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changing the stigma & story (behind every stage) of the cancer journey

Stages is the platform for the Cancer Family of Faith Initiative born out of The Grow Center located in Chicago. 


The Grow Center was born out of Northern Seminary in Chicago. The mission of The Grow Center is simple: every congregation has untapped resources, namely gifted people who are “sent ones” to our communities. These “sent ones” often bring new ideas to congregations — whether as entrepreneurial professionals, church planters, or pastors. In these days of a pandemic, starters can design innovative ministries to respond to a rapidly changing world. We are particularly interested in training congregations of color to engage their communities and empowering women to use their gifts. These potential cohort members are women and men from a diverse set of experiences, who share a passion to start new ventures. They are also centered on the person and presence of Jesus and His mission in the world. Our Fellows are practitioners from all seasons of life. Some are just getting started and some have decades of experience, but everyone has a vision to grow something new.


You can learn more about The Grow Center (named in honor of Brimson Grow 1909-2000) HERE.  Discover their diverse and prestigious faculty HERE. Learn about their ecosystem called Entrepreneurial Ministry Leader HERE.


Proud to Represent Cancer Family of Faith Initiative


We are proud to be representing the Cancer Family of Faith Initiative and having such a strong partnership with The Grow Center and Northern Seminary in Chicago. 


Our Mission: To provide a platform for cancer fighters, their families and friends and to start a much-needed conversation between them and the medical community, mental health community, employers, and businesses. This results in cancer fighters finding HOPE, regardless of their circumstances, and a COMMUNITY who demonstrates that they are not alone. 


Our Focus: It is better to start this by saying this very loudly: cancer is not our focus. The disease does not deserve any limelight!  HOPE is our focus. We recognize that cancer fighters and their families have so much to teach all of us.  Their lives can be some of the brightest lights for HOPE in our nation and ultimately the world. We will be telling their inspiring stories and giving them a platform to raise awareness and build HOPE that defeats cancer every time!


Light posts: As a cancer fighter, Pete Heiniger has embraced a message imparted to him by Ray Bakke: “There are so many light posts in our community already doing such good work. Our job should not be to “copy and replicate what they are doing” but rather to shine a light on them and help them scale and grow, for they are the experts...they have Ph.D’s in serving and loving our communities! Let them lead us!”  

The medical community and all of its workers are light posts in our communities. Cancer teams, infusion nurses and staff, chemotherapy pharmacists, front desk workers, security guards, and so many and care for us so well! We will be telling their personal, front-line stories. 


The mental health community is another big light post in our communities. We will be looking for new ways to partner and create publishing and they know all too well - a cancer diagnosis hits hard with more than just the cancer fighters. It takes a mental toll on spouses, children (young and old), and friends. We will look to this community to teach us better ways we can help all affected by a diagnosis receive the care they need and deserve. 


Churches are another light post in our communities. Not the buildings, but the people. They represent a beautiful cross-section of our cities and their ability to organize an army to provide and surround people with care and support is second to none. 


The business community is another light post in our communities. Healthy businesses with great cultures can do so much for their employees and their families. They are on the front lines of how many of us make a living and put food on our tables. 


For many of us, we reside in several of these communities. However, we believe that while these represent light posts in our cities, they often are siloed and little is done to bring them together. Churches and businesses lack the proper education and conversations to truly give great care and support to the cancer fighters and their families. The medical community keeps a lot of its focus on the cure...which we absolutely need them to do. However, we need their voice early and often in the cancer fighter’s journey. There is so much that fighters do not know, but will be asked to decide shortly after their diagnosis, and without the medical community’s voices on those questions, many fighters throw away a career and feel like they've been discarded. The mental health community can also lead the way in helping us create training for churches and businesses and in providing direction in how so many of the people affected by a cancer diagnosis receive proper, professional help when they need it the most. They also could be serving churches in giving direction on the sensitivities and challenges of a cancer-fighting family. Churches without the medical and mental health communities' voices can often do more harm than good.  This can lead to a very real and long-lasting “church hurt” that can attack their hope and relationship with God and their faith community. 


We say Stages is the platform for Cancer Family of Faith because it’s a name that says so much in such a short word. We intend on providing a stage for cancer fighters, families, and friends. We want to also provide a stage for the aforementioned light posts in a way that brings all of them together to help us shine HOPE into the lives of our communities. 


Pete Heiniger isn’t just the director of this initiative. He’s a Stage 4 Colorectal Cancer Fighter. He’s also spent 31 years in a professional career and he owns this fact: in his entire career, Pete never once had even a 5-minute conversation or training on cancer and how it might affect team members and their families. He went through hundreds of hours of HR training, leadership training, sales training, and culture training...but not once did he ever receive training in the area of cancer. But, Pete also takes ownership of this. He lost both his parents to cancer or cancer complications. His mother, Barbara, died of metastatic melanoma of the spleen and his father, Paul, died in a car accident that we believe was caused by some complications surrounding his health challenges. He owns that he should have begun conversations and created training while in executive leadership. Pete would be a hypocrite if he only started to care and advocate now without owning the silence of those years. More on that later. 


Pete’s dedication can be communicated in a simple truth: We can do a better job! 

So, Who Is This Pete Heiniger Anyway?


Well, first and foremost Pete is a husband and a father. After meeting and dating Shara Heiniger in Denver, Colorado, Pete married her (June 1997) and took her out of Colorado on a journey through pastoral ministry. For ten years, Pete and Shara served churches in Minnesota, Prince George, British Columbia, California, and Michigan. During those ten years, Pete and Shara became the proud parents of 5 beautiful and extremely gifted daughters. Their oldest, Briannah teaches for the Chicago Public School District and is engaged to the distinguished and brilliant Kieran Coates who hails from Barnard Castle in England. Monique was next on the scene and the first to be married. She and her husband David serve Lakepoint Community Church in Keizer Oregon. Then came Becca, who now is attending Colorado State University majoring in horticulture. Mia is the proud and only dual citizen of both Canada and the United States in the family as she was born in Prince George, British Columbia, the land of Tim Horton’s and beautiful wilderness! Mia currently shares a suite with her sister Briannah in Chicago and is currently a barista at one of the finest coffee shops in the land! Then, there’s Sebra, who is the baby, but has probably outgrown that descriptor. At 17, Sebra has a passion for production, especially in the area of programming lighting. She’s currently interning at a large church in Colorado Springs. She would like to perfect those skills and some others and make a career in the production space. 


On a professional level, Pete has worn a lot of hats over the years even prior to his pursuit into ministry. Some of those include city engineering, ranch work for Dragin Y Cattle Company, Montana, short order cook, and a few more jobs through college and graduate school. After ten years in pastoral ministry and wearing even more hats in ministry, Pete found himself burnt out and decided to pursue a new career. That led him to Bellingham, WA and leadership within a software/tech/publishing company.


For the rest of his career journey, please feel free to go to LinkedIn and see the rest. Go HERE.

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