The riots in Philadelphia have caused major damage to businesses; at least 200 stores have been looted since the civil unrest erupted this week. For whatever reason, rioters targeted the Vietnam Baptist Church in Philadelphia, and set fire to the building on Tuesday night.
Vietnam Baptist Church Pastor Philip Pham told the Baptist Press, "I have no idea why they attacked our church. They burned it from the roof. They threw flammable chemicals on the roof and [flames] burned through the roof."
Despite the church being a "total loss," the pastor is grateful for a small miracle amidst the destruction.
Pham received a phone call on Tuesday night from a friend informing him that the church was on fire and there were seven fire trucks there to attempt to put out the blaze. Pham deemed that one thing in the church was irreplaceable: three hard drives containing important information.
Before the purchase of the building, the Vietnam Baptist Church served as a community center, which provided assistance with immigration paperwork, taxes, and marriage counseling. More than 15 years of notable documents were on those hard drives.
"I prayed right away: 'God, please protect the hard drives,'" Pham recalled. "Other stuff can be recovered. But those files will never be recovered."
Pham rushed to the church, which was already charred and destroyed.
A Vietnamese Baptist church was burned in Philadelphia last night. The Pastor says they poured a chemical acceleran… https://t.co/Cg8meRpEwj— Kitty Shackleford (@Kitty Shackleford) 1603940166.0
The building of Vietnam Baptist Church in Philadelphia was burned Tuesday night (Oct. 27) during the second night o… https://t.co/mVGVtx8zzg— Baptist Press (@Baptist Press) 1603924220.0
Despite the destruction to much of the Vietnamese Baptist church from the fire, the hard drives were unscathed – a small miracle bestowed during a time of dismaying anguish.
"I saw the routers and modems and things surrounding the hard drives all burned, melted," Pham recalled. "But that piece of hard drive, no harm. No harm at all. Just two feet above that, all melted. … That is amazing how God knows our needs and answers our prayers. He is an almighty God. He granted our prayer."
Following the burning down of the church and the looting in the city, Pham reminded everyone that rage is not the answer. Pham encouraged youth pastors to stress the words of James 1:20: "The anger of man does not bring about the righteousness of God."
"You cannot use your anger and be justified," Pham articulated. "I would like to bring this message to all the young people."
Pham had comforting words to his church members who were frightened and nervous about the turmoil in Philly.
"So many things we don't know, but God knows, so just trust God," Pham told his congregation. "Just do right. Don't copy [those who practice violence], but do what the Bible says and what He wants us to do. Love them and pray for them that they may know Christ, that the Holy Spirit may convict them and they may seek God."
The Vietnam Baptist Church had been mostly meeting online because of the city's stringent coronavirus restrictions. Pham was attempting to find a nearby school where he could host the church's livestream broadcast this Sunday.
"Remember us in your prayer in time of need like this. The church members here need encouragement," the pastor said. "The majority of us have very strong faith in Christ, but a minority, a few new believers, they need their faith to grow. Pray for their faith to take deep root in the love of God so they can be steadfast in Him. Not focus on the problem, but focus on Jesus. Please remember us in your prayers."