Lillian Trasher Biography
Lillian Hunt Trasher served as a Christian missionary in Assiout, Egypt, where she founded the country’s first orphanage; over a period of 50 years, she cared for approximately 10,000 needy children. Because of her contributions, she earned the nickname of “Mother” Thrasher.
Lillian was born on September 27th, 1887 in Jacksonville, Florida. She grew up in Georgia as a Roman Catholic.
In 1905, she briefly attended a Bible college. For three years (1908-1910), she served as Mattie Perry’s assistant at Faith Orphanage in Marion, North Carolina, mending, cooking and changing diapers. Lillian asked God for guidance, praying, “Lord, I want to be Your girl.”
She also listened to a missionary talk about her experiences in India, causing Lillian to want to serve in Africa. Asking her fiancé, an ordained minister named Tom Jordan, to join her, he declined, offering to postpone their wedding. Sensing that she wouldn’t return to the United States, Lillian broke off the engagement only ten days before their wedding.
Struggling to raise money to cover her expenses, she received little encouragement, yet did not give up. Lillian attended a missionary conference, meeting Pastor Brelsford (also seen as Perlsford) who’d served in Assiout, Egypt. Initially reluctant to encourage her, the pastor eventually invited her to join him when he returned.
Before she left, people suggested that she randomly open her Bible to see which page she chose. It was Acts 7:34, where it read that, “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.”
Arriving in Egypt late in 1910 with her sister Jennie and less than $100, a dying woman soon gave her baby to Lillian. To care for her and others like her, on February 10, 1911 she opened what became the Lillian Trasher Orphanage, where she lived entirely on faith and charitable contributions, often not having food for more than one day. She traveled on donkeys and sailed by boat; one time, her boat nearly sank. She contracted the bubonic plague, but survived.
By 1914, Lillian had set up a school and Bible study program for the eight 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 up to six orphans at a time, increasing Lillian’s ability to care for sick children.
Late in 1918, Jennie returned to the United States, with Lillian forced to follow her during anti-English post-World War I riots, which included an attack on the orphanage. In the United States, Lillian went on a speaking tour of Assemblies of God churches, raising significant funds for the orphanage.
In spring of 1920, Lillian returned to Egypt; by 1921, she cared for 150 orphans and, by 1924, 300 children. She shared the Christian message wherever she traveled and kept the faith, even during tough years of the Great Depression.
During that time, a Swedish orphan revealed that she was spanked for not being Christian, leading to Muslim outrage in multiple countries. As a result, 70 Muslim children were removed from Lillian’s orphanage. As sad as that made Lillian, she continued to receive large numbers of children needing care and she continued to advocate for the children until her death on December 17, 1961, when approximately 1,200 lived in her orphanage.
Today, the Assemblies of God of Egypt oversees the orphanage, with 85% of the funding coming from churches in Egypt. The Episcopalian Church honors Lillian annually on December 19th.
Written by Kelly Boyer Sagert
Kelly is a full time writer with eleven books and two full length plays to her credit, along with more than 1,000 short pieces.