Lillian Trasher


By Teresa Giordanengo

Lillian Trasher was born September 27, 1887 and grew up in Brunswick, Georgia. As a young girl, she knelt by a log in the woods one day, and prayed, "Lord, if ever I can do anything for You, just let me know and I'll do it."

Years later she met Miss Perry who ran an orphanage nearby. She invited Lillian to come to work at the orphanage. Little did Lillian know that this is where she would get her training for her entire life's missionary work.

Later, she arrived at the Elhanah Training Institute, where she was involved in sewing, cooking, taking care of newborn babies, and taking care of large numbers of orphan children. There she learned how to trust God for the needs of everyday life. She had no money at all and no one sent her any. She never wrote to others about her needs.

Lillian's shoes wore out and there was no money to buy a new pair. Someone had sent in a box of old clothes and there was a pair of men's shoes in the box. It didn't matter to Lillian, she wore them anyway.

Lillian attended God's Bible School in Cincinnati, Ohio. She pastored a church in Dahlonega, Georgia, did evangelistic work in Kentucky and in 1909, returned to the orphanage in Marion, North Carolina.

She had been praying for a call to the mission field, but in the meantime, she became engaged to be married. Ten days before her wedding day, she accompanied Miss Perry to hear a missionary from India. She was so deeply touched by the message, that she cried through the service, all the way back to the orphanage, and into the night.

Miss Perry wanted to know what was wrong. Lillian explained to her that nothing was wrong except that she was engaged to marry the most wonderful young man in the world and that she could not marry him. God had called her to Africa and she must obey. She had to put God first.

Knowing little about where she was to go, she gathered her few possessions and a few dollars and went to a missionary convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She was sure God would provide as he always did before. And He did. In a short time she arrived in Brooklyn, New York, on her way to Egypt. Her sister Jenny joined her. Someone urged Lillian to ask for a promise. Lillian opened her Bible and read Acts 7:34: "I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt."

The two sisters docked in Alexandria, traveled by train to Cairo, and then by boat down the Nile River to Assiout. She thought it was the most beautiful place in the world.

Shortly thereafter, she was confronted by Egypt's needs: those of the poor, homeless, ragged, rejected children.

One night, at midnight, a man knocked on her door. He was looking for someone to come pray with a dying woman. Lillian, accompanied by an interpreter, went, having no idea what she would find. She was horrified to discover a three month old girl trying to suck green, stringy milk out of a tin can. Her clothes had been sewn tightly on her, and it seemed as though she had not been changed, perhaps since birth. The stench was beyond belief. Lillian prayed and as the mother died she gave the baby to Lillian, who took the child back with her to the compound. The two sisters took turns rocking the child and trying to get her to take some milk.

For twelve days and nights they tried and the baby howled. It was unbelievable that a malnourished child could cry so loudly and persistently. Soon the other missionaries' patience wore out and the senior missionary ordered Lillian to take the baby back.

But where was Lillian to take her back to? She had come to work within the traditional mission structure, which insisted that single women be submissive to male leaders. The veteran missionary knew best.

Lillian decided to take the baby back... but she was going to go back with the baby to stay. Her superior wondered how she was going to do this alone! An American woman, unmarried, in an Arab world! He felt she would be killed or starve to death.

Lillian knew she would not be alone because God would be with her. With the sixty dollars she had left from her traveling, she rented a small house, bought a kerosene stove for cooking and some furniture. Now she had no money left, and her mission board support was terminated. But she had confidence in God.

Lillian was alone now because her sister returned to Long Beach, California and did not return to Egypt for many years later. Since Lillian had no means of support, she begged. Her first donation was thirty-five cents. It was enough for that day's food.

She traveled on a donkey pleading for money and many times received children instead. The government officials were amazed that no one did anything to alarm or hurt Lillian. The governor taunted her since she was riding a donkey which was very degrading for a very attractive young lady. Lillian reminded him that a donkey was good enough for the mother of her Lord and that it certainly was good enough for her. She was known as the "Lady on a Donkey."

As the orphanage grew, Lillian spent more time wondering about their next meal. But either food or money always arrived.

Many times in her travels she could not return to the orphanage at night. If no one offered her a safe place to sleep, she would go to the nearest police station and spend the night with her donkey in a jail cell. The Egyptians could not believe how persistent she was and that an American could survive the heat.

By 1914, she became affiliated with a new denomination, the Assemblies of God. They sent barrels of clothing and an occasional check but Lillian still relied on the generosity of her Egyptian neighbors. She was grateful for every dollar and everything that was given her. She answered each letter she received on the same day.

By 1915, she had fifty children in her orphanage. She had to build on, and the children helped with the construction... even making bricks. She began teaching trades because these children had to be prepared for life.

By 1923, she housed three hundred orphans and widows but did not have a great spiritual harvest. In 1927, she witnessed the revival she had long prayed for. In the meantime, she continued sewing, washing, feeding, and building. She continuously relied on God for all things.

One night when the Egyptians rose up against the British rulers, she had to move her children from the orphanage to a brick kiln. When she counted heads, she realized that two children were missing.

Against protests from her fellow workers, she crawled back to the orphanage and found the two terrified toddlers. Tucking a child under each arm, she slowly made her way back to the kiln. Suddenly the rebels blocked her path. She had to drop into a ditch, where she came upon a dead soldier. She muffled her horror, because any scream would have brought death to her and the babies. The soldiers marched closer and closer until one of them stepped on Lillian. He probably assumed she was dead, and kept moving on. While Lillian waited, she softly sang "Jesus Loves Me" in the ears of the babies. When the danger was over, she crawled to safety with the other staffers and children.

God had protected them and the orphanage. Even though nearby houses were looted and burned, the orphanage was untouched. Lillian told all her Egyptian neighbors of God's power. Slowly she gained the confidence of the Egyptians and the American churches. But when the Great Depression came, the American support money dropped to practically nothing. She had so many children by now that she could not leave them and go beg for money or supplies. She knelt down and sobbed to the Lord, telling him that she could not do all this anymore... she would care for the children, but that He was to bring in the money. That same week, forty more children arrived. She never turned anyone away. She always made room for them.

She eventually had the responsibility of seeing that two thousand meals were provided daily as well as books, clothing, and other needs of hundreds of children.

On her twenty-fifth anniversary in Egypt, Lillian wrote that God had never failed her in all those years; that they were fed like sparrows which have no barns or storerooms.

Many times tourists visited the orphanage. When Lord Maclay of Scotland visited the orphanage, he gave Lillian one hundred dollars and went home to think about what he had seen. In February 1935, Lillian received a telegram to come to Cairo at once. There Lord Maclay gave her five thousand dollars. Later, his gifts increased to over twenty thousand dollars and he opened a home for infants in Scotland as well.

In February 1937, Lord Maclay and his daughter spent the night at the orphanage. He gave Lillian two checks: one for Two thousand five hundred dollars for the orphanage and another Two thousand five hundred dollars for her personal needs. The next morning Lord Maclay told Lillian that the Lord had spoken to him to give her a check for twenty thousand dollars. God knows how to take care of His children and rewards faithfulness!

Although some of the financial problems were taken care of, there were other problems in the 1940s. Cholera broke out in 1947. Lillian prayed over every child that came into the orphanage. Thank the Lord that even though there was an outbreak in the orphanage, no one died.

In January 1960, she began a new year. It was her fiftieth in Egypt. She remembered that as a young, happy girl in 1910, she dreamed of twelve children of her own.

She did not realize what her life was going to be like when she ended her engagement. Even though she loved him, she said good-bye to Tom, the young preacher who was to be her husband. She wanted to put God first. Now, fifty years later, as a gray-headed woman, she looked out her window to her 1,200 children. This lovely Missionary lady went on to be with the Lord on December 17, 1961... having trusted in the Lord with all her heart and soul.

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