Jeannette Elias Behrmann has always had a love and passion for sewing. In fact, she started to sew when she was nine years old. It was at her mother’s sewing machine in Haiti where she learned the art and skills that were the foundation of what she would eventually use to bless others.
Behrmann received additional training from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York. After her studies, she worked in the industry for a number of years. When her first daughter was born, she decided to open her own business. While she had her own business, Behrmann also worked hand in hand with her husband, Carl Behrmann, to minister to the members of the various districts that he pastored during his 20-year tenure with the Northern New England Conference. She served at that same conference for three years as Women’s Ministries leader. Sewing gave her the opportunity to reach out to members in her churches, as well as in the community.
For the past two years, Jeannette and Carl have served as ministry leaders at the Bethel and Framingham Haitian churches in Massachusetts. In addition to their church ministry, they are co-founders of a non-profit organization called Upward Movement Ministries (UMM). “My passion in life has always been to help those who are marginalized in our world, especially women and children. One of the programs we offer is a sewing project. It is designed to empower women spiritually and financially. We start out by affirming the women as daughters of God. We use an innovative and motivational method where we teach them how to sew professionally during two weeks of intensive learning. After the classes, those who qualify receive a certificate of completion, a brand-new sewing machine, [along with] enough materials and funds to start their own business. It’s simply amazing just how many of these ladies go on to open their own businesses and actually experience success,” says Behrmann.
Their first missionary trip was to Malawi, Africa. Twenty-six women were in the class, and at the end of the 14-day session, the Lord miraculously provided 45 sewing machines for the women. This wonderful experience was the beginning of Behrmann’s desire to continue using sewing to bless others. Subsequent trips to Indonesia (twice) and India (five times), with a team led out by Harry and Judy Sabnani, saw more women taking Behrmann’s classes.
Some classes have had as many as 60 students. The local Adventist academies provided dorm rooms and a large classroom for the sessions. By the end of the classes, the women were able to make a sari or a Punjabi. One donor gave enough funds to buy 10 machines to honor the special women in her life.
In recent months, because of the challenges of COVID-19 and sheltering in place, Behrmann has had the awesome opportunity to put her sewing skills to use in making face masks, something she had not considered until a friend, who is a nurse, asked her about it. This was the beginning of putting Christ’s love into action in a new way. The masks are made out of four layers of 100% cotton.
When someone purchases a mask, another is donated to a frontline worker or to someone who cannot afford one. In addition, many masks have been donated to the Concord Prison Outreach and the Pine Street Inn. “Jeannette is one of the kindest, most compassionate women I’ve ever known so it was no surprise to me when she felt so strongly about lending a hand during this pandemic. She is a brilliant seamstress and she learned what was needed to craft functional and beautiful masks. Whenever I wear mine, I notice how well-made and fashionable it is. I am so proud of her and so blessed to know she’s my friend,” says Dusty Nalbandian, Behrmann’s friend.
God uses extraordinary people to do extraordinary work. Jeannette Behrmann is a blessing to others, one stitch at a time.
—Sandra A. Hinds, member, Framingham Centre church