The Dark Forest

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

A decade ago Chris Iannotti picked up his first Bible in Cook County Jail. He was an addict and would’ve been a shoo-in for the “most likely to do hard time,” award. It didn’t matter that the world saw trash because God saw a treasure. What he read in that Bible started a ripple effect that is causing big waves in our local region.

After his conversion, Iannotti came here for a new life. He wrestled, sometimes unsuccessfully, with his past, but by placing trust in Jesus, he kept gaining ground. Then one day he read the mandate of Jesus to “made disciples.” Iannotti answered the call and founded Darkhorse Ministries. He chose the name because the Darkhorse is the one least likely to win, but when it does, the payoff is enormous. I don’t think he knew prophetic that name was.

The Darkhorse crew is one of the quickest growing “clubs” in the area. They are easy to spot. They are the ones that just rode by on their Harleys, covered in tattoos and wearing leather. But there is no need to run home and lock the doors, they are probably on their way to play bingo with the local VA residents or visit the Mt. Vernon Children’s Home.

Iannotti’s vision of ministry was to use Darkhorse as a “ministry brokerage” that would love the people who are falling through the cracks, and find creative ways to meet their needs. Their group has done hurricane relief, jail ministry, veterans support, children’s home visits, and most of all, addiction recovery. This is the group that will love your wayward child and bankrupt themselves to get them into rehab.

On a typical Friday night, you can find Iannotti’s second in command, Stephanie “Boog” Brugger down at Gateway handing out Bibles and sharing the love of Jesus. Standing proudly at just over 4’9, Stephanie is my Tiny Giant, because of her enormous heart.

Born with spina bifida, Stephanie was a Darkhorse from the start. Her parents were told to she would die without surgery and suggested they put her up for adoption. She beat the odds and has turned every disadvantage life dished out into a platform for love. This tiny dynamo creates opportunities to serve others. Quite often accompanied by Darkhorse member, Andrew Woolzy.

Andrew came from a background of faith but nearly lost his life to addiction. Eventually, his addiction cost him his license, job, home, and marriage, but he came back swinging for the fences. Radically saved, sober, and full of love for others, Andrew is now on the front-lines fighting for the Kingdom. You can find him leading Bible studies for Darkhorse, visiting Gateway, or when stuck at home, using social media to encourage others.

Last week I said our role as believers is to be Oaks of Righteousness, aka Tree #4, and let Jesus have the starring role. Darkhorse Ministries is my Dark Forest of Tree #4’s. In case you want to visit them, they just opened a new “Stable” at 210 East Union in Marion. Drop by a Bible study at 7 pm Monday thru Wednesday , or you can hit an AA meeting on Tuesday morning at 10:30 or an NA meeting at 10:30 on Thursday mornings. Worship Saturdays nights are starting soon and will be at 5 pm. Trust me, you will be made to feel at home. Everyone is welcomed and accepted. If you have a need, or just want to call for prayer, give them a call at 618-969-7275.