On December 17, 1912 Bill Borden boarded ship for China via Egypt. His missionary career would be among history’s briefest—and most effective.

Borden was born into an upper-class family on Chicago’s Gold Coast, heir to a fortune in real estate and milk production. His mother became a Christian, and young Bill began attending Chicago’s Moody Church with her, soon becoming a Christian himself. Shortly afterward, when Pastor R.A. Torrey challenged worshipers to dedicate their lives to God’s service, William quietly rose—a little fellow in a blue sailor suit. He stood a long, long time while the service went on, but there was no wavering, and it was a consecration from which he never retreated.

Later at Yale University, Bill became well known as a star athlete, good-looking, worth $50 million, and committed to Christ. At a student missions conference in Nashville, he was deeply moved by Samuel Zwemer to reach the Muslims; and following graduation he announced he was giving his immense inheritance to the cause of world missions. He joined the China Inland Mission, planning to evangelize the Muslims in China. But first came language study in Egypt. On the eve of his departure, his widowed mother wondered if Bill had done the right thing, giving up fortune and homeland. “In the quiet of my room that night, worn and weary and sad, I fell asleep asking myself again and again, ‘Is it, after all, worthwhile?’ In the morning as I awoke, a still small voice was speaking in my heart, answering: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only beloved son. … ’ ”

A month after arriving in Egypt, Borden contracted spinal meningitis. He was dead in two weeks, but he left a final message on paper stuffed under his pillow: “No Reserve! No Retreat! No Regrets!”

The story of his sacrifice was retold in newspapers across America and the publication of his biography resulted in a dramatic leap in numbers of young people offering themselves as living sacrifices for the Lord of the harvest.

The Lord said to Abram: Leave your country, your family, and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you. I will bless you and make your descendants into a great nation. You will become famous and be a blessing to others. I will bless anyone who blesses you, but I will put a curse on anyone who puts a curse on you. Everyone on earth will be blessed because of you. (Genesis 12:1-3)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Dec. 17.

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