In 1904, William Borden graduated from high school and as heir to the Borden Dairy estate, he was already a millionaire. For his graduation present, his parents gave him a trip around the world. The average eighteen year old would be living it up, having the time of their life.
But Borden was different. As he traveled through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, Borden felt a growing concern for the lost of the Middle East and Asia. Finally, he wrote home to say, “I’m going to give my life to prepare for the mission field.” After making this decision, William Borden wrote two words in the back of his Bible: “NO RESERVES” Borden arrived at Yale University in 1905 and promptly began discussing scripture and praying over breakfast with friends. More began to join them and a student ministry was born. By the end of his freshmen year, he had 150 students meeting for weekly Bible study and prayer. By the end of his senior year, 1000 out of Yale’s 1300 students were involved in this ministry. In a personal journal entry, Borden defined the source of this strength: “Say no to self. Say yes to Jesus. Every time.” Borden’s outreach ministry was not confined to the Yale campus. He rescued drunks from the streets of New Haven. To rehabilitate them, he founded the Yale Hope Mission. A friend commented 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.” Borden’s missionary call narrowed to Muslims in China. Once that goal was in sight, Borden never wavered. He also inspired his classmates to consider missionary service. One of them said: “There was real iron in him, and I always felt he was of the stuff martyrs were made of.” Upon graduation from Yale in 1909, Borden turned down multiple high paying job offers. He also wrote two more words in his Bible: “NO RETREATS” William Borden 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. Was Borden’s untimely death a waste? Not in God’s plan. Prior to his death, Borden had written two more words in his Bible. Underneath the words “No Reserves” and “No Retreats,” he had written…
Portions reprinted from Daily Bread, December 31, 1988, and The Yale Standard, Fall 1970 edition.