Keli Gwyn
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Romantic Proposal: “I Do” Serenade

I met Jennette Mbewe here on my blog. She left a comment on a post and mentioned how her husband proposed, performing a song he wrote, along with the others in his music group. I asked if she’d share the story, and she generously agreed to do so.

Jennette is an author, artist, mother, wife, but not always in that order. Born and raised in Minnesota, she grew up enjoying the Northern Lights and the great outdoors. From early on she knew she wanted to be a writer, but she forgot about her dream until recently. Now she balances marriage, mothering two beautiful kiddos, and her literary pursuits.

And now, the story of how Jennifer was swept off her feet by her talented husband, in her own words. . .


Many people have asked us how we met. I’m from Minnesota, my hubby’s from Zambia, Africa, and we live in Texas. If you’d asked him, he would have told you, Ebay. Yes, he’s a comical one. No, we met in Minnesota at a camp.

When James and Jennette first met.

It was the summer of 2000. I was helping a camp in the middle of nowhere Minnesota prepare and decorate for the summer. James and the Zambian Vocal Group were in route for Canada for a tour, when they were informed that their visas weren’t ready. They were stuck in Minnesota for a week, but they knew someone who knew someone who knew of this camp. Viola! Problem solved. They would stay at the camp.

My first impression? He liked to talk a lot. When I first met him he was going on about measuring the football field with a pine needle or something, and how they were going to have the world championship of foosball later that evening or the next, I don’t exactly remember. A couple of days later, I heard James and his group sing for the first time. They asked the audience if anyone knew the song: The Lion Sleeps Tonight, and in my naivety, I raised my hand. So, there I was singing: In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight…acapella style. Yeah, that didn’t go over very well. It’s not the same as belting it out in the barn with only cows to worry about.

But we had a connection. One time, he was playing the piano and I asked, “Do you know–” and he started playing the song I was going to ask him. Freaky. The song: Fur Elise. While everyone was out having fun, he and some of the Zambian dudes stayed behind to help us finish the cardboard planets and animals, so that we would be able to go watch the fireworks later. We did a lot of talking. Then they had to leave.

Phone calls, emails and handwritten letters ensued. I gave him the third degree. I wasn’t about to get serious with someone I hardly knew. We had an interesting courtship to say the least. We didn’t do the usual dating like most people. Part of that was due to him being on the road all the time and my own personal issues, but he saw something in me and persevered, and for that I’m forever thankful. We had talked about marriage, and he told me he was going to pick out the ring, but as far as how or when, I didn’t know. I just knew he would, eventually.

James and Jennette’s Wedding Day

So, there I was sitting in a living room down in Corsicana, Texas. It was December 17th, 2001. I would be leaving for Minnesota to spend Christmas with my family, and he and the Zambian dudes were preparing for a winter tour. I was watching Waterworld. I had always been curious about the movie since I love water, and I hadn’t seen it yet. So to be interrupted, I was a tad annoyed.

The group would pray before they set out, and so we stood, but suddenly I found myself in the middle of the circle. They sang the “I Do” song. My face was probably beet red. I don’t even know if I heard the whole song, but at the end James got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. And I said yes. It’s been the greatest adventure ever since.


And here’s a video of Jame’s song that he and his group sang for Jennette. . .


Keli Gwyn