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Va. Beach tragedy: Bapt. church mourns loss

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (BP) — A Virginia Baptist church is mourning the loss of one of its own in the wake of a mass shooting that left 12 dead in a Virginia Beach office building on Friday (May 31).

The tragedy also opened the door for Virginia pastor David Platt to share the Gospel as he prayed over President Donald Trump during an unexpected visit from Washington, D.C., to nearby McLean Bible Church in Vienna on Sunday morning (June 2).

In Virginia Beach, former London Bridge Baptist Church member Herbert “Bert” Snelling was shot and killed as DeWayne Craddock made his way through Building 2 of the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, opening fire on his former colleagues. Craddock, a veteran city engineer, had emailed his resignation letter that morning, and his boss — Richard H. Nettleton — was found among the dead. Craddock too died in a shootout with police, leaving authorities still searching for a motive for the massacre, according to CNN.

Greg Brinson, pastor of London Bridge Baptist Church, told those present at a prayer vigil June 1 that he has been in Virginia Beach for more than 30 years and “the last 26 hours have been the worst I can remember.”

His church welcomed the community to gather and pray that night for friends and neighbors affected by the tragedy.

Snelling’s family was among those. Snelling was a member of the London Bridge Baptist congregation before joining another church in the area. He was known as a devoted follower of Jesus, a loving husband and a committed community member.

A contractor, Snelling had used his skills for London Bridge Baptist’s local and international missions efforts, building houses in Guatemala and doing home and roof repairs locally. He was the only victim who wasn’t a city employee — he was in the municipal building to get a permit that day, according to the Virginian-Pilot.

Brian Autry, executive director of the SBC of Virginia, said he and other Baptists “continue to pray for all of the families impacted by the shooting and that God will provide comfort and peace that only He can provide.”

In the hours and days since the shooting, pastors and lay chaplains have mobilized to Virginia Beach and the larger region to offer ministry to grieving families and the community, Autry said.

Members of London Bridge Baptist have been among those hard at work.

Brinson said his church was praying for the victims’ families, first responders and city employees and for the Gospel to permeate the city.

“As we sat in a middle school cafeteria [the night of the shooting] waiting with families and friends gathered there to hear the fate of their loved ones, no one was talking about cars or homes or social issues, all that was stripped away,” Brinson said. “We were dealing with life and death and faith. As I looked around, the Lord impressed on my heart the tremendous need for the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, to be shared throughout our city.”

Unexpected visit

Following the shooting, President Trump made an unannounced visit to McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Va., about 15 miles outside of Washington D.C., “to visit with the pastor and pray for the victims and community of Virginia Beach,” said Judd Deere, White House spokesperson.

Earlier in the week, Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, had posted a video on Twitter calling Christians to pray for the president on June 2.

Platt said he found out about the visit just minutes before Trump arrived and, citing 1 Timothy 2:1-6, decided that it was “good, and pleasing in the sight of God, to pray for the president” — a “unique opportunity,” not a political one, he wrote in an online letter to the church later that day.

Backstage with Trump, he and another McLean pastor “spoke the Gospel in a way that I pray was clear, forthright, and compassionate,” Platt wrote. Then he spoke the Gospel message again in his prayer with the church.

“God, we pray that he (Trump) would know how much You love him — so much that You sent Jesus to die for his sins, our sins — so we pray that he would look to You, that he would trust in You, that he would lean on You,” Platt prayed. “That he would govern and make decisions in ways that are good for justice, and good for righteousness, and good for equity, every good path.”