The Stone House Museum – Livingstonia, Malawi - Atlas Obscura

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The Stone House Museum

Livingstonia, Malawi

A history of European missionaries in Malawi. 


High up on an escarpment overlooking Lake Malawi sits the small town of Livingstonia, established by missionaries from the Free Church of Scotland in 1894. In the middle of the town is the Stone House Museum. Located in the former home of Dr. Robert Laws, who served as head of the Livingstonia Mission for more than 50 years, the museum tells of those first missionaries and of the arrival of Europeans in Malawi, then known as Nyasaland.

Perhaps more interesting, however, than the contents of the museum, is the story behind a collection of white rocks lying in the overgrown grass beside the building. In February 1959, during Malawi’s struggle for independence from Britain, violence had broken out in the district of Rumphi, where Livingstonia is located. Concerned for the safety of the Europeans living in Livingstonia, the federal government made contact by dropping two unloaded gas canisters from a plane into the town. The canisters contained a message, telling the missionaries a boat would be ready to evacuate them from the nearby town of Chitimba if they felt they were in danger. The message advised that another plane would return the following day to receive an answer. The missionaries should respond by laying stones on the lawn outside Dr. Laws’ house in the shape of Roman numerals: an “I” if they felt safe and a “V” if they wished to leave.

The missionaries held a meeting that afternoon during which they decided not only to stay, but also to send a clear message of peace, unity, and harmony during a time of extreme racial tension. When the plane flew over Livingstonia the following day, a collection of whitewashed stones had been laid on the lawn, spelling out “Ephesians 2 v 14”

A photograph of the message taken from the plane appeared on the front cover of the Rhodesian Herald the following day and in the Manchester Guardian a few days later.

Ephesians 2 v 14: “for He is our prince who has made us both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us.”

Know Before You Go

If you wish to visit the Stone House Museum the most adventurous (and, arguably, exciting!) way to reach the town is via the Gorode. The Gorode is a 20-hairpin bend road, ascending 1,000 meters from the town of Chitimba up to Livingstonia.

Public transport options up the mountain include motorbikes or trucks. Where the paved road of Chitimba meets the dirt of the Gorode you will usually not have long to wait before willing drivers arrive to offer you transport.

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February 27, 2023

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