Lillian Trasher: Egypt’s “Nile Mother”

Lillian Trasher: Egypt’s “Nile Mother”

Lillian Hunt Trasher was born on 27 September 1887 in Jacksonville, Florida, and was reared in Georgia. Early in her life she put her faith in Jesus Christ and determined to live for Him, moving from her Roman Catholicism to a Pentecostal-Holiness tradition. She attended Bible college for a term, worked in an orphanage under the supervision of Miss Mattie Perry in North Carolina, and was soon engaged to a young and well-respected pastor, Tom Jordan. Shortly before their marriage, however, Lillian sensed a call from God to become a missionary, something Tom had not planned to do. They parted ways ten days before the wedding.

At twenty-three years old, on 8 October 1910, Lillian set sail aboard the SS Berlin from New York, outbound for Alexandria, Egypt. A missionary couple, George and Lydia Brelsford of the Apostolic Faith Mission in Assiout (Asyut), Egypt took her under their wing. Within a few short weeks after her arrival, Lillian went to pray for a dying young mother. The grandmother planned to throw the infant into the Nile, but Lillian asked to raise the babe as her own instead. She named the baby Fareida, her “unique and precious pearl.” By the year’s end, four more orphans were given to Lillian to adopt.

In the next eight years, Lillian’s home sheltered fifty children and eight widows. Soon she took in abandoned children with physical disabilities and illnesses, illegitimate babies (who were regularly killed in that “honor” culture), and babes born to lepers. Christians from the Assemblies of God began to support Lillian’s Assiout Orphanage. Volunteers came to help, building dorms, kitchens, teaching school, and sewing garments. Lillian planted crops, so that the children could eat their own healthy produce, started a Jersey dairy farm to provide fresh milk, and raised meat for the tables. Every year, she took in more children.
During the uprisings in the 1930s, Lillian stayed while most other missionaries returned to their homelands for safety. She endured the Nazi occupation of Egypt during World War II. Despite these hardships and the deprivations of war, the orphans survived under her care. After the war’s end, Lillian and friends installed running water to the buildings and built a hospital wing, which allowed sick children to be housed separately. By the 1950s, the orphanage included sixteen buildings on nine acres, with dormitories, a hospital wing, a chapel, schools, nurseries, a bakery, gardens, sewing rooms, carpentry workshops, and other facilities designed to teach orphans trade skills to enhance their classical educations.

Lillian continued to work, without a furlough, until she died in 1961. By that time, the orphanage had received almost $2 million in monetary donations alone. That year, the orphanage was home to some 1,200 children, although more than 6,000 children had been cared for since its beginning. She had held out her arms and mothered children for more than fifty years in Egypt, offering peace to each life. She was buried on the grounds of the orphanage, her home as well as all who had lived there. In return, thousands came to honor her and to say thank you to the woman who had loved them. For Lillian, the children were her gift from God. She cared for them out of her abundant, overflowing heart of thanksgiving to the One who had loved and given His life for hers. We offer thanks to God for Lillian, and for all who serve today in her footsteps.

-Karen O'Dell Bullock
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