Kari Leoganda has a passion for connecting women to each other and to God. Out of her own pain and personal struggles, she developed a deep desire to help women discover their true source of strength in Jesus Christ.
Armed with this vision, Kari connected with Janet Fierbach of Power to Change (P2C). With Kari’s business acumen as a financial planner and entrepreneur, and Janet’s ministry experience, a dream began to take shape.
Now, a decade and several hundred transformed lives later, Kari and the members of Women’s Heart-Engaging Network (WHEN) are providing opportunities in English, Spanish, and Cantonese for women to gather, share their stories, and encourage one another.
Power to Change Magazine sat down with Kari to hear more about her journey as a founding member of WHEN, and what God has taught her about faith and leadership.
Power to Change: Tell us more about your faith journey and how you became passionate about God.
Kari Leoganda: My first child, a daughter named Natalie, was born without hearing. I entered a difficult season wondering where inner strength truly comes from. When my family moved from Hong Kong to Vancouver, I met a group of godly women who invited me to a Bible study. The Word of God strengthened me, giving me an anchor and direction in my life. My heart was on fire for God, and I stopped focusing on my pain. I realized that inner strength is from the Lord, and I came to believe that He has a very special plan for me and my daughter.
P2C: What led you to focus on outreach to women?
KL: In my career as an insurance advisor, I met many women who did not know Jesus and I developed good relationships with them. I initially thought I could provide them with financial solutions, but I realized that money couldn’t solve all of their problems. So I started to share the gospel with them. They showed interest, and my heart for outreach became very strong.
P2C: Where did that passion for evangelism lead?
KL: Once my daughter entered her teen years, I had more time for outreach. I shared my passion with friends and we started talking about organizing events to help people meet Jesus. We decided to gather more friends, and soon had 16 women from different churches wanting to share their faith on a bigger scale. We kept saying, “We should do something!”
P2C: How did you connect with Power to Change?
KL: My pastor heard about our outreach idea and suggested that I look into Power to Change. Within two weeks, two other people also suggested that I connect with the ministry to start our group. One of them introduced me to long-time staff member, Janet Fierbach, and we instantly clicked.
P2C: How did your ministry focus take shape?
KL: We wanted our ministry meetings to be very intimate and heart-engaging times. At the end of our first brainstorming session, we came up with the name WHEN. We wanted to be a Women’s Heart-Engaging Network, and our key phrase was, “If not now, WHEN?” The acronym was perfect, and it came into place so smoothly.
P2C: Why was it important for you to organize WHEN outreach events outside of the church?
KL: Our focus is to reach women who aren’t ready for church. We desire to create something where women want to attend, where they know they’ll have good company and a nice meal, and where they’ll want to bring others as well. We are doing outreach, but ultimately our goal is to connect women to Jesus and back to the local church.
P2C: How did WHEN’s various language groups form?
KL: We started with Cantonese because most of the women I shared my passion with were from the Chinese community. The friends they wanted to reach out to were also of the same nationality. People attended the Cantonese event, enjoyed it, and wanted more. It wasn’t long before we began to see that this format could work for women in many different languages. Our second team began an English outreach, as many people in the Canadian-born Asian community did not speak Cantonese. A friend who spoke both English and Spanish came to that event and liked it so much that within a year she started a team to reach the Spanish-speaking community. At that same time, a group of Filipino women tried the strategy in Edmonton. Now, their team invites English-speaking women from many cultures to enjoy wonderful Filipino hospitality while they hear about Jesus’ love and forgiveness.
P2C: What do you enjoy most about WHEN?
KL: We are a group of ladies who hold each other accountable. We can all grow in leadership together. We pray together, eat together, share the Good News together, travel together, go to conferences together, and do Bible studies together. Each one of us that steps out to serve in ministry has a bigger Kingdom perspective. We don’t belong to any denomination, and we never focus on denominational differences. We focus on common ground, which is to serve Jesus and reach out to women.
P2C: What does WHEN’s 10th anniversary mean to you?
KL: Ten years is minor compared to eternity. The number isn’t huge to me. WHEN is a continuing work, and as long as God’s hand is in it, it will continue to grow. I know the best is yet to come.
P2C: What have you learned over the years as a WHEN leader?
KL: If God has called us to do something, we need not hesitate or overthink. Don’t focus on your fear, or wonder if you are faithful enough or popular enough or wealthy enough. People are hesitant to do God’s work because we think we are doing it alone. When God gives us a desire, He surrounds us with people to do it. We are never working alone. It is not we who do it, but God who orchestrates it. When we think of ministry this way, it is a joy instead of a burden. We can conquer our own fear. Fear is the biggest element that holds us back.