In 1904 William Borden, the heir of the famous Borden dairy estate, graduated from high school in Chicago. As a graduation gift, his parents sent him on a cruise around the world. While on this cruise, God began to open William’s eyes and heart to the masses of unsaved people around the world. William wrote to his mother about his desire to be a missionary. In one of his early letters he wrote, “I think God is calling me to be a missionary.” In his final letter he wrote, “I know God is calling me to be a missionary.” One friend expressed amazement that William was throwing his life away by choosing to become a missionary.
When he returned home, William enrolled in Yale University where he was instrumental in starting campus prayer and Bible study groups and evangelism initiatives. He also worked with the least of these on the streets of New Haven and founded Yale Hope Mission. Henry Wright, a professor at Yale, said, “It is my firm conviction that the Yale Hope Mission has done more to convince all classes of men at Yale of the power and practicability of Christianity to regenerate individuals and communities than any other force in the University.” While in school, William renounced his fortune in favor of missions and wrote two words in the flyleaf of his Bible – “No Reserves.” William wanted to live by faith and to trust God for everything in his life.
William attended a Student Volunteer Movement conference in Nashville where he learned about the great number of Muslims in China. He felt God wanted him to go to China where he hoped to work with Muslims. When he graduated from Yale, he had many lucrative job offers, including the opportunity to take over the multi-million dollar family business. However, he was determined to fulfill God’s call to serve as a missionary. Once again, he opened his Bible to the flyleaf and wrote two more words – “No Retreats.”
William set sail for China on December 17, 1912. He stopped in Egypt to study Arabic so that he would be better equipped to work with Muslims. While in Egypt, William contracted spinal meningitis and died on April 9, 1913 at the age of twenty-five. Years of training, a promising future, and William never made it to China. Charlie Campbell, one of William’s college friends, received his Bible after his death. When he opened it he found what William had written in the flyleaf. In addition to the words “No Reserves” and “No Retreats” that William had jotted down during his college days, he found two more words that William had written before he died – “No Regrets.”
Although William Borden never made it to the mission field in China, he touched hundreds of students at Yale University and Princeton Divinity School who became missionaries. And, because the news of his death was published all over the world, many people wrote letters to his family expressing how their lives had been influenced by William’s story of faith and commitment to the cause of Christ. His story continues to inspire selfless service for the cause of Christ.
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See Unused Perfume, my related post on William Borden.