I remember hearing this story several years back in a sermon while in Bible School. I recently came across it again, and am reminded of the challenge of living my life with this level of commitment and passion.
Enjoy this true story of a man who knew what it was like to give God everything.
In 1904 William Borden graduated from a Chicago high school. As heir to the Borden Dairy estate, he was already a millionaire. For his high school graduation present, his parents gave 16-year-old Borden a trip around the world. As the young man traveled through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, he felt a growing burden for the world’s hurting people. Finally, Bill Borden wrote home about his desire to be a missionary.
One friend expressed surprise that he was “throwing himself away as a missionary.”
In response, Bill wrote two words in the back of his Bible: “No reserves.”
Even though young Borden was wealthy, he arrived on the campus of Yale University in 1905 trying to look like just one more freshman. Very quickly, however, Borden’s classmates noticed something unusual about him and it wasn’t his money. One of them wrote: “He came to college far ahead, spiritually, of any of us. He had already given his heart in full surrender to Christ and had really done it. We who were his classmates learned to lean on him and find in him a strength that was solid as a rock, just because of this settled purpose and consecration.”
During his college years, Bill Borden made one entry in his personal journal that defined what his classmates were seeing in him. That entry said simply: “Say ‘no’ to self and ‘yes’ to Jesus every time.”
During his first semester at Yale, Borden started something that would transform campus life. [He met with several friends in the morning for scripture reading and prayer.] Borden’s small Morning Prayer group gave birth to a movement that spread across the campus. By the end of his first year, 150 freshmen were meeting for weekly Bible study and prayer. By the time Bill Borden was a senior, one thousand of Yale’s 1,300 students were meeting in such groups. [They also started an outreach ministry that sought to connect with the remaining 300 students.]
Borden’s outreach ministry was not confined to the Yale campus. He cared about widows and orphans and cripples. He rescued drunks from the streets of New Haven. To rehabilitate them, he founded the Yale Hope Mission. One of his friends wrote that he “might often be found in the lower parts of the city at night, on the street, in a cheap lodging house or some restaurant to which he had taken a poor hungry fellow to feed him, seeking to lead men to Christ.”
[He started to understand his calling was specifically to the Muslim Chinese he encountered in his travels, and began to focus on preparing for overseas missions.]
Although he was a millionaire, Bill seemed to “realize always that he must be about his Father’s business, and not wasting time in the pursuit of amusement.” Although Borden refused to join a fraternity, “he did more with his classmates in his senior year than ever before.” He presided over the huge student missionary conference held at Yale and served as president of the honor society Phi Beta Kappa.
Upon graduation from Yale, Borden turned down some high paying job offers, as well as offers to pastor churches. In his Bible, he wrote two more words: “No retreats.“
He went on to graduate work at Princeton Seminary in New Jersey. When he finished his studies at Princeton, he sailed for China. Because he was hoping to work with Muslims, he stopped first in Egypt to study Arabic. While there, he contracted spinal meningitis. Within a month, 25-year-old William Borden was dead. [While on his deathbed, he wrote two final words in his Bible: "No regrets."]