If there is a task too large for North Lake Community Church to attempt, pastor Ron Keener and the congregation of about 50 core members haven’t found it.
    The small church is more than determined than ever to impact Brown County after the stunning revelation 2 1/2 weeks ago that one of its members — a young man with sporadic attendance — had confessed to committing murder, Keener said.
    “It’s a beautiful grace story,” Keener said. “Our church is as unified and stronger than ever.”
    Thursday afternoon, Keener, his wife Elaine and church members Russell and Linda Lemond and Gary and Leah Mercer gathered at Good Samaritan Ministries (GSM) in downtown Brownwood, where they presented GSM with a check for $703.
     Church members raised the money in a Nov. 4 fundraiser outside Walmart. Church members and others who wanted to help wove small crosses, about 2 inches tall, and offered them to anyone in exchange for a donation to benefit GSM.
     The church hopes to raise a total of $5,000 by the end of next year to make up for a reduction in county funds GSM will receive in 2018.
    “Everybody helping each other … that’s what we’re trying to do,” Gary Mercer said. “Everybody’s trying to help each other here.”
    The small church, GSM Executive Director Leesa Stephens said, is “the hands and feet of God in their community.”
    
Funding loss
    When Brown County Commissioners Court members prepared the county’s budget for the 2017-’18 fiscal year, commissioners decided the county’s contribution to GSM will be $4,800. That’s a $9,200 reduction from last year’s amount of $14,000.
    That’s a fraction of GSM’s total budget, but that money goes to a single category GSM refers to as direct aid. Money in direct aid is used to help needy people with rent and utilities, Stephens said. In 2017, GSM’s direct aid budget amounted to $20,000.
    When North Lake Community Church members learned of the reduction, they decide to help.
    
‘A big goal for them’
    About 30 churches in Brown County contribute financially to GSM, and another 25 provide volunteers, Stephens said.
    “We totally exist because of the generosity of churches, business, schools and individuals in Brown County,” she said.
    Stephens acknowledged the significance of North Lake Community Church’s contribution. “For a little church of 40 people to have set this goal … this is a big goal for them,” Stephens said.
    When Stephens learned church members planned to raise money in the Nov. 4 fundraiser, she appreciated the effort — but, she admitted, she “undersold” the church.
    Stephens anticipated the church would raise maybe a couple of hundred dollars.
    “This is over $700,” Stephens said. “I appreciated what you were doing but I didn’t think much of it. It reminds me that a little is much …”
    “When God is in it,” the church members and their pastor replied in unison.
    “We could break out in that song right now,” Keener said. “It’s one of our signature songs at North Lake Community Church. Page 151 …”

It’s easy to ‘sit back and do nothing’
    GSM looks forward to the church partnership “mainly because we just believe that God is going to do something amazing, beyond what we can imagine,” Stephens said.
    Russell Lemond explained the motivation to help with fundraisers: “Just to be able to help out,” Lemond said. “It’s so easy to sit back and do nothing,
    “Just to be able to reach out and do something is just a blessing in itself, known we can help this ministry that helps others.”

‘A beautiful grace story’
    Despite. And because of.
    That’s how Keener described the congregation’s determination to move forward despite — and because of — church member Ryan Rigg’ confession of the murder of Chantay Blankinship, another parishioner.
    The church was left reeling after Riggs, 21, confessed during a Wednesday night service on Nov. 15 that he was the person responsible for Blankinship’s death on May 13, 2016.
    Riggs confessed later that night to sheriff’s officials and Texas Ranger Jason Shea and is charged with capital murder in the 25-year-old church choir member’s death.
    As the congregation processes the event, Keener said, church members recognize “the beauty of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in the process.
    “We’re not defeated.”