|Written by Chad Roberts|
|Saturday, 19 March 2011 17:20|
William Whiting Borden was born on November 1, 1887. Born into a millionaire’s family, his life was not that of a typical American boy. Both the Borden’s and the Whiting’s (his mother’s family) were wealthy and influential. His father made a fortune by investing in silver mining in Colorado. It was his mother, however, who gave him a spiritual foundation, for she had a heart for the Lord. While her family may have had money, she valued the things of God more. She was a very active member of the Chicago Avenue Church, now called, “Moody Memorial Church.”
In 1894, Dr. R.A. Torrey spoke on world missions at the Moody Church. At the end, he called for people to surrender their lives to missions. Of those who stood in response was 7 year old William Borden! He wore a little sailor’s outfit, but that day, he surrendered his young heart to the Lord to become a missionary.
He carried the desire for missions within him all the way up to graduation. He completed high school ranked 4th in his class of 48 boys. What was more remarkable is that he was only 16 years old. His family enrolled him into Yale University, but he was too young to attend. So, as a graduation gift, his parents sent him on a sailing trip around the world. Oh how God would use this in William’s life!
He left San Francisco on September 20, 1904. Aboard the S.S. Korea, were several missionary couples heading to Asia. These missionaries fueled the flame for the Gospel in William’s heart. Yet, there wouldn’t be anything like seeing it first-hand. He was devastated by the poverty he saw in China and India. He wrote to his parents, “I pray every day for my dear family, I also pray that God would take my life into His hands and use it for the furtherance of His kingdom as He sees best. I have so much of everything in this life, and there are so many millions who have nothing and live in darkness.”
Most didn’t understand his desire for missions. When he got home, a friend told him he was, “wasting his life becoming a missionary”. Rather than defending himself, he simply replied, “You have never seen heathenism.”His father expected William to become a business man in the families company. “I am glad that you have told father about my desire to become a missionary. I am thinking about it all the time and looking forward to it with a good deal of anticipation.” After reading Robert Speer’s book on missions, he wrote, “I knelt right down and prayed more earnestly than I have for some time for the mission work and for God’s plan for my life…pray that I may be guided in everything small and great.”
Throughout his college years, he engaged in all types of ministry. He established the Yale Hope Mission, a homeless shelter. He taught Sunday School in an African Methodist Episcopal Church and he donated an incredible $70,000.00 to different mission organizations.
On December 17, 1912, he set sail for Cairo, Egypt. He was going to study Arabic as well as the Muslim culture under Dr. Zwemer. He began feeling bad just before the Easter Season of 1913. He had cerebral meningitis. He died April 9, 1913 at age 26.
Dr. Zwemer said at William’s memorial service, “By some the victory has to be won over poverty…but Borden won the victory over an environment of wealth. He felt that life consisted not in, ‘in the abundance of things a man possesseth,’ but in the abundance of things which possess a man…Apart from faith in Christ, there is no explanation for such a life.”
In 2006 I led a team of 21 to Cairo. One of my goals was to show them the reality of Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasure on earth…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
So we hired a tour guide to take us to the Cairo Museum, a fascinating place I could spend days in. We went through the King Tut exhibit, there I saw more gold, jewels and treasures my eyes have ever seen. After leaving the museum, we drove to the Old City district to a graveyard that simply read, “American Missionary Cemetery.”
I assure you, our tour guide was none too happy taking us to Old Cairo to search for a missionaries grave! But I just had to see it for myself! Finally, we found it. A huge concrete memorial over 6ft. covers his resting place with concrete railings on each side. An elderly lady who cared for the graves offered to wash it for us. A teenager on the team took some flowers and laid them on his grave.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a Scripture come to life like I did that day. To go from King Tut’s extravagant exhibit with all the wealth that young man possessed…to William Borden, a 26 year old missionary who died and left all his fortune to global missions. What’s the difference? You can go to Cairo and see all of King Tut’s wealth. You will have to wait for Heaven to see William’s treasure! Oh that you and I would live such a life that eternity will be our reward!