Orphanage Celebrates 100 Years
|Lillian Trasher with orphans|
A great compassion ministry started on February 10, 1911, 100 years ago today.
On that day, Lillian Trasher, a 23-year-old single American missionary in Egypt, went to visit a dying woman. She saw the woman’s baby daughter and was touched by her pitiful cry. When the woman died, Trasher took the tiny orphan to raise. To provide space for her new “family,” she rented a small house in Assiout. That day — February 10, 1911, was the beginning of the Lillian Trasher Orphanage.
Over the next 51 years, about 10,000 children were raised in her home; and since her death in 1961, many more thousands of children have called Lillian Trasher Orphanage their home.
Lillian Trasher was born September 27, 1887, and grew up in Brunswick, Georgia. One day, as a young girl, she knelt by a log in the woods and prayed, “Lord, if ever I can do anything for you, just let me know and I’ll do it.”
In her younger years she worked for Miss Perry in an orphanage and, later, at a training institute where she also worked with children, learning to trust God for the needs of everyday life.
Lillian later attended God’s Bible School in Cincinnati, Ohio, pastored a church in Georgia and did evangelistic work in Kentucky. In 1909 she returned to Miss Perry’s orphanage in Marion, North Carolina.
She had been praying about a call to missions, and during that time became engaged to be married. Ten days before her wedding day, in June of 1910, she accompanied Miss Perry to hear a missionary from India. At that service she sensed God telling her now was the time to get involved in missions.
Since her fiancé didn’t feel the call as she did, she made the painful decision of breaking off her engagement to “the most wonderful young man in the world.”
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 had always done before.
He did. In a short time she arrived in Brooklyn, New York, on her way to Egypt. In the fall of 1910 she sailed for the land of her calling.
After starting the orphanage, 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 by donkey throughout the region pleading for money for the children. The government officials were amazed that no one did anything to alarm or hurt Lillian.
LILLIAN TRASHER JOINS THE NEW ASSEMBLIES OF GOD
In 1914 she became affiliated with the new movement, the Assemblies of God. They sent barrels of clothing and an occasional check, but Lillian still relied on the generosity of her Egyptian neighbors.
By 1915 she had 50 children in her orphanage. She had to build on, and the children helped with the construction, even making bricks.
By 1923 she housed 300 orphans and widows but had still not seen a great spiritual harvest. In 1927 it finally came, and 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.
In January 1960 she began a new year, her 50th in Egypt. She remembered that as a young, happy girl in 1910, she dreamed of having 12 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, 50 years later, as a gray-headed woman, she looked out her window to her 1,200 children.
This loving missionary lady, known as “Mama Lillian,” or “Mother of the Nile,” went on to be with the Lord on December 17, 1961.
EARLY LETTER FROM LILLIAN TRASHER
A 1936 letter from Lillian Trasher gives us a glimpse of the way in which the Heavenly Father provided for the 700 children she had at that time in her orphanage. Here are some excerpts from her letter:
“We are still looking to the Lord for our hourly needs. He is a wonderful caretaker! About 2 weeks ago I was rushing out early for an appointment when one of our boys, who is in charge of the meals, stopped me, saying, ‘Mama, what is the orphanage to have for dinner.’ I said, ‘Fize, I haven’t one cent and I have to hurry out now.’
“Soon I was attracted by a man waving an umbrella; he came toward me, took out his wallet and handed me $50, saying that someone who did not wish to reveal his identity had sent it to me to buy food for the children. Fize was soon on his way to town for supplies.
“That day I was invited out for dinner where the subject of God’s care for His children came up. Someone mentioned how the Lord had provided for the orphanage that day. A rich young man at that dinner heard the story and gave me $50.
“Yesterday we were without any money for bread and the mail brought us only $5. I was very busy taking care of a very ill baby, so I cried out, ‘Oh, Lord, surely you would not have me leave this sick child to go out to try to find bread for the children. I’ll take care of the baby, and you please send in the food.’ I called the post office to see if there might be something more and received word that they had a money order for me for $40. It had come from South Africa.
“Last Sunday we had no money for bread. I went to visit a lady who had been ill. She gave me $25 to buy beef for the children’s dinner and $25 for anything else.
“The next day I was again without money. We were out of soap, sugar and flour. Our flour costs $560 a month. That day a stranger handed me $25 and a friend handed me $5, so I was able to get all I needed for that time.
“Twenty-five years ago this month I arrived in Egypt and He has never failed me all these years. We are being fed like the sparrows which have no barns nor storerooms.”
A WARTIME MIRACLE
It was September 1941. World War II was raging. At that time “Mama Lillian,” as she was now called, cared for 900 orphans, 80 widows, plus staff members and some refugees she had taken in.
They were not in danger of the fighting, but the war had cut off the mail which brought money from friends around the world to care for the orphans.
She had rationed food for days trying to make it last as long as possible. Not only were the children hungry, but their clothing was in tatters and their bath towels and bed sheets were worn full of holes.
In desperation Mama did what she had done in every crisis. She called a prayer meeting on a Monday. The note she passed around read: “The children can pray as long and as hard as the Lord puts it on them. We have nothing. The need is very great indeed, but our God is greater. ‘Ask and it shall be given.’ Lillian.”
The next day the prayers continued. Wednesday morning, Mama Lillian received an urgent appeal to come to Cairo and meet with the American ambassador.
She arrived in Cairo on Thursday morning. The ambassador had startling news! A Red Cross ship, loaded with relief supplies for Greek refugees, had turned back and come into port at Alexandria, Egypt. Its cargo included thousands of dresses for women and girls, shirts and pants for men and boys, layettes for babies, scarves, sweaters, towels, washcloths, bedding, hundreds of kegs of powdered milk, huge sack of rice, flour and beans.”
“Could you use any of these things?” the ambassador asked Mama Lillian.
After lunch the ambassador took Mama Lillian to the docks. Crates and boxes were lined up on the sand as far as Mama could see. A convoy of trucks was loaded with food and other urgently needed supplies. More was being loaded on a train.
On Saturday when the supplies reached the orphanage every box and crate held answers to their prayers. That night, for the first time in days, the children could eat all they wanted. The slept on new bedding. On Sunday every child went to church wearing sparkling new clothes.
The Lillian Trasher Orphanage has provided a loving home, hope and Christian training to more than 25,000 children during these past 100 years. Today it is one of the largest and finest orphanages in the world.
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