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The Vietnam Baptist Church building in Philadelphia was set ablaze Tuesday night during the second night of Black Lives Matter protests in the city after the police shooting of Walter Wallace on Monday.
Videos on social media revealed the sanctuary's inside torched as pieces of the walls were left in shambles. Insulation hung from the ceiling while floorboards were covered in debris.
Pastor Philip Pham received a call Tuesday night from a church member reporting flames as well as seven fire trucks surrounding the building with fire fighters attempting to extinguish the blaze.
“I have no idea why they attacked our church,” Pham told Baptist Press. “They burned it from the roof. They threw flammable chemicals on the roof and [flames] burned through the roof." The pastor described the damaged facility as a “total loss.”
Vietnam Baptist Church has served as a community center each weekday, providing assistance with immigration paperwork, taxes, and even marriage counseling.
More than 15 years of stored client information was located on three hard drives kept on the premise. Pham said he immediately prayed that the data was 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.”
Pham's prayers were answered. “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 congregation is still meeting mostly online due to strict COVID-19 restrictions in the city. On Wednesday, Pham called nearby schools for a place to host the church’s leadership team as the service is live streamed on Sunday.
“Remember us in your prayer in time of need like this,” he urged Southern Baptists. “The church members here 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. 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.”
In the wake of widespread violence in his town, Pham encouraged youth pastors to stress to young people the words of James 1:20, in which, “The anger of man does not bring about the righteousness of God.”
“You cannot use your anger and be justified,” he stated. “I would like to bring this message to all the young people.”
Amid rampant looting, the pastor encouraged churchgoers to look to eternal guidance. “So many things we don’t know, but God knows, so just trust God,” he emphasized. “Just do right. Don’t copy [the unruly], 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.”