A Vietnamese Baptist Church was one of many local buildings targeted for violence and destruction during the chaotic protests in Philadelphia this week in response to the death of a black man who had been shot by police on Monday.
On Tuesday night, Pastor Philip Pham received a phone call that there were flames at his church and that fire trucks had arrived on the scene.
Early the next morning, the Philadelphia Fire Department posted a brief report of the night’s activities to Twitter:
“I have no idea why they attacked our church,” Pastor Pham said. “They burned it from the roof. They threw flammable chemicals on the roof and (flames) burned through the roof.”
The building is “a total loss”, according to Pastor Pham, but he explained that he is thankful for the saving of three hard drives full of 15 years’ worth of ministry information.
From the Baptist Press:
Of primary concern to Pham were three hard drives. Since before purchasing the building in 2005, Vietnam Baptist Church has served as something of a community center each weekday, providing help with immigration paperwork, taxes and even marriage counseling.
More than 15 years’ worth of information about hundreds of clients is on hard drives kept at the church. Pham said when he got the call about the fire, he immediately began praying that the hard drives would be spared.
“I prayed right away: ‘God, please protect the hard drives,’” Pham recalled. “Other stuff can be recovered. But those files will never be recovered.”
When firefighters finally let him in after the blaze was extinguished, Pham said he was amazed.
“I saw the routers and modems and things surrounding the hard drives all burned, melted,” he said. “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.”
The church has been meeting online due to COVID-19 restrictions and is now in search of a building from which they can livestream their services.
“You can sense the heartfelt frustration and concern,” said Peter Yanes, executive director of Asian American relations with the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. Yanes has been in contact with the church since the fire.
“I have encouraged (Pham) and prayed with his family that God has a higher purpose of them rising to the occasion with a testimony of hope in Christ Jesus,” Yanes said.
President and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, Ronnie Floyd, has also expressed his sadness about the church’s situation:
“We are praying for Pastor Pham as he seeks to rebuild and to minister to the community. 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.”
Pastor Pham is encouraging his congregation to respond to the city’s unrest with love and prayer, rather than feeding the current violence and destruction.
“So many things we don’t know,” Pham said, “but God knows, so just trust God. 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.”