The Mississippi River peaked at nearly 48 feet, just shy of an all-time record on Tuesday in Memphis, but the story is far from over for many residents in Elvis’ hometown.
Three days after the waters hit hard, Janae Murdock serves as witness to the up-close-and personal effect the flooding has had on over a hundred people. She’s not a Red Cross employee, or manager of a hotel, but she is helping to run a shelter…in her church.
“We have 126 individuals assigned to our shelter,” she tells BET.com. Murdock serves as lead pastor at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis.
“Each of our residents receives three meals a day. They’re pretty much living here and receive food, transportation and even entertainment,” she says.
Serving comes as nothing new to Mississippi Boulevard. It has an extensive mission ministry providing food for 1,000 families every month and helping victims of alcohol abuse. Through its many other community programs and services, there’s no doubt that the church has a very strong presence in the community.
So what makes this experience different from helping a family who may fall on hard economic times, or from helping a homeless individual every so often?
“These are residents of Memphis. They may be here up to six weeks. We realize that this is not a short temporary one, or two, or three day situation,” the lead pastor explains.
The church sits about five miles from where the waters still rest. The average height of the river in the Memphis area is currently 25.9 feet and the area is expected to suffer up to $753 million in damages as a result of the historic flood, according to a preliminary estimate from Ball State University.
Though none of the church members were displaced, the church has been able to rally members to serve as medical practitioners, drivers, cooks and volunteers, around the clock.
Mississippi Boulevard is not federally funded, but it is part of an initiative called Shelby Cares. Operating not only through churches, but synagogues too, Shelby Cares has established an interfaith-community to provide for Memphis inhabitants during their time of need. "We believe that's what the faith-based community should be about," Craig Strickland, senior pastor at Hope Presbyterian and coordinator of Shelby Cares told NPR.
Of the hard times some residents may be facing, Murdock says, “It has been an amazing experience to be able help.”
(Photo: Courtesy of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church)