William Borden, missionary

Found this poem while going through some materials from when I attended what is now the Intervarsity Leadership Institute (IVLI) back in 2001. William Borden is perhaps best-known as the millionaire who walked away from his family fortune to become a missionary to China. He died while still training for his task, in Egypt–and despite the fact that he never made it to China, dying while still training in Egypt, he still serves as an inspiration to missionaries the world over. Despite giving up everything, including his life, he could still write in his Bible in the time leading up to his death, “No reserves. No retreat. No regrets.”


On the far reef the breakers
Recoil in shattered foam,
Yet still the sea behind them
Urges its forces home;
Its chant of triumph surges
Through all the thunderous din-
The wave may break in failure,
But the tide is sure to win.

O mighty sea, thy message
In changing spray is cast:
Within God’s plans of progress
It matters not at last
How wide the shores of evil,
How strong the reefs of sin-
The wave may be defeated,
But the tide is sure to win.

–William Borden (1887-1913)


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