Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | July 1, 2009

William Borden

William Borden   In 1904 William Borden, the heir of the famous Borden dairy estate, graduated from high school in Chicago. As a graduation gift, his parents sent him on a cruise around the world. While on this cruise, God began to open William’s eyes and heart to the masses of unsaved people around the world. William wrote to his mother about his desire to be a missionary. In one of his early letters he wrote, “I think God is calling me to be a missionary.” In his final letter he wrote, “I know God is calling me to be a missionary.” One friend expressed amazement that William was throwing his life away by choosing to become a missionary.

When he returned home, William enrolled in Yale University where he was instrumental in starting campus prayer and Bible study groups and evangelism initiatives. He also worked with the least of these on the streets of New Haven and founded Yale Hope Mission. Henry Wright, a professor at Yale, said, “It is my firm conviction that the Yale Hope Mission has done more to convince all classes of men at Yale of the power and practicability of Christianity to regenerate individuals and communities than any other force in the University.” While in school, William renounced his fortune in favor of missions and wrote two words in the flyleaf of his Bible – “No Reserves.” William wanted to live by faith and to trust God for everything in his life.

William attended a Student Volunteer Movement conference in Nashville where he learned about the great number of Muslims in China. He felt God wanted him to go to China where he hoped to work with Muslims. When he graduated from Yale, he had many lucrative job offers, including the opportunity to take over the multi-million dollar family business. However, he was determined to fulfill God’s call to serve as a missionary. Once again, he opened his Bible to the flyleaf and wrote two more words – “No Retreats.”

William set sail for China on December 17, 1912. He stopped in Egypt to study Arabic so that he would be better equipped to work with Muslims. While in Egypt, William contracted spinal meningitis and died on April 9, 1913 at the age of twenty-five. Years of training, a promising future, and William never made it to China. Charlie Campbell, one of William’s college friends, received his Bible after his death. When he opened it he found what William had written in the flyleaf. In addition to the words “No Reserves” and “No Retreats” that William had jotted down during his college days, he found two more words that William had written before he died – “No Regrets.”

Although William Borden never made it to the mission field in China, he touched hundreds of students at Yale University and Princeton Divinity School who became missionaries. And, because the news of his death was published all over the world, many people wrote letters to his family expressing how their lives had been influenced by William’s story of faith and commitment to the cause of Christ. His story continues to inspire selfless service for the cause of Christ.

• • • • •
See Unused Perfume, my related post on William Borden.


  1. William’s life is an inspiring story of a man filled with and surrendered to the Spirit of God. I will soon follow his example!

  2. I am 64 and called to share God’s Word with the Muslims in W. Africa and SE Asia. As God allows I will continue to go. Thank you for posting this wonderful example of a life lived for Christ. It matters!

    • Faye…

      Thanks for sharing the story and love of Jesus with the nations. May God bless you as you continue to serve Him.


  3. Omar, when we lived in Cairo (1984-86), I read the book, Borden of Yale. It had a huge impact on me and I still think of him virtually every time I see Borden milk. A group of us visited the cemetery in Cairo where he is buried. In addition to Borden, there were at least two other notable men buried there. I can only remember one…Oswald Chambers. We actually took a lunch, which may seem strange for a cemetery, but there was grass and in Egypt, that is not taken lightly. Donna

  4. Very inspiring article.

    • Thanks. William Borden was an amazing young man whose life continues to inspire so many.

  5. This is the first time I have had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Borden’s story after reading a tid bit in a Sunday School Book. Needless to say I would pray that more people would know about the faith of this extraordinary young man, and the love of Christ. No one really knows what’s going to happen in the next 2 seconds, let alone a lifetime, but should the Lord call me or anyone else into mission work, we would all be wise to follow Mr. Borden’s example. Hope to shake his hand one day in Heaven for helping to bring a smile to my face. Thank you, and God Bless. Shaun

    • Amen, Shaun. Borden’s life continues to inspire Christ-followers today. His story is one of the most-read posts on my blog every week, a testimony to his enduring legacy.

  6. A short but inspirational story. Today I also declare ‘No retreats!” God Bless you Omar.

    • Thanks. May God strengthen you as you forge ahead. No retreats!

  7. […] Ravi’s sermon, an inspiring story of William Borden is […]

  8. Sometimes God chooses ordinary people to do his work and at other times God chooses extraordinary people to inspire others. William Boarden was for God and not for self. He could have take any path; but he decided to follow the path of faith and service for God. This is a wonderul story about courage and steadfastness. “No reserves” No retreats” and “No Regrets”…

  9. […] Borden, Go Beyond: Live Adventurously for God,” Copyright © 2001-2008; Used by […]

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