During the second night of violent riots and protests in Philadelphia this week, arsonists set ablaze the sanctuary belonging to a Vietnamese church.
Pastor Philip Pham of Vietnam Baptist Church said he received a call late Tuesday night from a church member whose friend saw the flames and a group of seven fire trucks trying to extinguish the blaze, Baptist Press reported.
The violence began unfolding after the death of a black man fatally shot by police who were called to the scene when the alleged assailant was seen brandishing a knife. Despite repeated requests by officers for the man to put down his knife, he allegedly refused and began moving toward them.
Pham told the outlet he has “no idea” why rioters set his church’s sanctuary on fire Tuesday night.
“They burned it from the roof; they threw flammable chemicals on the roof and [flames] burned through the roof,” he said, describing the damaged facility as a “total loss.”
Despite the destruction, though, God still answered his prayers.
The preacher said his primary concern after learning the sanctuary was on fire was the preservation of three hard drives, which were stored at the church and housed 15 years’ worth of immigration paperwork, tax filings, and marriage counseling documents. Since before purchasing the facility in 2005, Vietnam Baptist Church has served the community by helping local residents with immigration matters.
“I prayed right away, ‘God, please protect the hard drives,'” Pham said. “Other stuff can be recovered. But those files will never be recovered.”
He said he was amazed by what he saw when he arrived at the church.
“I saw the routers and modems and things surrounding the hard drives all burned, melted,” he 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.”
Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee, said he was “deeply saddened” to learn about Pham’s church building.
“We are praying for Pastor Pham as he seeks to rebuild and to minister to the community,” he said in a statement earlier this week. “We must pray that our churches who are caught in the middle of senseless violence can be a light for the Gospel in their cities.”
Pham, for his part, is asking for prayer because his congregants “need encouragement.”
“The majority of us have very strong faith in Christ, but a minority, a few new believers, they need their faith to grow,” he said. “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.”
Though church services have been held almost exclusively online due to ongoing coronavirus pandemic restrictions in the city, Pham said Wednesday he is calling schools in the area in hopes of finding a place to host the church’s leadership team for their Sunday livestreams.
Pham is also encouraging youth pastors to reach out to young people in the area, asking them to profess the words written in James 1:20, which reads, “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.”
“You cannot use your anger and be justified,” the preacher explained. “I would like to bring this message to all the young people.”
While President Donald Trump has condemned the death of suspected assailant Walter Wallace, Jr., he has also called for an end to the destructive rioting unfolding across Philadelphia.
“What I’m witnessing is terrible, and frankly, the mayor or whoever it is that’s allowing people to riot and loot and not stop them is just a horrible thing,” the president said this week, offering to deploy National Guard troops to help quell the violent unrest.
Leaders have invoked a citywide 9 p.m. curfew.