Lillian Trasher forced to Leave Egypt

  • Dan Graves, MSL
  • 2010 3 May
Lillian Trasher forced to Leave Egypt

The civilization on the Nile is one of the most ancient in the world. And yet, a Christian woman of the early twentieth century became known as "The Mother of the Nile." What did Lillian Trasher do to win that accolade?

Lillian was born in Boston to a Quaker family that moved to Georgia after the US Civil War. Although she left a fine Boston home for a cash-strapped farm, she delighted in the change. Later, when she had to live in Egypt on a coarse diet and hard work, she was used to it. Neighbors told her that she could have a true relationship with Christ and she believed them. As a young girl, she went into the woods and prayed, "Lord, I want to be your little girl." Then she added bold words. "Lord, if ever I can do anything for You, just let me know and I'll do it."

After failing to get a newspaper job that she really wanted (she was hired, but staff mistakenly told her the job had been given to someone else) she served in a North Carolina orphanage that operated on faith principles. She met Tom and felt sure he was to be her husband. Ten days before the planned wedding, she heard a missionary from India speak and knew God meant her to be a missionary. Sobbing bitterly, she abandoned her marriage plans and told Tom she was going to Africa.

The holiness church she attended couldn't support her. So she sold all of her small belongings and raised money to go. A sister used the money to pay a debt, leaving Lillian with only $18--enough to take her as far as Washington, DC. She set out anyway, confident the Lord would provide. He did.

By 1910 she was in Egypt. Then came long years of discouragement. She ate the poorest food, including Besara, a cereal she detested. She even slept in jails as she built credibility with local authorities. Finally she announced that God was going to build a great Christian orphanage in Egypt, one that would operate by faith.

God was going to do just that. But Egypt entered a period of political turmoil. The British ordered Lillian out of the country. On this day, March 27, 1919 she stood at the rail of the boat and wept. "Egypt, I love you!" she said, vowing to return. In the United States, the newly-formed Assemblies of God took her to heart. She returned to Egypt in 1920 and promised the Lord she'd take whoever he sent to her orphanage. It was up to him to provide the food and funds.

She kept her word. And God kept his. Lillian became famous world wide. Which is why she is remembered as the "Mother of the Nile."


  1. Durkin, Jim. "The Profound Impact of Lillian Thrasher [sic] on My Life."
  2. Howell, Beth Prim. Lady on a Donkey. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1960.
  3. Various mission encyclopedias and internet articles.
Last updated May, 2007.