Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Bill Borden of Yale 1909

by Bruce Hendrich

Bill was born into a wealthy family and grew up in Chicago. His mother was the first in the family to trust in Christ and she began taking him to Moody Church. He soon responded to the gospel through the powerful preaching of Dr. R.A. Torrey.

Bill's high school graduation present was a trip around the world. During that trip he was burdened for the multitudes of people who had little or no access to the gospel, and a desire to become a missionary was born. Though many people would question why he would throw his life away in a faraway land, he wrote in the back of his Bible, "No reserves."

Bill entered Yale University as an excellent student and star athlete. Though he was handsome and worth millions, it was his passion for prayer and Bible study that God used to begin a morning prayer and Bible study group with his fellow freshman. It soon grew into multiple groups and impacted the majority of Yale's 1,300 students by the time he graduated four years later. In his passion to reach the lowest of the low, he also founded the Yale Hope Mission while still a student.

After graduating from Yale, Bill turned down several prestigious job offers. Because of his resolve to leave everything behind and become a missionary, his father eventually told him he would never work in the family company again. Below his earlier entry in the back of his Bible, he wrote, "No retreat."

Bill felt called to reach the Muslims of Northern China, so he set out for Egypt where he would do his preparatory language study. A month into his training he contracted spinal meningitis and soon died at the age of 25.

Newspapers all across the United States carried the ironic story of the untimely death of Bill Borden, once heir to the Borden milk and dairy family fortune, who gave up his wealth, and eventually his life, to become a missionary in a distant land. Yet before his death, Bill added a third phrase to the two preceding ones in his Bible, "No regrets."

At first glance Borden's death appeared to be a tragedy. But his willingness to sacrifice everything for the cause of sharing Christ's gospel to those who had never heard it, became powerful motivation to many other young people. They too said "no" to the things of this world and embraced a call to mission service instead.

Bill Borden began his journey to China 101 years ago today. Though he died before reaching his goal, his epitaph summarizes the power Christ has to transform a person's life: "A man in Christ. He arose and forsook all and followed Him, Kindly affectioned with brotherly love, Fervent in spirit serving the Lord, Rejoicing in hope, Patient in tribulation, Instant in prayer, Communicating to the necessity of saints, In honour preferring others. Apart from faith in Christ, There is no explanation for such a life."

This article originally appeared in the Elizabethton Star newspaper, Wednesday, December 18, 2013. Reprinted by permission of Bruce Hendrich, Pastor of Oak Street Baptist Church, Elizabethton, TN.