On Sunday evenings, a small motorcade can be seen going to Peninsular Dr. in Lakeland. Several young adults park their cars and head in, but they are not going to a party. They are going to Unplugged.
Unplugged is a dinner and Bible study hosted by Tim Paul, an elder at Legacy Christian Church, and his wife Marilyn, who teaches Sunday School there.
“I think we want to provide a place away from the stress of school,” Tim said.
Around 20 to 30 college students gather there on a weekly basis for student-led musical worship and to hear Tim lead a discussion. At least on one occasion Tim and Marilyn played host to around 70 students.
“We try to pick a variety of topics that might be relevant to students,” Tim said.
Unplugged originally began as a group for singles. Over time, Tim and Marilyn noticed a few things about the crowd they were drawing.
“For the first couple of years it was a single group and then one night we sat down and we realized there was a lot of difference between singles and college students,” Marilyn said.
They created a new group, inviting college students to come to their house for, as Tim said, “Christian fellowship.”
The students in question do not come from just one college though. They come from Southeastern University, Florida Southern College and even some from Polk State.
“I loved the warm atmosphere here,” Shelby Kalmbach, a student from FSC, said. “I loved being able to be with people not only from my school, but from Southeastern, other colleges here in Lakeland.”
Unplugged is not just a Bible study and worship though. It also includes dinner before the study, ranging from hams and tater tot casserole to pulled pork sandwiches and horderves. Dessert can be something as simple as cobbler or confectionery creations featuring Snickers and Cool Whip.
“Food is amazing here,” Kalmbach said. “You can’t get much better than Miss Marilyn’s cooking.”
This includes the famous Unplugged rolls which Marilyn makes each meeting. Marilyn recalled a time where a girl raced across the way to prevent another student from throwing a half-eaten roll into the trash can.
Unplugged hosts special events for Christmas and the Superbowl. Tim said that girls once kicked the boys out of the jokingly-named “man cave” where the television was to watch the game.
In addition to Superbowl and Christmas parties and Unplugged meetings, Tim and Marilyn’s home has played host to rehearsal and graduation dinners. The house was once even the site for a wedding.
“They met here, they got engaged here, and then they asked, because of all the memories, if they could get married here,” Tim said.
Other times students have just come to the house to escape school.
“There’s a couple of nights a year that the students have asked if they could just come here with their computers, laptops and their books, and spread out somewhere and just spend the evening studying,” Tim said.
Kalmbach said that Tim and Marilyn have created a family atmosphere for those who attend.
“Everybody here is just so welcoming and so loving that you just want to come back,” Kalmbach said.