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What’s In a Name?

What’s In a Name?

What’s In a Name?

What’s in a name?

Well, when the Lord gets involved in it…a lot.

We chose the name Dominic for our son, because it is a family name. It was fitting, because I’ve always loved the name Dominic (even before meeting my husband), and our son was to be the first boy in the extended Italian family. We thought we would pass on a family heritage.

That plan didn’t work out quite as well as we had hoped.

Dominic’s name, of course, turned out to be prophetic, because it means “belonging to the Lord”. We had no idea, when we chose that name for him, that, in just a short time, he would.

Now that he is gone, I’ve gotten to see some pretty unbelievable ways the Lord has worked – even with his name. How God brings together connections in ways we could never have fathomed, and how every time he does, it just shows me how He is working for good. Always, always working for good.

You see, there’s this other boy, whose picture is attached to this post. A boy with the same name. And God has used him, and his family, to demonstrate to me His power and His personal involvement in our world.

This boy spells it slightly differently – Domenic – and he lives on the other side of the world. And just like us, his parents have had to endure unimaginable, heartbreaking sorrow. But, in many ways, this Domenic’s story is even more painful than my own Dominic’s, because while my Dominic is safe in the arms of Jesus, the other Domenic is very much alive – living with people who have kidnapped him and are indoctrinating him against his faith and his family.

I’ll start at the beginning.

The Johansson Case

Some years ago I heard, through our homeschooling networks, about this family in Sweden, the Johanssons, whose eight-year-old son Domenic was forcibly taken from them by the government, as they got on a plane, in 2009. I couldn’t believe it at first, so I began investigating. What I found was absolutely appalling and unimaginable – truly, the state had kidnapped this child, simply because his Christian parents, Christer and Annie, had homeschooled him.

That’s right. Just because they homeschooled him.

There were never any charges filed, nor did social services have a warrant. There has also not been any reasonable evidence presented for why this child was taken from his parents. Oh, and homeschooling was (get this) legal in Sweden at the time that all of this occurred. None of this has mattered at all to the Swedish courts, which have acted unilaterally, in complete defiance of any modicum of jurisprudence, and in spite of tremendous international outcry, to keep Domenic in custody of the state.

If you look into the Johansson’s case, which I encourage everyone to do, you will be flabbergasted. You won’t believe that these kinds of things actually happen in (supposedly) civilized first-world countries. You will wonder, “Surely these parents must have done something wrong”, because what happened to this family defies all logic and justice, but there aren’t any hidden skeletons. This wonderful Christian family, who simply sought to educate their child according to their own values, lost their only child to an out-of-control government.

I reported the story a couple of years ago when I was writing for, and my description of the situation can be read here.  3 ½ years and many court battles later, Domenic not only continues to live in foster care, but most recently the court terminated Christer and Annie’s parental rights, and they are not even allowed to have any contact with their child. Even worse – Domenic is being actively indoctrinated in his state-controlled foster family against his parents and the values they taught him.

Unfortunately, the Johansson case is not unique; this is an epidemic in Sweden. An article that explains the social and political issues involved in this case is “Why is the Swedish State So Cruel and Heartless”, as well as a lecture given to the Family Education Trust of London, entitled “The Folly of Sweden’s State-Controlled Families”.  I became involved with this story because I simply could not fathom the utter injustice of it all; the phenomenal evil that was being perpetuated against this family who loves the Lord – and I wanted to do something about it.

I wrote letters on behalf of the Johansson family to try and impact the court system, and I have prayed for this family for two years. I have written articles to bring attention to their plight, and have spread their story via e-mail and facebook to everyone I can. For a reason unknown to me, long before having my own Dominic, I felt a connection to this family and felt the Lord had placed them on my heart. It wasn’t until my own Dominic that I knew why.

God was going to connect our families – families grieving over evil and injustice and loss. Families grieving over our sons with the same names. Families who both need to know, to experience, that God is good, even in the midst of a fallen, painful, broken world.

God’s Connections

After Dominic’s death, I felt a prompting by the Lord to look anew at the Johannson situation, and I began searching for the most recent updates on their case. As I did so, I came across a facebook page dedicated to helping this family get justice, entitled “Return Domenic Johannson to his parents”. I joined the group, and posted on it the fact that I had been praying for the family, and a verse I have been praying specifically for them: Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” I also wrote I could not ever forget their son, because he had the same name as my own Dominic, who had just passed away. To my surprise, I got a response from Domenic’s father, Chris, thanking me for my prayers, and saying that my comments had turned him “inside and out within” and that he would “remember this moment forever”. Suddenly, this iconic family, for whom I had prayed and advocated, became personal to me. And it was all because of the name.

Since that time, I have become personal facebook friends with Chris Johansson, and have discovered that we have a mutual love of photography. We have written encouragements to one another, and about God’s blessings even amidst tragedy. I even shared with him my Dominic’s scrapbook.

Dominic. Domenic. Two boys, physical and spiritual worlds apart, whose families are tied together through suffering.  The Lord has brought together a connection that I could not have ever planned. We have completely different lives, and live on opposite ends of the earth, but we share a love for the Father and a sorrow over our lost sons. Our lost sons with the same name.

I pray every day for this family. Whereas I have closure with the loss of my son – they must live every day, knowing that their child is being raised by someone else; someone seeking to set their son against them, and against the values they hold dear. Whereas I live knowing that my son lives forever with the God of justice, they must somehow survive while the gravest of injustices continue to be perpetuated against their son every single day. I cannot even begin to fathom their pain.

What I do know, is that God loves them. And He loves their Domenic, just as much as He loved mine. And that our Lord is always, always working for good – even in this evil, unjust world. I’ve seen it in the tragedy of my own Dominic, and I now see it in how the Lord has connected me with this family and their tragedy of their Domenic.

So Chris, Annie…I weep for you. And I will do everything in my power to bring attention to your case, and to fight for justice for your son. And I will pray, non-stop, for you and for Domenic. But just know – God is working. He is working in your suffering, and He is doing something unbelievable. I don’t know what it is, but I know that He is with you, as He has been with me. So with you, in fact, that He managed to bring together two homeschooling families from opposite ends of the globe, with sons of the same name, who have jointly suffered loss. And although I can’t do anything to ease your pain, I can tell you that if you just walk with Him every moment, this personal, intimate God who has connected an insignificant homeschooling mom in Virginia with an internationally-covered icon for human rights injustice will do “immeasurably more than you can ask or imagine.”

Remember, no matter where he is, or who seems to be in charge of him, Domenic “belongs to the Lord”.



2 Responses to “What’s In a Name?”

  1. Daniella Schefer says:


    I’m a homeschooling mom in Switzerland (I’m Amercian). Here homeschooling is legal, but rarely practiced.

    Thank you for your story and your encouragement, that “all our children belong to the Lord”. I’m praying for you.

    The story of Domenic is very upsetting. We do not value our freedom in America enough.

    Thank you, and may God give you strength,

  2. Mary says:

    Hi Rebecca, thank you for writing such a wonderful post. It’s amazing what God can do. I have been following the Johansson case too. It’s horrible but as you point out, God can do so much more than we ask or imagine. May God bless you and your family.

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