Pastor Edward Lasko and his wife, Nancy, recently retired after 46 years leading Middletown Baptist Church on Armstrong Corner Road.

Pastor Edward Lasko credits God’s divinity with allowing him to lead Middletown Baptist Church for nearly 50 years.

But, his wife, Nancy, also deserves much of the credit, he said.

“I’m just so grateful for her and the seven wonderful children God gave to us, because it was only with their help that we were able to bring so many people to the Lord through our ministry,” said Lasko, who took the church from a fellowship of two women and five children in 1967 to a congregation of more than 225 when he and Nancy retired earlier this year.

The Laskos, who officially stepped down on Jan. 1, were recognized by the congregation last month with a gala banquet honoring their 46 years of dedicated service.

Last week, the couple talked about the path they’ve shared since first meeting by chance at a McDonald’s in 1960.

“I was there with my friend and she came in to get a soda after cheerleading practice,” Ed said. “We began to talk and after a week or two, we were going steady.”

However, Ed was raised Catholic, while Nancy was raised Baptist, a difference of Biblical interpretation that became a reoccurring topic of discussion, particularly after the couple became engaged.

“I knew he was a good guy and believed in God, but he didn’t know Him personally, and I felt he needed to really accept Jesus Christ as his personal savior,” Nancy recalled.

The couple debated the issue for months, even while Ed was in Harford, Conn., training for his new job with National Cash Register.

Lasko said he attended Catholic services in the morning and Baptist services in the evening, while searching the Bible for something that might bring his Nancy around to his way of thinking.

“But the opposite happened,” he said. “I finally realized being religious is not enough to get into heaven. You have to be born again. So I got down on my knees right there and asked Jesus Christ to be my savior and come into my life. And he did.”

After marrying, the couple joined Maranatha Baptist Church in Elkton, Md, where Ed eventually became a deacon and led Bible studies, prison ministries and street meetings.

“He became like a sponge,” Nancy said. “He could not get enough of the word of God, and people in the church said he ought to be a preacher.”

Ed got that chance in 1967, when missionary James Bryan and his wife asked the Laskos’ pastor if he knew someone capable to taking over his seven-member congregation in Middletown.

Over the next seven years, Lasko would retire from his job, become a full-time pastor and launch a bus ministry that brought hundreds of parishioners to the former Odd Fellows building, where Christopher’s Restaurant is today, and later to Middletown High School, before it became Everett Meredith Middle School.

In 1973, Middletown Baptist moved into its first church building on Armstrong Corner Road, which was followed by a second building in 2005.

Last year, the Laskos decided it was time to hand over the reins of the church, and were delighted when Pastor James Chalfant, one of its original parishioners, was selected as Ed’s successor.

“He’s a perfect fit for our congregation,” Lasko said. “He’s called Nancy ‘mom’ since he was about 9 and we have father-son type of relationship, like Timothy was to the Apostle Paul. I can’t think of anyone better I would like to see as our new pastor.”

Although the Laskos are still attending services at Middletown Baptist, the couple said they are ready to begin the next stage of their service to the Lord, which will include training foreign missionaries and temporary pastorships at other churches.

“Right now, it feels like we’ve reached the top of a mountain,” Ed said. “But instead of looking down the other side, we’re looking up at a larger mountain ahead of us.”

Nancy agreed, but added it’s still rewarding to look back at all the Lord has accomplished through them

“When we met, we didn’t know God had this big plan for us,” she said. “Now, all these years later, it’s just unbelievable how he’s worked through us and we couldn’t be more thankful.”