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No reserves. No retreats. No regrets.

William Borden, millionaire heir to the Borden family milk fortune and graduate of Yale, died suddenly of spinal meningitis in Egypt in 1913, at the age of 25, en route to serve among the Muslims of Gansu Province in remote NW China.

Listen to how Borden described the Gansu mission field he so longed to reach…

“He would speak of [Linxia] with its [proud race of Muslems]. There too, were the [Dongxiang], remnants of the old Hun tribes in the mountains, long since converted to Islam at the point of the sword. And there were the [Salar] from distant Samarkand with their Turkish speech and faces, Moslem exiles who had tramped across Central Asia hundreds of years ago to find a home beside the Yellow River. And [these] were mingled in the western part of the province with Tibetans from the border marches and Mongols from north of the Great Wall.

Further, the Great Road running through the province — itself a thousand miles from east to west — led on across the Gobi Desert to the Moslem heart of Central Asia, linking city after city in which no missionary had ever labored. But the road also gave access to the mingled peoples of that vast region — one of the most neglected fields in the world. That waiting heart of Asia — how it appealed to him, because so few were willing to lay down their lives that those people, too, might hear the message of redeeming love.”

But what does William Borden and Gansu Province have to do with us?

Well, only that what he described just “happens” to be the same province, the same unreached people, where the Lord called me to live and serve a little over 90 years later!


Had you ever heard of Gansu before today?

Let me give you a quick overview of Gansu’s recent history that you may find interesting:

– In 1876, George Parker and his Chinese wife became the first protestant missionaries to target Gansu Province. Serving under Hudson Taylor’s China Inland Mission, the Parker’s ministered among the Tibetan Buddhists and Muslims of southern Gansu.

– In 1892, CMA/AG missionary William Wallace Simpson arrived in China, basing his 50+ year ministry in the mountains of southern Gansu, in proximity to many Muslims and Tibetans. (We’ve met a few of Simpson’s descendants and visited some of the churches he planted.)

– In 1906, a teenage William Borden, heir to the Borden milk fortune, returned from a round-the-world trip with a missionary call to China’s impoverished Gansu Province.

– In 1913, after graduating from both Yale and Princeton, 25 year old Borden of Yale died of spinal meningitis while studying Arabic in Egypt, en route to reach the Muslims of Gansu.

– In 1918, Borden Memorial Hospital opened in Gansu, funded with a large donation left by William Borden. Managed by the China Inland Mission, the hospital specialized in infectious diseases, especially leprosy.

– In 1932, 30 yr old William Ekvall Simpson (son of WW Simpson) was shot by Muslim bandits. He pioneered a mission next to Labrang Monastery in SW Gansu. We lived in this same city for a couple of years. I’ve seen his headstone with my own eyes.

– In 1949, the Communists prevailed in China and most missionaries were expelled.

– Borden Memorial Hospital continued to serve the poor Muslims and Tibetans of Gansu until 1951, when the Communists took charge. The hospital still stands today, although the name has been changed. However, there is a small museum dedicated to its history (Gospel Hospital) is still visible in at least one place, and a small house church still meets on the hospital campus.

Now things are about to get interesting, especially if you are from Oklahoma. Pay attention.

– In 1985, Oklahoma Governor George Nigh and his wife visited Gansu Province, planting a “Friendship Tree” in a park in the capital city of Lanzhou. They then signed a “Sister State” Friendship Accord with Gansu’s Governor that has now been active for 37 years!

– In 1990, a Gansu delegation visited the Oklahoma State Fair, and He Shuanqing, of the Gansu Chamber of Commerce, had this to say:

“There is a place in China a lot like Oklahoma*. The place has waving wheat, cattle and oil. It is [landlocked] and has lots of grasslands on one side and woods on the other. We have the oil fields and farmers, and we grow wheat; there is big grass and cows and sheep. It is Gansu, a Chinese province. For five years now Gansu has been Oklahoma’s sister state.”

– In 2003, I passed through Gansu for the first time. While walking the streets of the Muslim city of Linxia, the same region that Borden had set out to reach, I remember thinking to myself: “I believe I could live here.”

– By early 2005, less than two years later, my wife and I were living there. Two of our kids, sitting right here, were born in Gansu, the oldest in the very city I just mentioned.

– In 2008, my mom sent me an article from the Daily Oklahoman about the Sister State relationship that had begun 23 years earlier. I was sitting in our home in Gansu at the time, and I nearly fell out of my chair. It was the first time I had heard of the connection!

– From 2013-2018, we undertook an aggressive project to distribute hundreds of thousands of tracts and Bible portions in hundreds of previously unevangelized Gansu towns and villages.

– In the Spring of 2018, I was caught in a sting operation by the Gansu PSB and arrested, interrogated, and deported for possession of illegal Christian literature (tracts, Bible portions).

– During my interrogation, I committed myself to mobilizing more missionaries and more prayer support for China than ever before.

– Even in my physical absence, our Bible project in Gansu continued unabated with the help of many friends and volunteers until the end of 2019, just a month or so before covid broke out.

– Like most everyone else with connections in China, we are awaiting the day when the borders return to some semblance of “normal” and we can visit our adopted homeland once again.

The Oklahoma-Gansu sister-state relationship was designed primarily for political, educational, and economic purposes, but in the spirit of the Apostle Paul and in honor of men like William Borden, I want to propose that Oklahoma Christians adopt Gansu for the purpose of prayer!

Visit our website,, to learn more about going, giving, and praying for Gansu.

Let’s pray that God would raise up more missionaries like Paul and Borden, and (dare I say) our children and grandchildren, to go and disciple Gansu’s millions!

Never forget: No reserves. No retreat. No regrets.