William Borden (1887 – 1913)
Just over one hundred years ago, a man named Bill died in Egypt of cerebral meningitis.
Bill had grown up in a godly home where he began each day reading the Bible and praying with his mother. As a child, he heard the great evangelist R. A. Torrey preach at Moody Church about dedicating your life to serve God. Bill responded, and in his blue sailor suit went forward and presented his life to the Lord.
Bill also grew up in a family of great affluence. His father was a very successful Chicago attorney, and his brother was an oil tycoon. So wealthy was his family, in fact, that on graduation from high school his parents sent him on a round-the-world tour, which wealthy families often did for their sons, a hundred years ago.
What Bill saw in Asia, the Middle East, even in Europe startled him. He saw masses of miserable people who knew nothing about the salvation of Jesus Christ.
He returned to Chicago, and announced to his parents he was soon to leave to become a missionary in China – in particular, the 15 million Muslims in China, in an area thought to be the hardest to reach in the world.
His father responded ‘Not so fast! You’re not going anywhere until you get your college degree.’
So, Bill obeyed. He enrolled at Yale.
Concerned that no students showed an interest in Christ, Bill found a buddy and started praying. That prayer group grew in its first year to 150 students. The group resolved to pray over and announce salvation in Christ to the entire student population. By senior year, 1,000 of 1,300 students were gathering to pray, something never before seen at Yale.
The New Haven seaport is midway between NY and Boston. Vagrants, saloons, gambling halls, and brothels sprang up in abundance. Bill rented a room in a dive on the strip and began to hold evangelistic meetings. He called it Yale Hope Mission. He, a millionaire, would get down on the floor to put his hands on and pray with the drunks who came through.
After his graduation from Yale, he turned down several high paying jobs. His calling hadn’t changed. He was off to be a missionary.
He wrote in his Bible: No reservations.
Soon, he was in Egypt. There, he wrote in his Bible: No retreats.
A couple months after arriving in Egypt, at the age of 25, Bill contracted meningitis. His Mother got in a boat and sailed as quickly as she could. She arrived two days late.
She found his Bible, and there, written shortly before he died, it said: No regrets.
Newspapers round the world covered his death. He gave more money away in his will than J.P.Morgan. People went to the mission field, inspired by his example.
The epitaph of William Borden’s life ends with these words:
Apart from faith in Christ, there is no explanation for such a life
Can that be said of us?