At age seventeen, Lillian Trasher had her life mapped out. Born with a talent for art, she was ready to get a job in Atlanta as a sketch artist. But after talking with a woman who ran an orphanage, Lillian felt the call to work at Faith Orphanage in Marion, North Carolina. Her life took another drastic turn when God called her to be a missionary to Africa – ten days before her wedding. Her fiance didn’t feel called, so heartbroken they ended the engagement. She arrived in Egypt in November, 1910 and worked with Reverend Brelsford, his wife, and their mission team in Assiout. Jennie, Lillian’s sister also came with her.
One night Lillian was asked by a young man to come help a mother who was dying. She asked Lillian to take her baby girl, which Lillian did. She called the baby Fareida and spent the next week and a half coaxing her to eat. Rev. Brelsford approached her and demanded she take Fareida back; she was too much of a bother. Lillian said she couldn’t, her family would only drown the baby. His reply was, “Get out.” Later he retracted his words and said Lillian could stay if she returned Fareida. Lillian refused to and she, Jennie, and Fareida moved that day into a house of their own.
Fareida was the first orphan Lillian would take in. She dreamed of starting an orphanage in Assiout, since there wasn’t one. Word spread that an American was taking in orphans and soon a boy and a girl joined them. They called Lillian “Mama Lillian” and many people began to give food and money to help her. In 1914 Lillian and Jennie had eight children in their care. In 1915 they purchased a piece of property and by Christmas the next year the building was completed. Jennie returned to the States after being in Egypt for eight years, but Lillian had other help from widows who now assisted her.
In 1919 a rebellion broke out between the Egyptians and the British. Fighting exploded everywhere, including Assiout. Despite having 107 children in her care, Lillian believed God would protect them. She was forced to leave Assiout by the British and she went back to the United States to raise money for the orphans. In the Spring of 1920 she was allowed to return to Assiout. By now she was known all over Egypt as Mama Trasher. In 1924 she had three hundred orphans at the orphanage.
On April 7, 1927, during devotions, the beginnings of a revival swept among the children. For five day they prayed and confessed their sins. Afterwards they went into the countryside sharing the gospel. As a result many were saved.
The orphanage was Lillian’s life up until her death in 1961 at the age of seventy-four. She spent fifty years caring for almost ten thousand children, as well as the homeless and poor. She is remembered as “The Nile Mother.”