Walking with the Saints

Lillian Trasher  (1887-1961)

Lillian Trasher was born in 1887 in Georgia. She died in 1961 in Asyut, Egypt, some 380 miles south of the port of Alexandria.  Her humanitarian ministry ranks alongside the efforts of Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Lillian grew up during the Protestant Pentecostal movement of the early 20th century.  This evangelical emphasis formed her missionary zeal to help others.  As a young girl she had prayed, “Lord, if ever I can do anything for You, just let me know and I’ll do it.”  While in her teens, she worked at a North Carolina orphanage and attended two evangelical Bible schools.

In 1909, Lillian was ten days away from her wedding date when she broke her engagement.  She had heard the testimony of a missionary serving in India and she was aware at that moment that she could not be married. She knew that God was calling her as a missionary.  She didn’t know where so she opened her Bible and read Acts 7:34 which mentions Egypt.

In 1910, 23-year-old Lillian defied her family’s wishes and sailed to Alexandria accompanied by her sister and with less than $100 in her pocket. They made their way by train to Cairo and then traveled down the Nile to the predominantly Christian village of Asyut.  Lillian had little idea what exactly she should do.  Shortly after arriving she was called to the bedside of a dying mother whose malnourished daughter was also near death.  She was ordered by mission directors to return the child to the village; but Lillian refused to abandon the child. She used her remaining funds to rent a small house and nursed the child back to health.   

She took in more children and she begged for food and money.  By 1914, she became affiliated with a new denomination, the Assemblies of God.  Though they sent clothes and an occasional check, Lillian still relied on the generosity of her Egyptian neighbors.  By 1923, she housed three hundred orphans.  Her orphanage survived the Nazi invasion of Egypt and the violence of WWII. 

At the time of her death, the Lillian Trasher Orphanage had grown to some 1200 children. Today it continues her legacy of caring for the abandoned and orphaned children of Egypt.   

Lillian Trasher had cared for nearly 25,000 children in her fifty years of missionary work.  In Egypt, she is known as the “Mother of the Nile”.  She is buried in a simple tomb near Asyut.

(sources: Wikipedia, Holy Women, Holy Men, and the Lillian Trasher Orphanage website)