Stari's faith legacy
She was a beautiful young woman who wrote bravely about her final months living with terminal cancer. Now the Baptist church she was part of is looking to reproduce Stari Gunarathne’s blog into a book to develop an internship course to equip others in their faith.
Stari, born in Leicester of Sri Lankan parents, died aged 26 on 18 December.
She had been a medical student at Leeds University and had made a full recovery from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, diagnosed in 2010. However a routine check up at the beginning of 2012 revealed that she had now developed acute myeloid leukaemia, triggered by the earlier chemotherapy she had received.
Her blog entitled ‘Finding the Anchor in the Storm
’ charted her progress through intense pain, the rigour of a bone marrow transplant, and the final realisation that she only had weeks to live.
‘Rather than it becoming a depressing litany of hopelessness, true to Stari’s character it bubbles with life as her strong Christian faith shines through,’ said the Revd Brian Nicholls, minister of South Parade Baptist Church in Leeds, the church where Stari was baptised five years ago.
One of the things the church was able to discuss with her, said Brian, was the production of a book based on the blog. The proceeds will be put to developing ‘a thoroughgoing intern scheme that will help equip people to be effective Christian leaders in the world.’
Brian explained that as Stari grew more confident in her faith, she had focused on equipping others.
‘For years she had seen herself as a loser – in her own words, ‘an ugly duckling, a fat under-achiever.
‘The irony is that in many ways this beautiful, young woman was a winner – a genuine swan: someone who achieved far more than most of us will ever manage however long we are on this earth.
‘Alongside her wide range of abilities as a sportswoman, musician, comedienne, children’s worker, and counsellor, she began to focus her attention on equipping others to grow in leadership. One of her sayings was that ‘you can’t piggy back on someone else’s faith’ – you need to know it for yourself.’
The church has already set aside some housing and is drawing up the details of the scheme.
It will involve work alongside the existing ministry team of South Parade, a teaching component linking into one of the Christian leadership training schemes available in the North of England, personal mentoring, and support as interns explore the longer term implications of God’s call on their lives.
Gifts towards the planned internship course in her memory can be sent to ‘South Parade Baptist Church’, Kirkstall Lane, Headingley, Leeds LS6 3LF.