The Other Side of Heaven sequel, which is called The Other Side of Heaven 2: Fire of Faith, is set to release in April 2019. The first movie, about Elder John H.Groberg, a missionary who served in Tonga, was released on 14 December 2001.
John Holbrook Groberg was born on 17 June 1934 in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and was reared during and after the Great Depression. After a year at Brigham Young University (BYU) and shortly after the Korean War, he served as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often mistakenly referred to as “The Mormon Church”) in Tonga. Leaving his girlfriend, Jean Sabin, back home, he traveled halfway around the world on the Lord’s errand. He experienced much difficulty in getting to Tonga: he was prevented from arriving by strikes, visa problems, and transport issues. Groberg served briefly in Los Angeles, Samoa, and Fiji while waiting for his transport to be finalized. When he finally arrived in Tonga, his first assignment was on the remote island of Niuatoputapu, which had had only limited contact with the outside world in the form of an occasional telegraph and a visiting boat. During the year he spent on the island, Groberg suffered from mosquitoes, a typhoon, and starvation. The movie also portrays the difficulties and trials that Elder Groberg faced such as trying to learn the language and overcoming sickness.
In the sequel, The Other Side of Heaven: Fire of Faith, John H. Groberg returns to Tonga in the 1960s with his wife and their five young daughters. When their sixth child is born with a serious illness, they face their ultimate test of faith, only to find themselves surrounded by the love and prayers of thousands of Tongans.
T.C. Christensen, the director of 17 Miracles, is directing the sequel. The sequel follows the couple’s life as they return to Tonga to serve as mission presidents. The couple has five young girls, with a newborn boy. Jean, the wife, has some complications and the Tongan people dedicate time to fast and pray for the boy.
The first movie was based on real experiences of John H. Groberg which he wrote in a memoir, In the Eye of the Storm. He was reluctant to write the stories, but after some nudging, he finally did. His follow-on book, The Fire of Faith, consists of stories about his life when he went back to serve as mission president.
Christopher Gorham, the actor who played the part of John H. Groberg as a young missionary in The Other Side of Heaven, is returning to play the part of Groberg as a mission president. In an interview with Deseret News, Gorham said he doesn’t want people to think the film is about him. He said, “It’s nothing to do with me. It’s the story of people who are willing to serve missions and to take their families into places that otherwise they probably wouldn’t go and do things that they otherwise wouldn’t do. I think that’s the great story, that there are people today in our earth that are willing to do things that are beyond their capacity, beyond their ability, because of their faith in the leaders and ultimately their faith in the head of the Church and their faith in feeling that this is what the Lord wants them to do.”
The directors of the last film credited its success to Anne Hathaway playing the role of Jean. Disney was willing to distribute the movie, and people wanted to see it because Hathaway was in it. However, the impact of the film wasn’t due to her.
Since the release of The Other Side of Heaven, Gorham has received letters from people explaining how much the film has changed and impacted their lives. He said, “It’s because the spirit of the Tongan people and the spirit of Polynesia and the spirit of the Lord that these movies contain. They have a certain magic to them and they do good. People see them and they feel something and they change their lives and really what a cool thing to create a movie that just kind of works its way around the world, does its own thing and without compulsory means affects people.”