Above inset, Pastor and Mrs. Jeff Axtell
January-February 2021 – “I think we are walking along silently, not addressing something painfully obvious in our churches,” said Pastor Jeff Axtell.
As lead pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Sacramento, California, Axtell was active in the pro-life community, often going to the sidewalk of the local abortion clinic to reach out to abortion-vulnerable women.
“I couldn’t understand how pastors couldn’t be passionate about this issue,” Axtell told AFA Journal. “There were a lot of pro-life churches, but generally speaking, they let the pro-life groups or parachurch ministries take this stuff on and didn’t really deal with it in the centerpiece of the church, from the pulpit.”
Axtell recognized that silence on the sanctity of human life in the womb creates a rocky path for those grieving an infant’s death whether it’s by miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion. As a result, grieving mothers often do not feel safe discussing such a loss in a church setting. If those discussions happen at all, they are often relegated to backroom, closed door meetings.
Axtell sensed he was surrounded by crowds of hurting people, and his shepherd’s heart was filled with compassion. He knew he had to do something.
“So, a group of us involved in pro-life ministry wanted to create something that was visual and communicative of the love of Jesus Christ in all of these areas,” he said.
They set out to invite hurting parents and loved ones onto a path that gives permission to grieve, heal, and experience freedom from the past. They wanted to communicate the heart of Jesus for the wounded and hurting.
Matthew 11:28-30 became the passage the Holy Spirit used to lead the team as they began designing and constructing the garden:
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (NKJV).
Local contractors and professionals embraced the vision and gave generously of their time and resources. The beautiful, serene Sacramento Memorial Garden (SMG) is a stand-alone ministry located adjacent to New Hope Christian Fellowship.
“When visitors come through the large entranceway,” explained Axtell, “they will see an informational sign describing the components of the garden. It also has a QR code on the sign so that visitors can scan it with their phone and get more information.”
Axtell said he often sees ministry partners, who provide counseling and after-abortion care, walking alongside and praying with grieving mothers, fathers, and others.
“It is a sacred space, and people treat it that way,” he said. “Usually people just want to sit there and be left alone. And we respect that.”
The property contains a memorial wall where individualized engravings display the names of unborn children, honoring their brief lives and acknowledging the painful loss experienced by loved ones.
Floral landscaping and small benches are placed alongside meandering pathways leading to a cove containing private seating for one-on-one interaction, quiet reflection, and prayer. Memorial services and prayer gatherings, often led by local pastors, are held under the covered space known as The Ramada.
“Right in the middle is a big beautiful cross,” explained Axtell.
“The cross is there for a reason. The goal is always to get to the cross.”
▶ sacunbornmemorial.org | 916.347.0971
6240 Verner Avenue | Sacramento, CA 95841
To locate similar memorials in other areas, visit memorialfortheunborn.org.