Guarding big stars introduced army man to underworld crime
Ex-army macho man and professional bodyguard Billy Gilvear watched his family life and career spiral down the drain into drug addiction before something unexpected brought him back.
Billy had it all, a beautiful wife and children plus a career guarding big stars like Naomi Campbell, the Bee Gees, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mel Gibson.
It was, however, through this lifestyle among celebrities that he was introduced to drugs – dealing, and running with gangsters. As a consequence, he eventually lost his job and got divorced.
"I was homeless and at the point of suicide when I saw what I had become and how desperate my situation was," he explains looking back.
As a young boy, Billy had craved attention from his missionary parents who were working in the Congo but, feeling neglected, he escaped resentfully to the army at the age of 16.
"I hated God, Christians and church and all I ever wanted to do was leave home and find adventure," he admits.
Billy found adventure in his successful career in the army, spending time in Glasgow as an acting second lieutenant then at the Regimental History Office of the Highland Fusiliers.
"During this time of relative ease, after all the rigors of army life, I started to envy the people that worked in the offices around me," he says.
"Their lives seemed so easy compared with mine and it seemed to me that they enjoyed tremendous freedom as well as greater financial rewards."
Leaving the army, Billy sought further fulfilment in his family life and budding career as a celebrity bodyguard but the void remained. He tried to fill this with drugs.
Powerless to stop his life and marriage from unravelling into despair and divorce, Billy checked himself into rehab on a farm.
One morning he was hit by the smell of the polish as he stumbled into the little farm kitchen, feeling spaced out, and recalls finding a lady named Nancy shining up a big brass kettle.
"The kettle had become properly tarnished so that you could not see the original color but as she polished the underlying brass began to blaze in my view as it came up sparkling clean," Billy recalls.
Suddenly he felt wide awake and recalls hearing an inaudible voice clearly say twice: "Billy Gilvear, this kettle is your life!"
"Somehow I just knew that this was God speaking to me even though I had not heard Him for ages, if ever before," he says.
"I knew what God was trying to tell me. My life had become a tarnished mess and I needed a power greater than myself to clean me up, just like Nancy was renovating that kettle."
He realized for the first time that there was hope and God had not given up on him.
"All of a sudden the verses that I had learnt as a child came flooding back into my mind," he says.
He suddenly recalled his father's favorite verse, John chapter 3 verse 16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son [Jesus], that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."
"Jesus said, 'I am the Way the Truth and the Life: no man comes to the Father except by Me', and 'I have come that you might have life in all its fullness'," Billy remembered.
"I finally realized I couldn't kick the habit on my own and let God pull me out of the pit."
After accepting God's free gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ, Billy says he felt a sense of happiness that he had never experienced before in his life, or even on drugs.
"My whole being was overwhelmed with love and joy," he describes. "The empty void inside me was beginning to be filled up with something good.
"I knew that I was changed. The old had gone and the new had come. God had spoken to me and made his love real to me and I was utterly convinced that my life would never be the same again."
Later Billy found out that Nancy had been praying for God to speak to him and reveal His unconditional love.
It took years, but through detox and a series of other events Billy went on to train as a minister, and now works as the Regional Director for a youth ministry called Eden in Manchester.
His book, titled Storming Home, is now available on Amazon and goes into greater depths about his incredible life journey which led him to declare gratefully, "Thank God, Jesus met me and turned my life around." •