Frederick Aves doesn't take life for granted.
Aves, who is from Zimbabwe, has come to appreciate the small things.
Aves, who is the pastor at the Christian Assembly Church in Nutter Fort, and his family have only been in the country for one month and what may qualify as insignificant daily rituals to most, are extraordinary for him. Eating at a restaurant, grocery shopping or just speaking his mind qualify as interesting.
"One of the things about America that has inspired me is that you can say anything you want at anytime," he said. "Where I grew up, you had to watch what you say or you could go to jail.
"There was no free speech," he said. "It's very refreshing to say what you want."
Aves recalled his life in Zimbabwe where telephone tapping and e-mail tampering occurred. The instability and political unrest there contributed toward his decision to come to Clarksburg.
He and his wife Jane have been married for 18 years and wanted to offer their teen-aged daughters a bright future. It wasn't an easy decision to leave their homeland and family, but Aves says he isn't looking back.
The new experiences are making the 48-year-old Aves feel like a kid again, he said.
"It's all so new it seems unreal," he said. "For the first time the other night, my kids had Burger King."
Even grocery shopping turned into an experience for them. Used to only two or three brands of cereal to choose from, Jane became overwhelmed as she stared at an entire aisle of cereal boxes.
"There is just so much to choose from," he said. "There is such an abundance it's going to take us years to try everything."
But they are well on their way.
Last weekend, Aves traveled to watch the West Virginia University Mountaineers. He also attended a football game at Robert C. Byrd High School, where his daughters attend school.
"At the game, when they played the national anthem, I felt like such a part of it. I've seen it on television before, but it wasn't the same."
Aves has been a football fan since 1978 when he came to Rhode Island to attend Bible college. He fell in love with the Dallas Cowboys and all things American. He proudly flies the American flag at his home and wants to identify with the community.
"I've always been an American in my heart and believed in the ideals of America," he said. "There's a lot of good things here. That's why half the world is trying to break down your doors and get in here."
Born in South Africa, in 1957 Aves moved with his parents to Zimbabwe, formerly known as Rhodesia. He attended church in his community and joined the Army at age 17, where he fought in the Rhodesian War for more than nine years.
During his military service, he felt a calling to serve God. After attending college, he returned to Zimbabwe and began ministering at the local church. He stayed for 19 years.
Through his association with the Christian Churches of North America, Aves became a candidate for the pastor position at the church in Clarksburg.
The process of acquiring green cards and getting through immigration was taken care of within four months.
"We had a big decision to come here," he said. "We prayed about it very hard and thought this was the Lord leading us. We were confident this was God's plan."
The move itself was frightening and his family sold practically all their furniture and belongings. They packed just their suitcases and a few things to remember their life in Zimbabwe.
The church he joined in Clarksburg is about one-third the size of his congregation in Zimbabwe. But they have been generous in their friendship, he said.
"I am grateful to the community and this church. They are a loving, friendly group of people," he said. "The folks here have made the transition go so smoothly and the schools have been wonderful to my children.
"My whole life has been lived in unrest," he said "So being here is quite miraculous. The American people are a very generous people, not just materially but with friendship."
Aves invites the public to attend services at the church. Sunday school begins at 10 a.m. followed by a worship service at 11 a.m. and another at 6:30 p.m. Bible study is held on Wednesdays at 7 p.m.
The Christian Assembly is a full gospel denomination so everyone is welcome, he said.
The church is located at 316 Buckhannon Pike in Nutter Fort at the intersection of U.S. Routes 20 and 98.
Staff writer Jennifer Biller can be reached at 626-1449 or firstname.lastname@example.org.