goh is the Minister for Maghull Methodist Church in Liverpool. He preaches about how God forgives a person no matter how ‘bad’ they have been, citing examples from the scriptures such as Paul, or the criminal who was hung next to Jesus on the cross. The message is that no one is beyond redemption and is made even more powerful by Kim’s testimony about his own past of being a big triad boss. Rev Goh shares his amazing story with Nee Hao Magazine’s readers.
Power. Money. Ambition.
These motives became obsessions that drove Kim Goh to pursue a life fuelled by anger and gang violence, to the point of being a leader in a triad organisation.
But after 31 August 1985 – when God wrought a dramatic change in his life in a prison shower room – these negative influences ceased to hold any further attraction for him. Now Jesus is the only Lord and Master that matters to Kim; all his energies are channelled into work as a Methodist minister in Liverpool, and telling people about the gospel of love.
Kim’s story begins in Singapore, where he was born into a middle class Buddhist family in 1949. ‘In our culture the young are taught to respect their elders at home and school, so my childhood was one of very strict discipline. I wasn’t very happy; there wasn’t much love in my relationship with my parents. My father was like an Old Testament patriarch figure, and I didn’t spend much time with him.’
From an early age
Around the age of 11, a school friend invited him to a youth club at a Pentecostal Church. Kim initially went along so that his friend would be rewarded with a promised Mickey Mouse eraser, but decided to join. When the church pastor went on a year’s sabbatical, his successor had a different set of rules which didn’t impress Kim. ‘He didn’t measure up to my idea of how a Christian should behave. I was disappointed with what I perceived as a “white man’s religion” and left the church, but that impression stayed with me for a very long time.
‘I was 15 or 16 by then, and the very heavy discipline at school caused my inner anger and frustration to build up. Eventually that pressure burst out into fighting and gang violence. I became a very rebellious angry young man, and that anger lasted until I became a Christian.
‘I started work at an insurance company, where I met George. He was the first person who had ever treated me with kindness and care, as an equal. But he was also a con man, and from him I learnt how to listen, observe and play on people’s weaknesses in order to exploit them. I got very good at it!
‘Outside work I was involved with some gangs – partly to get away from the discipline and lack of communication at home. I left at 19, after a confrontation with my father. I was young and very arrogant, I had gambling debts, and wanted to start a new life somewhere else. I was also having an affair with a married woman – we were planning to go to Australia together but she decided to stay with her husband, so I took off to Thailand instead.
‘I was already conscious that there was something missing from my life, but had no idea what it was. I just knew it wasn’t complete in some way, but didn’t realise what it was till after my conversion.’
Constantly on the move from place to place, Kim gradually conned and cheated his way around Europe and the USA. ‘I was very restless, always looking for adventure, and bored easily. In Rotterdam I tried to join the Merchant Navy or get a job on ocean liners – but unfortunately that fell through because I got seasick!
‘I decided to try London, and got a job with a Chinese boss who professed to be a Christian. He didn’t practise his faith either – in fact, he exploited me. So I taught him a lesson by using him as a guarantor for a bank account and cheating the bank out of a lot of money which he was held responsible, and buying a ticket to New York. I lived a hippy-type existence, working my way across the States – usually as a croupier or bouncer – to fund my gambling habit. As my debts mounted, I got an extra job on the docks. On pay day, a big guy asked me for $20 protection money; there was no way I’d pay it, so I hit him hard with a metal fish hook and left town.
‘In California I did so well at my next job that I was soon promoted and sent to Hawaii. That was a wonderful time! I met an investment man who thought I belonged to a rich banking family, but who I sensed was trying to con me. I played along for a while, then forged his signature on a cheque for £50,000 dollars. It was time to move on again.
Drinking, womanising, and gambling
‘I remember spreading a world map on the floor and throwing a knife on it to decide where to go next. It landed on Portugal, where I carried on drinking, womanising, and gambling; I lost $20,000 on my second night at the Estoril Casino in Portugal.’
Eventually Kim ended up in London, helping to run a chain of restaurants. ‘My working life was very successful, but I was still looking for that elusive ‘something’ to fill the vacuum in my life. The only way I knew was the “quick fix” numbing effect of drink, money and power.’
A new friendship with a male which accelerated his interest in the occult and black magic. ‘I read lots of books on the subject, hoping they could show me how to be Number One – like God!’
In London he also became heavily involved with the triads, an ancient secret society which had its beginnings in Chinese village life. Kim explains: ‘Robbers and brigands used to steal harvest crops from the villages. The problem got so bad that villages got together and formed groups of young men to protect them. It worked so well that the villagers shared their harvest with their protectors. These groups got bigger and more powerful, and began to demand money from the villages for their services. Where there’s a Chinese community, there’s bound to be a triad – and they’re still very powerful. Each culture has its own kind.
Personal bodyguard to the triad godfather
As personal bodyguard to the triad godfather, Kim was often required to use violence. ‘I’ve chased a man around Piccadilly Circus with an ice pick, fought with machetes, and beaten people up, but one particular incident had a big effect on me. One of our men was stabbed to death by a rival gang. This was seen to have brought dishonour to us, and caused open warfare on the streets for a time.’
Kim greatly regrets the violence he was involved in. ‘By the grace of God, I’ve had to come to terms with the terrible things I did otherwise I couldn’t face myself in the mirror every day. It was a way of life; I didn’t know anything else. I only knew how to con and cheat people for a living. I reasoned that restaurant and casino owners had taken enough of my money, so I’d take some of theirs! I had an obsession with power and a need to hurt people. I had money and status, but no inner peace.
By 1985 Kim had become a leader in the triad circles. ‘I was sent to Glasgow to collect some protection money. Then I moved on to Exeter, where I was arrested in a hotel on 28 August. It was totally unexpected.’ Kim was taken to Sheffield, appeared before the Crown Court and put on remand.
‘I learnt afterwards that the detectives had missed me in Glasgow by a couple of hours. Someone had betrayed me to the police; I was furious, and vowed to find out who it was.
‘I quickly learnt that if I volunteered to clean up the prison shower room, I got a couple of hours out of my cell. Going to the chapel got me another hour’s freedom. I was asked if I was C of E or Catholic; I thought that ‘C of E’ sounded posh, so that’s what I said. I didn’t really listen to the service but enjoyed singing the last hymn. On the way out I asked the chaplain what it was called and he told me, ‘Amazing Grace’.
‘There were lots of reading books there, and I was told I could borrow two. I chose The Cross and the Switchblade, and was still looking for another when the chaplain asked me to hurry up. I didn’t like his tone, so I threw the book at him and told him – not very politely! – where to put it. I stomped off to the shower room, cursing him, the royal family, the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury – working up to the highest authority. God was the boss of all these people, so I started cursing him too.
‘Then I heard a voice saying, “Kim, why are you swearing at me?” I thought someone was taking the mickey, but no one was taking any notice of me. So I swore at God again – and again, I heard his voice speaking to me. This time the Holy Spirit came down upon me. It was as if my life flashed before me: all the shameful things I’d done, the people I’d hurt and bullied.. From that moment I only wanted to know about God, my new Master – nothing else mattered. Everything was different. He showed me what life could be like, and it was just tremendous. At last I knew the reason for that big vacuum in my life, which I had tried to fill with power and violence but which God had filled with his love.
‘I went round telling everyone what had happened. The prison officials thought I’d gone barmy, the prison governor gave me 10 days’ solitary confinement. I didn’t care – I had a wonderful time, speaking with God 24/7. I had no Bible to read, but I was so at peace with myself. I’d never been so happy before! I knew it was something beyond me, someone mighty and powerful, yet who wanted to communicate and share himself with me. I no longer cared who had betrayed me to the police; I forgave them. It just didn’t matter anymore.’
The 15 months he spent in prison enabled Kim to study and develop his Christian faith. After release he linked up with a Methodist and a Free Baptist Church, was baptised and eventually trained at Bible College. He has been a Methodist minister for over ten years.
‘I used to be very driven by power and anger, but now I am using that same passion and energy to serve God, my Master. I live for him alone. My one desire is to reach out to everyone and tell them about his love.’
You can read Kim’s story in Conquering the Dragon, published by Authentic at £6.99.