The Story of William Borden

The Story of William Borden (1887-1913) This story was a part of my message on Investing in Eternity back in October 2010.

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 to say, “I’m going to give my life to prepare for the mission field.”

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.”

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.”

He was a graduate of Yale University in 1909 and of Princeton Theological Seminary. Borden was converted to Christianity under the ministry of Dwight L. Moody. He later decided to become a missionary to the Muslims of China, but died of spinal meningitis in Egypt during his training there at the age of 25. He is buried in the American Cemetery in Cairo.

When news of William Borden’s death was cabled back to the U.S., the story was carried by nearly every American newspaper. “A wave of sorrow went round the world . . . Borden not only gave (away) his wealth, but himself, in a way so joyous and natural that it (seemed) a privilege rather than a sacrifice” wrote Mary Taylor in her introduction to his biography.

Across town in the Egyptian National Museum is another grave, this one is called the King Tut Exhibit. The Boy King was only 17 when he died and his tomb was filled with literally tons of gold. The Egyptians believed in the afterlife, and that you could take it with you. But all of King Tut’s eternal treasures stayed right there until Howard Carter discovered his burial chamber in 1922. It hadn’t been seen or touched in 3000 years.

There are two graves in Cairo, one is off the beaten path, dusty and littered with garbage while the other is filled with unimaginable wealth. Our phrase of the month has been “you can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.” One had invested in eternity and the other did not.

After Borden’s death, his Bible was found and given to his parents. In it they found in one place the words “No Reserve” and a date placing the note shortly after he renounced his fortune in favor of missions. At a later point, he had written “No Retreat,” dated shortly after his father told him that he would never let him work in the company ever again. Then shortly before he died, when in Egypt, he added the phrase “No Regrets.”

God may not call you to the international mission field, but it is an insult to our faith if we don’t ask the question, “What do you want from me?” or “What do you want me to do?” There are many needs in this world and many pathways to serving. The first step is to embrace the mission, then we can submit to the father’s direction, get out of the boat and onto the water where Jesus is calling out your name.

On Borden’s Tombstone in Cairo:

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.

What will people say about you? Are there changes you need to make in your life to invest more in eternity?

Spread the Community, Faith, Love

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