(photo courtesy of http://www.evangelicalsforsocialaction.org/)
Women of Purity: Lillian Trasher
By Selma Komisky
“Lord, I want to be your little girl.” And said, “Lord, if ever I can do anything for you, just let me know and I’ll do it.”
– Lillian Trasher
Lillian Hunt Trasher served as a Christian missionary in Assiut, Egypt, where she founded the country’s first orphanage. Over a period of 50 years, she cared for thousands of needy children. Because of her contributions, she earned the nickname of “Mother of the Nile.”
Born September 27, 1887 in Jacksonville, Florida and raised in Brunswick, Georgia, she followed Roman Catholicism as a young girl. However in her teens, through Bible reading and Bible studies at a friend’s house, she chose to make a personal commitment of her life to Jesus Christ.
She worked at an orphanage in North Carolina not knowing at the time that her life’s work would be devoted to caring for abandoned children. Trasher was engaged once, but ten days before her wedding date she heard the testimony of a missionary from India that changed everything. She left the meeting crying knowing that the wedding would not take place. God had called her to the mission field. She canceled the wedding and later that year arrived in Egypt, with very little money and no idea what God wanted her to do.
The words that guided Lillian when she first left for Egypt were in Acts 7:34 saying “I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.” Lillian responded with obedience and trusted in God’s calling to go to Africa as a missionary. So, she made her way to Assiut, Egypt (which is in Africa).
When they arrived in Egypt in 1910, Trasher and her sister, Jennie had less than $100 to their name. At the time, a dying woman gave her baby to Lillian which opened doors to care for this child. On February 10, 1911 she opened the Lillian Trasher Orphanage. Here, she lived entirely on faith and charitable contributions, sometimes going without food. At one point in her travels, her boat almost sank. Another time, she contracted the bubonic plague but survived the illness.
By 1914, Lillian had set up a school and Bible study program for orphans in her care. By 1918, she had 50 orphans and eight widows in her new widow’s dormitory. A local Presbyterian hospital agreed to provide free care for sick children but Egypt entered a period of political turmoil. The British ordered her out of the country in 1919 and she vowed to one day return. In the United States, the Assemblies of God helped support Trasher and she returned to Egypt in 1920, promising the Lord she’d take whoever He sent to her orphanage. She left it up to God to provide the food and funds. The orphanage grew and was able to house thousands of orphans and widows, even disabled blind children.
Today, Trasher’s legacy remains as a woman who cared for thousands of widows and children who resolved to trust in God knowing that He cares for the outcasts. She exhibited love, compassion, courage, perseverance, obedience, and faith working at the orphanage without a day off as well as advocating for children until the time of her death in December 17, 1961. Her orphanage remains open today. It is a reminder of a woman who shared the message of Christ wherever she went even through the hardest of times.
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