We all know that God commands us to help those in need. As Jesus said in Matthew 25:40: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Faithful Christians strive to live by these words. But few in this world have done more to help the “least of these” than Lillian Trasher.
To the people of Egypt, she was known as the “Nile Mother.” To the thousands of children whose lives she saved and nurtured, she was just “Mamma Lillian.” To us today, she is a shining example of selfless service and faith in Christ.
Lillian Trasher was born in Georgia in 1887. She adopted the Pentecostal faith as a young woman in North Carolina, where she served at a local orphanage. At the age of 23, she was engaged to a man she dearly loved and looked forward to life as a preacher’s wife. However, one day she felt a powerful calling from God to serve as a missionary overseas. She made the difficult and painful decision to break her engagement and sail for Egypt.
Upon arriving in 1910, Lillian joined a mission in the Egyptian village of Assiut. A few months into her stay, she was called to the bedside of a dying young mother, who asked Lillian to care for her malnourished baby. The missionaries told Lillian to give up the baby; instead, she rented a house and raised the child herself. From those humble roots began an orphanage that would care for over 20,000 children.
For the next 50 years, Lillian Trasher devoted her life to the care and raising of the children, as God called her to do. As she said, “I’d rather do this work than anything else in the world — taking care of babies in Egypt.” She took in children from across Egypt and beyond: children who were abandoned, children with illnesses and disabilities, and illegitimate children who would otherwise have been killed. She also welcomed widows, unwed mothers, and the blind.
Building and maintaining an orphanage the size of a small village — “a testimony to the love and faithfulness of God,” as she called it — was no easy task, and Mamma Lillian put her heart and soul into it. She, along with the older children at the orphanage, made the bricks used to construct new buildings. She rode her donkey around town to ask for donations of food or money. She and her orphanage survived many hardships; through two world wars, the Nazi invasion of Egypt, campaigns against missionaries, and a cholera epidemic, the doors to the orphanage remained open. Thanks to her hard work and dedication, she fulfilled her vow never to turn away a child in need.
Lillian Trasher died in 1961, but her legacy lives on. The orphanage she founded remains open today; it’s home to 400 orphans and 40 widows. And her amazing story continues to inspire people all over the world. Mamma Lillian showed us all what it truly means to follow the calling of Christ and live a life of service.
Watch this segment on video (starting at 4:53):