Byron and Lisa Borden, Westmont Parents and Alumni, Confidently Sent Their Sons Thousands of Miles Away to College
Byron ’82 and Lisa Repko ’84 Borden and their four children have lived together in four countries on three continents. Tradition is important in their family: Four generations have been involved in missions, and the Bordens’ two oldest children, Jesse ’09 and Trevor ’11, chose Westmont just like their parents did.
As missionaries, Byron and Lisa have spent their lives ministering in Africa and Europe. They began in Kenya in 1984, where Byron grew up. For two years they worked with high school students and young teachers in the growing town of Nakuru. “Then we felt an irresistible pull into the harder-to-reach regions where the Kenyan church was not yet making a significant contribution,” Lisa says. They spent 10 years with the Maasai people in the remote Loita Hills, encouraging new believers to grow spiritually and getting involved in economic development.
In 2000 the family went to Europe to join Marty ’81 and Carey Fanoe ’85 Uhler in supporting church-planting teams. “We fell in love with a spiritually hungry generation of young Europeans who were drawn to Christ but repelled by institutional religion,” Lisa says. “Our years there fueled our passion to see faith bring spiritual life and social justice. We firmly believe in economic assistance and development work and hope we never fall into an either/or mentality that divides discipleship from economic empowerment or practical help.”
Since 2007 the Bordens have worked with Wild Hope International in Arusha, Tanzania, which they started with Peter ’84 and Tammy Russell. The non-profit organization develops leaders, reaches youth through sports, helps people economically and encourages spiritual growth. More than 100 young men attend a soccer and leadership academy, and about 100 Maasai women support their families with craft-based micro businesses. Byron and Lisa also mentor missionaries and volunteers, provide hot lunches for school children and support pastors in isolated areas. During the summer they work with short-term volunteers; in 2009, their sons brought a group from Westmont.
“We want to see the sharpest Westmont students you’ve got taking up the challenges of non-traditional service,” Lisa says. “The world needs committed followers of Christ who will give themselves to developing safe water or dealing with the enormous challenge of environmental degradation or figuring out how to collect and recycle the plastic waste poisoning the soil in developing countries. We want to see bright, believing minds in the UN or other diplomatic services forging new futures for needy lands.”
Sending their children to Westmont seemed financially impossible to the Bordens. “It’s been a miracle of gracious provision in many forms and much hard work by the financial aid office that allowed three (and soon four) of us to enjoy a full Westmont education,” Lisa says. “God made a way. Sending our boys thousands of miles from home to a place they had never known was easier because we had experienced the close-knit community of bright, honest, challenging faith at Westmont.”
The Bordens are pleased their sons have the opportunity to benefit from a Westmont education. “Many times over the years, when a hot new book on some aspect of living the Christian life has come out, we’ve said to each other that we studied or discussed this very thing as students at Westmont,” Lisa says. “Our experiences at Westmont, in class and in community, taught us to push beyond cliché answers and to expect God to be bigger than our imaginings. The Urban Program was particularly formative.”
As parents they have gained a new appreciation for the college. “The Westmont community has inspired our confidence by working hard to help us with finances and by interacting with our ‘children’ in an adult-to-adult fashion,” Lisa says.
Jesse majored in biology and environmental science and attended the Creation Care semester in Belize. He was involved with Vespers and ministry to the homeless. Trevor, who is studying social science, attended the Urban Program in San Francisco, serves as a resident assistant and also works with the homeless.
One of Lisa’s roles is communicating with prayer partners. She writes two blogs: www.letsputthekettleon.blogspot.com and wildhopestories.blogspot.com. Her upcoming book, “Approaching God,” features essays and poems about intimacy with God.
Despite family tradition, the Bordens hope their children feel completely free to become who God created them to be. They see Westmont as a place where their sons can discover their calling.