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He Walked in to Get a Permit, Walked Out With a 'Permit for Heaven': The Story of Shooting Victim Bert Snelling

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For Pastor Steve Lentz, the loss of one of the victims of Friday's mass shooting in Virginia Beach is personal.

Bert Snelling was a deacon in his church and his friend.

"You could always depend on him," said Lentz, who noted ironically that Snelling was one of two people who oversaw security at the church.

Lentz says that Snelling was very aware of his surroundings and would likely have noticed anything suspicious on Friday afternoon if given the opportunity.

"He would have been very alert," he said.

Lentz said that Snelling's strong faith was evidenced in his quiet, humble personality. He remembers him actively participating in the church's men's group.

"He would share his faith regularly and how it was impacting his business and the way it would inform how he did his work," the pastor said.

Lentz appeared on the 700 Club on Friday morning to talk about his new book The Business of Church.

He planned to fly to Florida on Saturday to speak at a conference, but those plans changed when Snelling lost his life on Friday afternoon.

"He went in to get a permit for an HVAC unit for a house he was supervising the building of," said Lentz. 

"He walked in, in the normal course of an ordinary day to get a permit, and he walked out with a permit for heaven."

Investigators are still working to identify a timeline of Friday's mass carnage. Little is known about the moments leading up to Snelling's death and the other victims' deaths.

Lentz says he hopes that the mass shooting will energize the community of faith to be more intentional about sharing the love of Christ.

"We're only here for a speck of time compared to eternity," he said, "so the issue is what is our purpose while we're here? Our purpose, while we're here, is to glorify God, love people, be the arms and the hands and the feet of Jesus and encourage people that there is an eternity waiting and that we should live for eternity."

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About The Author


Heather Sells covers wide-ranging stories for CBN News that include religious liberty, ministry trends, immigration, and education. She’s known for telling personal stories that capture the issues of the day, from the border sheriff who rescues migrants in the desert to the parents struggling with a child that identifies as transgender. In the last year, she has reported on immigration at the Texas border, from Washington, D.C., in advance of the Dobbs abortion case, at crisis pregnancy centers in Massachusetts, and on sexual abuse reform at the annual Southern Baptist meeting in Anaheim