Lilias Trotter: Following God's Call

Last Wednesday marked the eightieth anniversary of the death of Lilias Trotter. She died August 27, 1928, forty years and five months after following God’s call to leave her comfortable English home and move to Algeria.

According to the standards of her day, it seemed impossible that she should succeed. She was too old (34!). She was single. She didn’t know Arabic. She had no acquaintances in North Africa, except the two women who traveled with her. She couldn’t pass the physical exam for any mission board because she had a chronically weak heart following a surgery when she was younger.

If God works through the weakness of humans, as Lilias believed, he had it here in full force!

She sailed from England on March 5, 1888, with “a strange glad feeling of utter loosing and being cast upon God.” She had a passion for the God of the impossible.

Once there, she wasn’t satisfied to work only in the city of Algiers. Trotter loved to travel into the desert to find outlying settlements and nomad camps where people needed Jesus. Each journey was risky for women traveling alone with an unfamiliar guide through territories where Europeans were targets for desert bandits, scorpions, disease, and ferocious dogs.

There were no roads through the great, constantly shifting sand dunes, which rose up to 400 feet above the floor. A sandstorm would cover the subtle markings on the way. Even tiny miscalculations could mean missing a destination by miles. Within hours, the air could sear the lungs and the sun burn the traveler. It could take only half a day to reach dehydration.

In her art and writing, even today, we can catch glimpses of this world she loved. Toward the end, she was bedridden, and still she followed her calling. A map of Algeria and Tunisia hung over her bed. In her sleepless hours she prayed intensely.

On the map she wrote these words: “Take heed to the ministry which thou has received in the Lord that thou fulfill it.”

May we take those as our own words and prayer and intention.