So a Priest Walks Into a Bar…

Written by: Shalom Bhatti

“Why of all the cities in the U.S., are you travelling to Buffalo?”, the interrogating U.S. border patrol officer at the airport questioned.

“Good question”, I thought to myself.

My Two Weeks at Steps

My name is Shalom, I work in Birmingham (UK) as a high school Science teacher, as well as a youth leader at my Church. A year earlier, the Holy Spirit prompted me:

“You will be working in New York as a teacher”.

The thought had never occurred to me before. I had never been to the U.S. Following prayer, wise counsel, an much deliberation, I pursued this divine leading. I decided I should visit and volunteer with a youth ministry in Buffalo for 2 weeks before I take the eventual leap to emigrating there. How do you explain that to an increasingly impatient airport official?

After a gruelling wait and incessant questioning at the U.S. border patrol, I was finally released to continue the journey to where God wanted to take me.

These past two weeks with Steps have met and exceeded my expectations for what God would show me and do through me. My time has seen me direct parking at a countryside fair, toss a burning torch to a fire juggler at said fair, get soaked by the Niagara Falls, and pray with a college student at the University at Buffalo as well as with a retired Reverend.

So a Priest Walks Into a Bar

One particular instance I fondly recall is when I felt a leading to venture into a bar as I walked the streets one day. Having never been in a bar before, I was hesitant, yet obedient. Inside was dark and suffocating.

“May I have a bottle of water please?”, I timidly requested the bartender, who returned a perplexed glance before getting my order.

“Why am I here Lord”, I prayed under my breath. “Use me”.

After making light conversation with those around me, and sharing with them that I was involved in youth work, I was introduced to an elderly gentleman taking shots.

“Hi”, he warmly greeted, “I’m a Franciscan priest”.

I wasn’t expecting that. He shared how he used to minister to young drug addicts in Buffalo and provide food for needy families. I got to share my testimony of God’s love with him, and invited him to the Steps church. He was greatly encouraged by our encounter and will hopefully return to working for the Lord.

Serving Inner-City Youth

On Fridays, I worked with the Steps youth group and had the privilege of sharing how God accepts us, not because of our actions, but due to our faith in His Son. I got a glimpse at some differences between these young people and those across the pond, but I also saw that intimate relationship with the Father is our most desperate and fundamental need. 

I thank God for the opportunity to minster God’s love those around me, and am thankful for the Steps team for ministering to me in my time here. I have received much guidance from Ben and from the Lord which I will apply to my youth work in the UK. I pray that the vision God has laid on Ben’s heart grows at an unprecedented rate, and that I will be able to relocate here soon.